I don’t think I’m quite the target audience for the new Create-A-Mall, since I don’t really like malls and shopping, but games often take a surprising premise to create a great game. A Nintendo game where you played a paperboy was really popular, DQ Tycoon isn’t like actually working at Dairy Queen, and playing Kudos as an underskilled twenty-year-old waitress was way more fun than actually being one.
Unfortunately, Create-a-Mall took mindless consumerism and crossed it with repetitive, challengeless gameplay. You play as Kelly, a corporate drone tasked with leasing stores to create a mall.
Time and resource management games all have some similarities. No matter what the game theme is, players will need to manage resources and time to complete goals. But Create-a-Mall felt like a clone of the repetitive playstyle and unrewarding rewards of Build-A-Lot 2, reskinned as a mall instead of a neighborhood.
In both games, players need the building plans, resources, and workers to create buildings, but all of those things are purchased, so there’s really only one resource, money, which makes it more of an earn-and-spend cycle and not actually a game.
Both Create-a-Mall and Build-a-Lot give you the option to upgrade your existing houses or shops to make more money from them. Sadly these upgrades don’t add colored awnings or sandwich boards, they just add flying gold stars. Exactly like upgrading in Build-a-Lot!
One of my problems with the last game I bashed, the disastrous Tropical Dream, was that the reward system was an image of an empty room, to which you could add images of reward items. Ok, so Kelly’s office in Create-a-Mall didn’t make me want to cry, the way the bazillion spots for diving trip best shots did, but having a limited selection of bland reward items to decorate my office didn’t exactly motivate me.
If you do well, you receive “store credits” at the end of each level, which can be redeemed for items to put in Kelly’s office or for clothes for Kelly. This part was quite a lot like a real mall. Sometimes I have to make a return with no receipt, and I end up searching for something to use up my store credit.
This could just be my deep dislike of corporate life coming through into this game. Maybe there are hordes of players just dying to decorate their virtual cubicles. Right.