It’s not hard for a game to be good when it borrows most of its ideas from one of hte most successful franchises in casual gaming. In spite of the clever innovations that building sim Be Rich does bring to the table, its considerable appeal is tempered by the fact that much of what makes it good was lifted directly from Hipsoft’s Build-a-lot series.

Exactly like Build-a-lot, the goal of Be Rich is to travel to various towns (in this case, within the U.S.) and work with local residents on construction projects. In each town you’ll have a set of objectives to complete, such as build three 3-star Apartment Blocks, a Cinema and a Shop; achieve a daily income of $100,000; or increase your bank account $5 million.

By clicking tabs along the bottom of the screen you can build houses such as bungalows, mansions and chateaus, and collect rental income from them. You can also buy up properties you don’t own if they come up for sale, and sell your own properties back. There are also non-residential structures like workshops (that keep houses in the vicinity from requiring repairs), shops (that grant extra income), cinemas, car dealerships and amusement parks, as well as beautification landscaping like gardens, statues and fountains that will boost the value of nearby homes and raise the town’s overall happiness rating.

If you’ve played Build-a-lot, it should all be looking and sounding mighty familiar so far. Other similarities include:

  • Houses you don’t own show up in gray
  • You can upgrade houses to 1-star, 2-star and 3-star ratings
  • Houses come up for sale by way of a blinking for sale sign
  • New objectives pop up during the level itself
  • There are premium lots that boost a house’s value if it’s built there
  • Different terrains include grass, snow and beach
  • Houses will break down and need repairs unless they’re within range of a workshop
  • You must finish within a certain number of days to earn Expert mode

That being said, the more I played Be Rich the more I realized that it does offer several twists that take the genre Hipsoft basically invented in new and interesting directions. For example, each type of house has a different number of tenants in it, which comes into play for level goals where you have to, for example, build a Cinema with a certain number of attendees, or achieve a certain overall town population.

Be Rich also offers a title screen where you can visit your company HQ and use bonus points to buy time management-style upgrades like a charitable foundation that allows you to collect donation checks from houses you own and add them to your own bank account (I guess we’re talking about a corrupt charity hereā€¦)

By far the coolest innovation is that instead of being restricted to a predetermined number of lots, each town is a sandbox-style grid where you can build anything anywhere, as long as it fits. Each structure takes up a certain number of blocks on the grid (a workshop, for example, is 2×2, whereas a Mansion is 2×4). You can also bulldoze structures that are in your way and, if you want to, even tear down roads and build new ones running in different directions – in other words, completely altering the town’s layout.

The game’s second mode is an expanded Sandbox where you’re given a much bigger town to work with (so big that it doesn’t all fit on one screen and you have to scroll), and no time pressure to achieve Expert mode in a certain number of days.

Unfortunately, Be Rich frequently suffers from bad English. You can look forward to head-scratching advice like “Selling your real estate can be useful when you are running short on money or instead are willing to earn,” or “Large number of premium lots in Mansfield is a great advantage to make profit from elite real estate. Use it and get the income of $180,000.”

Although a little rough around the edges, Be Rich is an enjoyable building sim that in spite of its generous “borrowing” does also expand the experience in challenging new ways.