"Here's hoping Build-a-lot 4 can get things rolling again."
Those were the closing words of my Build-a-lot 3 review. I wrote them less than a month ago.
Of course, this is another conversion of a relatively old PC game, so it's not like the developer has churned two games out in quick succession.
Nonetheless, two Build-a-lots in close succession only serves to drive home how little the core formula has changed.Property management
The idea, as ever, is to tackle a series of scenarios in which you must build, upgrade, or otherwise improve upon the property of a small community.
You might have to build a bunch of houses in order to raise a set amount of rent, or you may need to build a swimming pool to improve the appeal of an area.
In fact, each level offers a range of targets to meet, and before long you're given a reasonable amount of leeway to achieve them.
You might realise that in order to improve the general happiness of an area you need to do more than just paint a few houses. Some major investment into sports facilities should do the trick.Power game
So what's new? If the last Build-a-lot came with a Europe-trotting angle, Built-a-lot 4 is all about the power.
No, we're not talking about acting like a manipulative, money-grabbing tyrant of a landlord. It's not that realistic. Rather, you'll have to take into consideration the amount of power your new estate will consume.
If you don't allocate resources to wind farms, nuclear power stations, and the like, your properties will experience a black-out and your supply of lucre will cease.
This is a bit of a two-edged sword. While it increases your tactical considerations - power stations are expensive, and decrease the value of adjacent property - it's also a bit of a pain in the neck.
In particular, your first warning that a property will exceed your power supply is a horrible klaxon, which starts during the building process. As there's no way to halt construction, it's a bit of a useless measure. Moreover, the lack of any income makes it hard - and often impossible - to take corrective measures.Build-a-lot more
Build-a-lot 4 is just like Build-a-lot 3, which means it provides plenty of fun gameplay. Its difficulty level is well-pitched, and there's a nice balance between being pointed in the right direction and being given scope for experimentation.
But we'll say it again: it's just like the last game, only with a new eco message that brings its own advantages and pitfalls. With a £4.99 charge to unlock the full game, you might quite justifiably demand a little more innovation for your money.
If you've just finished playing Build-a-lot 3 and find yourself itching for more property-planning kicks, go right ahead. If, as we suspect, you've had quite enough of builders and materials and cheeky bids for now, hold off.
After all, Build-a-lot 5 could be along in a month or so.