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Build in Time

Score: 78%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Reflexive
Developer: Reflexive Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ Edutainment/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Build in Time is brand new and has some of the earmarks of new software. The Mac version of Build in Time had a few glitchy elements with full-screen that seemed to disappear when the game was run in windowed mode. It tended to hang or run slower at times during bigger visual effects, which will probably improve in later versions.

The game shows a top-down view of the playing area, similar to a SimCity perspective, which allows you to track the progress of your real-estate empire as you build your way into each new neighborhood. The decorations are great, since the whole theme of the game is showing different houses and homebuyers from the 50s until today. Little touches are everywhere, including some sound effects that accompany each buyer when you successfully move them into their new home. The musical accompaniment is appropriate to each period, but not a huge part of the game experience.

Casual games should have a visual style that does the job and then "gets out of the way." Build in Time has a relatively uncluttered dashboard as you are playing, but does a poor job providing visual cues on the appropriate sequence for your actions. Customers slowly lose patience with you, evidenced by their demeanor and a traditional meter. There are some subtle cues as to what you can do to earn extra points, including a summary at the beginning of each level. The pace of Build in Time doesn't allow you to relax and plan your approach. The phone is ringing, houses are being built or painted... you need a way to be clued in quickly when a job is done and it's time to move in a new client. Build in Time puts a lot on the player, which diminishes its value as a casual game. The end result is more challenging, but also places a question mark over this one for gamers that want a slower paced experience.


If you've ever wondered how it would feel to build houses, this is probably a good place to start. You begin the game, in each stage, with empty lots and land. The clients start coming in quickly and you'll be able to offer them one of several unique home designs. Throw some color on the house, maybe a carport, and some appliances, and you have a happy customer. The idea of Build in Time is that you start your career in the 50s as a green-pea, trying to take over the business from your father and prove yourself. You progress through the decades and build the company from a small bunch of scrappy builders to a major enterprise. As casual games go, it sounds ambitious, and it is. Build in Time is probably better compared to a real-time strategy game, or a sim-type game than most of the casual fare available for download.

The add-ons you earn during the game include new buildings that net more revenue for your company, and allow you to purchase extra building and painting crews. There are other upgrades available at a price, including appliances that greatly increase your prospective buyers' happiness and net you higher sale prices. During each level you'll be rated on speed and customer satisfaction, both tied to revenue. It is possible to earn special bonuses by satisfying some condition, usually building a house in a certain location, or building a certain type of home in a certain color. There's even a layer below the challenge that allows you to temporarily upgrade your building and painting capacity by creating patterns in your neighborhood. A line of red houses with happy customers will transform your crews into super-crews, able to build or paint a house almost instantly.

Most games of this type are content to let you play God and do the planning and directing of the action from "on high." Build in Time takes a slightly different approach and lets you get right into the action. Clicking on your works-in-progress will cause crews to move more quickly. A satisfying little hammer or paintbrush icon shows up when you do this.


It isn't required to win, but interacting with the game this way is required to earn top scores. Each level has a revenue target and you'll fail the level if you don't reach it. You can earn star ratings as well if you do good work during a stage. The special challenge isn't required to win, but completing it can help you make up for shortcomings elsewhere. The most difficult thing about the game is that lack of direction mentioned earlier. At first, you don't have multiple crews for anything, so it's impossible to get into much trouble. Ifsomeone is not building, you have to get them building, and the same with painting. If a house is built, it's ready to be painted, and then it's ready to be occupied. Later in the game as you open up multiple crews, things get more complicated. Painting a house and then realizing your customer wanted a carport means that you have to build and paint the 'port, taking more time you probably don't have.

Game Mechanics:

Coupling the sim-style elements with the clicking assists makes Build in Time a handful. The pace is definitely not for players looking to find a relaxing, casual game experience, but it makes for a nice transition between the more twitchy, arcade genre and the purely casual gaming experience. There is a pause button on-screen that will help if you happen to get completely flustered, or just need to walk away and take a bathroom break. The game saves by stage, allowing you to come back and replay a particular stage where you only earned one of two possible stars or neglected to complete a special challenge. The end goal of making it through five decades is an ambitious one, so there's plenty of value in the game for someone ready to make the time commitment. We can hope that some of the glitchy bits are worked out with the graphics, but otherwise this is a solid package. Not casual, in the new gaming sense of that word, but solid as a gaming concept and well executed.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:

Apple Mac OS 10.4+

Test System:

iMac G5 with OS 10.4

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