Common Sense Review
Updated September 2012

Build-a-lot

Financial management made fun via real estate-themed building sim
Common Sense Rating 4
  • Players need to budget for unexpected repairs, since they can't earn rental income on broken-down houses.
  • Each mayor's likes and dislikes will influence what types of buildings get built.
  • Build-a-lot features an excellent ongoing tutorial to teach players the ins and outs.
  • Players can buy up For Sale properties and either demolish, renovate, or rent out the existing house.
Pros
A casual, relaxed presentation makes intimidating subject matter accessible to wider audiences. Perfectly balanced levels continue to challenge players without frustrating them.
Cons
Nothing significant enough to mention.
Bottom Line
Fiscal responsibility, city planning, and budget management are taught in a casual and engaging way.
Erin Bell
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Build-a-lot draws kids in with fun gameplay and supportive tutorials, making the niche subject of property management accessible to a wide variety of players.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

Players are encouraged to replay rounds as often as they wish, or can opt for a more relaxing casual mode. Levels become progressively harder, so players always feel challenged.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 4

The game has a great tutorial and provides help throughout. Players can choose their difficulty.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Build-a-lot is suitable for individual play by students interested in learning more about real estate, city planning, and budget management. Teachers could run a friendly class-wide competition to see which students can earn the highest scores or raise the most money. Teachers could organize role-playing scenarios around the themes of real estate (buying and selling properties) and construction, assigning roles such as mayor, city planner, blueprint architect, construction worker, and real estate agent.

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What's It Like?

Build-a-lot is a casual, easy-to-learn building sim that introduces kids to the world of real estate. Kids will build and upgrade a variety of buildings on vacant lots, including residential houses, banks, sawmills, museums, and skating rinks. To do so, they'll need the required blueprints, enough workers to do the job, and building materials, all of which cost money. The mayors of each of the eight towns give players specific goals to complete in each level, such as building four Tudor-style homes, earning a rental income of $60,000 per month, or earning $250,000 in total cash. There's also a Casual mode, where the goal is to raise a certain amount of money in as short a time as possible. 

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Is It Good For Learning?

The nice thing about Build-a-lot is that kids don't have to know a lot about real estate, or be skilled number-crunchers, before playing this game. There's a thorough and dynamic tutorial, and the pace is just right in terms of introducing new concepts in a manageable way. Kids can learn about fiscal responsibility as they manage a budget, control spending, and generate rental income. They'll learn time management as they're challenged to complete goals in a certain amount of time, and they can replay a level as often as they like to test out new strategies. Each town presents unique goals that keep things fresh to the end. For such a potentially dry subject, Build-a-lot is extremely accessible, as well as challenging.

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