Game Reviews

Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe

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Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe

It was all going so swimmingly at the turn of the millennium, with people of relatively modest means seemingly turning into buy-to-let property barons overnight.

Of course, such people were borrowing through the nose to finance their ambitions, and it all came crashing down around their ears. Sarah Beeny removed her hard hat and quietly retreated from our screens.

Build-a-lot has never paid much attention to realism, though, and Build-a-lot 3 continues the fantasy realtor scenario that was so popular in the first two games.

Even better than the realtor thing

In fact, not only is business booming in Build-a-lot 3, but your American realtor has come over to Europe to make his millions. Yes, broke old Europe!

What that effectively means is the same old Build-a-lot gameplay with run-down chateaus and gleaming venetians. Of course, that also means it's guaranteed to be fun.

The goal, as ever, is to build, upgrade, and maintain a property portfolio spread out across Europe. You can buy up plots of land and build whatever you like on there, including services and landmarks.

Each stage gives you a bunch of goals to real, such as attaining a certain level of rental income or building a set number of properties of a certain kind.

Wheeling and dealing

We like the ability to wheel and deal more in the property market. You see, existing property comes on the market at random, offering you the opportunity of putting in a bid to acquire it.

If you've got similar property in the area, though, you can put it up for sale in order to force the price of the new property down and thus pick it up for dirt cheap. Very satisfying, and another welcome layer of strategy.

You can also buy up run-down property and restore it to full working order before either renting it out or selling it on for a quick profit. Meanwhile certain services that you can build - such as the one that enables you to train new construction workers more efficiently - has the trade-off of dropping the curb appeal of the area.

It's these little strategic trade-offs that continue to make Build-a-lot far more interesting than your average time-management sim.

Trouble selling

Still, Build-a-lot 3 really hasn't moved on sufficiently for a game touting itself as a full-blown sequel. The visuals are very similar to previous version, with the same plain 2D sprites reminiscent of a PC strategy game from the 1990s.

The core gameplay, too, is pretty much the same. Yes, the tweaks are positive, but they're hardly earth-shattering.

While we're criticising - £5 for a game that's effectively the same as it was in 2009? That's almost as expensive as a central London flat.

Appropriately enough, then, after a period of prolific success the Build-a-lot series appears to have hit a bit of a dead end. Here's hoping Build-a-lot 4 can get things rolling again.

Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe

Build-a-lot 3 provides yet more property tycoon kicks with a nice European twist, but it now needs a bit of an overhaul after three similar games on the bounce
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.