Build-a-lot has a new competitor in town: Divo Games' Be Rich!, a strategy-oriented casual tycoon game of real estate planning, building and investing. The game's title gives away your ultimate goal of raking in cash by constructing and upgrading houses in various cities to increase your profits and up your credibility. It takes a more real estate-centric approach to building than the Build-a-lot series does, although the similarities between the games are hard to ignore.
You begin with a small neighborhood surrounded by quaint scenery. Each level has a number of goals you must meet in order to proceed. Tasks such as raising your rent to a certain level, constructing a number of buildings, earning a specified amount of cash, etc. can all be accomplished with a few mouse clicks. Navigate the menus at the bottom to construct houses, other buildings, and decorative items, then build on the grid where you see fit.
Raising rental income is as simple as building more houses, upgrading existing units, and purchasing lots that occasionally come to market. Bonus buildings such as shops and workshops boost your income and keep houses under good repair respectively.
Unlike the Build-a-lot series which focuses on resource management, Be Rich! is more tycoon-centric and ditches several arcade-style ideas in favor of cold hard simulation. You don't have to worry about managing materials or workers in this game, only cash flow, freeing your mind to worry about the singular goal of the game: get rich.
Analysis: When you're going toe to toe with a heavy hitter such as Build-a-lot, you can't pull your punches. Be Rich! smacks the established series right in the kisser by following the same visual direction, gameplay setup, and keeping a number of conventions the same. In fact, if you've played any of the Build-a-lot games, you can skip the Be Rich! tutorial!
Fortunately for us hapless players, Be Rich! doesn't come straight from Cloneville. The game's design may be similar, but there are key differences that break it free from that Build-a-lot mold. For starters, the visual style comes across as quaint, serene, and in many cases, beautiful. Just look at those mountains surrounding the lake! The little touches like people walking on the streets and cars driving on the roads add a human aspect to the experience. You aren't some nameless tycoon slinging boards for cash, you're constructing homes for people to live in. It's a small but welcome touch.
Other differences between Be Rich! and Build-a-lot include the ability to create roads (SimCity-style), and more freedom what to construct and where in general. The game allows you to choose what to build and where, opening up the simulation aspect without making things too complicated.
It may follow in the footsteps of Build-a-lot, but Be Rich! strikes a path of its own. More sim, less time management, same strangely addictive fun.