With trouble in the economy and the majority of homes being devalued in the markets, independent real estate polls indicate that many of us are feeling the pinch. It’s ironic, then, that under these conditions we’ve seen a rush of real estate games. Jane’s Realty is the latet addition to the time management buiding scene, joining games like Build-a-lot and Build in Time.
If you’ve played the previous “Jane” games, including Jane’s Hotel and Jane’s Hotel: Family Hero… well, you can pretty much forget them, since Jane’s Realty is something totally different. The only thing they really have in common is Jane.
Jane’s husband is stressed over business. He’s planning on running for Mayor, but he’s got no one to take over management of his leasing company. Luckily, Jane is available, and she’s positive she can handle the task. After all, she single-handedly revived her family’s hotel chain, so she’s certain she can manage a realty.
After playing several rounds of Jane’s Realty, you’ll totally understand her Mayor-husband’s stress, since this game is no cake-walk.
To play, you must first build a power station and water tower for each community. Once you’ve got those built, you’ll need to purchase an available lot to build on. To start construction, click the "buildings" button in the tool bar. Choose a building you would like to build. Then choose the open lot where you would like to build it.
You may notice little icons over a potential building in your tool bar. This means that more is required to build the structure. In order to build structures, you’ll need to have enough cash, which is shown in the right hand corner of the screen. You’ll also have to have enough power and water to maintain them. Your power and water stations can be upgraded (on the top of the screen) as needed. Lastly, you’ll need available workers.
Sometimes there is rubbish on your plot. This must first be cleared with the bulldozer, in your service tab on the tool bar. Natural disasters can also block roads with fallen trees, and those can likewise be cleared with the bulldozer at no cost.
Once you’ve met all the prerequisites and given the orders, workers will be sent to the scene to put up the structure. This can take some time, as they are quite slow (just like most contractors in real life). To start, you’ll only have one set of workers to use, so you will have to wait for them to complete a job in order to use them again. Later, you can buy upgrades like a garage, which will give you access to more workers.
When your building is complete, you’ll need to furnish it to attract tenants. This bit is fun, and can eventually be played on it’s own in the main menu screen. The house needs to be furnished if there is a key icon over it. Clicking on it takes you inside the house. You can select from a variety of objects, including couches, beds, and wallpaper to spruce up the place. Placing objects over green spots increases their value, while red spots decrease the value.
Everything loses rental value with time unfortunately, so it pays to be quick. Eventually, when quantities run out, you will need to buy more items from the shop building. When your property has reached a high enough progress value and the "rent" button has become active, you can click on it to rent the house.
Until you get the bank upgrade, you must manually collect rent from tenants by clicking on homes with the money icon over them. You’ve got a limited amount of time to do this, or else you’ll lose your chance. Yup, that’s more pressure.
Heart values next to the houses indicates how happy the residents are. This level naturally decreases over time, but can be increased by buying them gifts in your service tab. When it reaches zero, the old tenants will move out, and you’ll need to redecorate for new ones in order to collect rent again. The happiness value is also important in obtaining upgrades, which are often needed to advance, though this feature appears to be inconsistently applied.
With each level, you’ll need to meet several level goals in order to advance. These may include earning a certain amount of cash, gaining certain upgrades, or buying a certain number of properties. Reaching these goals will form part of your strategy. Some will seem nearly impossible to reach – literally – since they require upgrades that are very difficult to obtain.
The game itself seems a bit rough around the edges, with some quirks that may permanently prevent you from winning. For example, I found myself stuck on Happy Valley: Level 1. To advance, I needed to upgrade a building in addition to other tasks. Unfortunately, this proved impossible. In the game you must wait for the customer to request an upgrade before completeing one. This is supposed to happen when you fill up the heart value, which can be done with gifts. In my case, the customer never requested the upgrade, even when I attempted to fill all the hearts (the last heart refuses to fill no matter how many gifts I supplied). This problem persisted time after time, creating a generally frustrating experience. One solution seems to be deleting your profile and starting from the beginning, but this is hardly ideal after hours of gameplay.
If all of that wasn’t enough, you are strictly timed. Talk about pressure! I often wished for a way to turn the timer off so I could enjoy playing at my leisure. A “relaxed” mode would have been a great addition, but alas, there is no such thing.
On the whole, Jane’s Realty is a creative game that is full of unrealized potential. There are lots of great ideas implemented, like blending interior decorating into the mix, and offering so many upgrade and building options. Unfortunately, these ideas suffer with pacing which is too frantic. There are simply too many tasks expected of players without adequate preparation or explanation. Without any way of slowing things down, it can quickly become frustrating as players get stuck on the same board over and over again.
It would be great to see a sequel which takes all of the same fun elements of the game, but offers players a better chance to enjoy them with fewer timers and more open-ended goals for a generally less overwhelming game play experience.