The real estate business is probably a puzzling, incomprehensible section of the economy to the average citizen, and the events of the last two years surely did not add to its popularity. Big$hot, a new strategy game from Rusty Axe Games, tries to bring out the real estate broker in all of us by urging the player to juggle various companies while trying to understand the current state of the economy.

Big$hot is a straightforward tycoon game, so there is not much of a story. In the beginning you name your alter ego and choose a photo to represent yourself. Then you can set basic preferences, such as the difficulty level, from easy to pro, and the length of your game. Big$hot is turn-based, and one month equals one turn. Players can choose whether they prefer a very quick game round of about 12 months, or a more complex round consisting of 96 turns.

Unfortunately, every new game takes place on the exactly same map, displaying the profiles of the player and nine competitors on the left side, and the city in the aerial perspective. Your beginning balance is always $50,000 and the first action is to acquire a property as a basis of your hopefully prospering business. In the beginning you can only afford to buy restaurants and retail stores, while your rising capital as well as credit line allows you to acquire more expensive estates like media companies, realty companies, hotels or gas stations later on.

An important key to success in Big$hot is to observe the economy’s current state and its estimated development very closely, which is displayed in the left bottom corner of the screen. If the economy is booming in the latest turn, but the trend says it will be shrinking, it may not be the best idea to acquire new properties, since their value is much higher when the economy is doing fine. Furthermore, a shrinking economy will mean decreasing revenues of your properties as well. Therefore it is a win-win situation when you are able to buy a property during a recession, which means a comparatively low purchase price, accompanied by a positive trend, entailing immediately increasing revenues by the new acquisition.

Besides these financial strategies, a company’s quality, efficiency and advertising play an important role to maximize your overall profit and to be one step ahead of your competitors.

By upgrading efficiency to five stars you lower the monthly maintenance costs of a company, while higher quality, as no surprise, increases your average profits. Apart from this you are also able to advertise every company to different degrees, thereby providing higher traffic, and again higher revenues. The traffic of a company can be raised up to 100% and each company with more than 90% traffic automatically becomes a super brand. This simply means that its profits are more sustainable and that similar companies owned by your competitors really have to struggle to compete with your superbrand-company.

The concept of a real estate tycoon game might sound absolutely bone-dry theoretically, but fortunately Rusty Axe Games avoids overwhelming the player with charts crowded with numbers and long-winded tables. Nevertheless, Big$hot is a highly complex game due to all the different factors in play, and it surely will take some time to crack all the highscore lists, especially when the difficulty level is set to challenging or even pro.

One big plus of the game is the competitors. Their decisions tend to make sense, except for some rare occasions they are neither too aggressive nor too cautious in regard to their acquisitions. Particularly situations like bidding at foreclosure auctions are strangely exciting in the context of a tycoon game, and you will find yourself more than once tearing your hair when one of your competitors just made a snatch.

However, Big$hot has some weak points, too. The tutorial is rather short and people who are not really familiar with the real estate business and credit lines might feel a bit lost among abbreviations, technical terms and the minimalist map. As mentioned before, the graphics are nothing to write home about, but at least they’re unobtrusive, which is in marked contrast to the music, which is quite catchy at first but becomes stressful after playing more than ten minutes.

All in all Big$hot will definitely appeal to fans of tycoon games. The turn-based concept is highly addicting and despite its complexity, you will get into it quickly. The adjustable difficulty level is a nice idea, and in contrast to other games, the difference between each level is very noticeable. Of course Big$hot does not reinvent the wheel, but nevertheless it is a strong and entertaining addition to the tycoon genre.

Gamezebo tip: If you like this game, try Rusty Axe Games’ real estate management sim Real E$tate Empire. For a lighter look at real estate, try Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe, or Be Rich!