Released on the PC, Mac, and Nintendo DS, iPhone, and Android, Build-a-lot is a casual simulation game that lets the player take on the role of a real estate mogul, who undertakes housing projects in various neighborhoods. Initially a downloadable PC release in 2007, the game was created, developed, and published by HipSoft. It was then ported to the Mac (by Red Marble Games) and the DS (by MumboJumbo). Build-a-Lot was then ported to various cell phone platforms by Glu Mobile.
The game features two game modes, career mode and casual mode.
Each level in both modes gives the player control of a portion of a town and a sum of money. Levels contain a finite number of lots for buildings to be created. Before something can be built, the relevant blueprint must be purchased. Buildings, which range from houses to public buildings, also require a set number of materials and workers, both of which cost money. Anything occupying a lot can be demolished, allowing something else to be built in the empty space left behind.
Money is primarily spent on materials and workers. With the pricing structure, buying in larger amounts is encouraged:
- 100 materials: $10,000
- 250 materials: $22,500
- 500 materials: $40,000
- 1,000 materials: $75,000
- 2,500 materials: $150,000
- 5,000 materials: $250,000
- 1 worker: $50,000
- 2 workers: $90,000
- 3 workers: $120,000
Build-a-lot features six different housing types. There are two ways to earn money from building houses on lots. They can be sold at a price (and can be re-bought at a later time if on sale), or they can provide an income of money through rent every fifteen seconds -- the more expensive the property, the higher the rent. Houses can be upgraded up to four times (the fourth time requires a permit), with each upgrade adding to the house's overall value, though upgrades cost further materials. From time to time, taxes have to be paid for houses in possession, while repairs may also need to be performed if they have not been inspected.
- Rambler: Requires 75 materials and 1 worker to build.
- Colonial: Requires 150 materials and 2 workers to build.
- Tudor: Requires 300 materials and 3 workers to build.
- Estate: Requires 600 materials and 5 workers to build.
- Mansion: Requires 1,200 materials and 7 workers to build.
- Castle: Requires 2,500 materials and 9 workers to build.
There are other buildings that benefit the player in different and essential ways, helping the player save both time and money. Benefits do not stack for the sawmill or the workshop, meaning that space is wasted if more than one of either is built.
- Sawmill: Transports materials faster, cuts the cost of materials by half, and allows the purchasing of permits. Requires 900 materials and 5 workers to build.
- Workshop: Decreases the time constructing, upgrading, and repairing buildings, cuts the cost of workers by half, and allows the inspection of houses. Requires 900 materials and 3 workers to build.
- Bank: Adds 10% of interest to the player's money balance every thirty seconds or gives the player the option to not pay taxes by donating the interest to charity. Multiple banks increase the interest earned over time. Requires 750 materials and 5 workers.
- Public Building: Doesn't provide any added bonuses. In career mode, the mayor may task the player to build a number of public buildings as an objective. These include post offices, libraries, fire stations, museums, ice rinks, surf shops, cinemas, and marinas.
The career mode contains thirty-five levels, each with a different scenario and set of objectives. The previous level must be completed under a time limit before moving onto the next. Levels are spread across eight different neighborhoods, helmed by different mayors:
Meadow Dale (Levels 1-3)
Meadow Dale, a quiet town in the countryside, is where the game's tutorials take place. Jennifer Russell, the new young mayor there, helps you "learn the ropes" of real estate.
Pleasant Valley (Levels 4-6)
After successfully completing the projects in Meadow Dale, Pleasant Valley's mayor, Beatrice Hudson, hires the player to expand the low-lying town with Colonial homes and post offices.
River Glen (Levels 7-10)
Patrick O'Brien is the proud mayor of River Glen, an attractive town with a river running through the middle of it. O'Brien has a liking towards Tudor homes and libraries.
Evergreen Park (Levels 11-15)
Mayor Theodore Buckley III, who had a successful career in banking and finance, is a man keen on building Estate houses to boost housing values in his tree-infested town.
Lakeside (Levels 16-20)
Lakeside is a scenic town that lies on the shores of a large lake, run by the bearded mayor Frank Crawford. Lots by the shore are known as 'premier lots', and are of a higher value.
Granite Springs (Levels 21-25)
Granite Springs is a Western-themed town by the mountains. Mayor Annie Stanton is initially looking for someone to increase safety in the area by building a fire station, though she has ambitions to have a Wild West museum in the heart of the town to share her passion of the American West with visitors.
Summit Ridge (Levels 26-30)
Mayor Hans "The Wolf" Stallmire, the spokesman for Wolf Ski Apparel, is known for being a two-time champion of downhill skiing. Stallmire wants to turn Summit Ridge, a skiing community, into a destination for winter sports enthusiasts, and wants castles and ice rinks built.
Palm Grove (Levels 31-35)
Hollywood superstar and sunglasses-wearing Vince Danner is the mayor of Palm Grove, an island community with similarities to Hawaii. An avid surfer, he firstly asks the player to build surf shops. With Palm Grove soon hosting the Film Festival, Danner ends up requesting a large cinema and marina -- the latter so that "the rich and famous will have a place for their prized yachts".
The casual mode features six towns from the career mode, where the only goal is to reach a monetary target as quickly as possible with an initial set of cash, materials, and workers. Best times are recorded in offline leaderboards. The towns and targets are as follows:
- River Glen: $1 million
- Evergreen Park: $2.5 million
- Lakeside: $5 million
- Granite Springs: $10 million
- Summit Ridge: $25 million
- Palm Grove: $50 million
Build-a-lot has received warm praise from a few outlets. The PC version was nominated for Downloadable Game of the Year in the 2008 Interactive Achievement Awards.