So, like, here's like, the thing. I like, have a mall and you like, don't. Like, not yet, anyway. Also, I'm like going to stop using the word "like" now because it's, like, so like annoying. Instead, I'll tell you about Mall-a-Palooza from RTS Casuals, a time management sim that's all about building stores and nurturing a thriving mall crowd, complete with annoying teenagers with a proclivity for the word "like"!
Each level starts with a handful of empty booths just waiting for your eager cursor. Click the space and choose which type of store to build, ranging from clothing boutiques to books, toys, electronics stores and more. Once built, you'll need to pick an employee to run the place (the honor system never works well in malls). Sift through the selection of potentials, reading their quote to see if they have an interest in the type of store you're staffing. You wouldn't want a computer geek to run a women's clothing store, for example. Making the right employee choice nets you a bonus, so it's worth taking a little time to find the right one.
After staffing is complete, you start earning cash. Levels are timed in terms of days, and you can see how long you have left by checking the upper left corner of the screen. Income is earned on a per-store basis, so you've always got a little cash coming in. Use the moolah to upgrade shops and attract more customers. Building similar shops next to each other also nets you a bonus, so keep that in mind when planning your mall's layout.
One of the more interesting elements of Mall-a-Palooza is that you're not just working on a level-by-level basis, you're building an entire mall. Playing each level to its fullest affects the rest of your game, as the more you earn here the higher rating your mall will get. And let's face it, we all want a stylin' mall, don't we? Buy up several of the same kind of store early on, as things get more expensive as your mall becomes more popular.
Analysis: Mall-a-Palooza doesn't re-invent the time management/building genre. Instead it focuses on the simple act of having fun. Mall-a-Palooza never asks you to be a serious business manager even though you're planning an entire shopping mall and your decisions affect every level of play. Instead, your job is to sit back, build a few stores, hire a few employees, schedule a few fun events, and sip a fruit smoothie in the food court. You know, after you build the food court.
After every mall setting is complete, you unlock a surprisingly satisfying bonus level. These levels are untimed and feature lofty goals to complete, leaving you with as much wiggle room as you like to buy, sell, build and upgrade shops as you please. Even though time is never really a pressure in Mall-a-Palooza, it was nice having these more relaxed levels built in to the game.
The biggest shortcoming in Mall-a-Palooza is its visual presentation. While cute and charming in some ways, one can't help but feel everything has a stiff, 3D modeling characteristic left over from 1997. The stores aren't anything to write home about, either, although I did get a kick out of watching the guy in headphones headbang as he checked out a new cell phone.
Challenging but still casual to the core, Mall-a-Palooza does time management/casual sim thing extraordinarily well. It's like, so like, fun, too.