The modern shopping mall is a magical place, filled with gleaming riches, scrumptious culinary delights, technological marvels and exotic imports from far-off lands. All of which are yours to enjoy, of course, in exchange for braving the milling throngs and endless sea of parking spaces.
Thankfully, business simulation Create a Mall puts the power to build a better shopping center in your hands, giving the people what they want while also raking in a healthy income. We just wish the creators understood a simple underlying principle: Time equals money, and you’ll be aghast at just how much can be wasted on any given session.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Assuming you don’t mind, as random heroine Kelly, decking out strip malls, coastal commercial centers and glistening gallerias, the title offers a fairly economical approach to playing entrepreneur. Taking a cue from seminal outings like Build-a-lot, play’s largely structured around installing and operating different types of shops – e.g. book, toy and shoe stores – as well as upgrading holdings as needed. The catch being that you’re limited by several factors: Money, manpower and resources. Let’s not forget time, by far the most important, either. Because although creating a thriving marketplace is, at the surface level, as easy as clicking to select and place the desired shop or prompt immediate renovation, self-gratification is never immediate. Frankly, pleasingly straightforward interface and simple financial back-end aside, the greatest hurdle you’ll face here is the sheer amount of waiting necessary to progress.
You see, money makes the virtual world go round. But it’s only doled out at specific intervals, when a slowly-filling cash meter reaches a specific endpoint. Moreover, you’re only allotted X amount of dollars each time, though it’s possible to boost revenue by adding retailers and giving existing stores an overhaul.
While a fairly easy system to follow in principle, amassing wealth can be a tricky endeavor. Accessing different stores and entertainment options requires blueprints, which cost money to buy. Building these outlets takes labor and building supplies, all of which are offered in limited quantities, and require additional expenditure. As such, you’re required to perform a constant juggling act, balancing costs vs. inventory and income, slowly socking away enough moolah to achieve specific goals. Unsurprisingly, these objectives (i.e. build X many jewelry stores, achieve Y level of daily revenue, add Z number of vendors with multiple upgrades) are always hard-won.
That goes double when you consider additional concerns, e.g. popularity. The more types of a single variety of shop built, the unhappier patrons become, and the more foot traffic (depicted by animated characters who wander across each featured backdrop) suffers. Space can also get limited, requiring use of the demolition tool to scroll back progress, and time tight, although you’re not technically under any real constraint save artificial deadlines, which dole out special bonuses if met. Still, the biggest challenge here is mostly dealing with general frustration and boredom. Although extras include collectible trophies and options to earn shopping credits that let you buy virtual stereo systems and TVs, let’s be honest. With even early level goals fairly challenging and time-consuming, play often feels more like simple busywork than fun.
To be frank, it really takes a certain type of personality (say, those of us who suffer from OCD, or a love of micromanagement) to enjoy this sort of outing. Even more so when you consider the title’s general lack of audiovisual variety, and overall nonexistent sense of personality, which can quickly lead to burnout over extended sessions. Good, bad, a cure for insomnia… it’s really all in the eye of the beholder, however. Because Create a Mall is exactly what the title promises, nothing more, nothing less – and given how unglamorous the process can be in real life, you shouldn’t expect much more than that.