All is fair in love, war, and business. At least that’s the case in the time management and building simulation Hotel Mogul, where the unfortunate protagonist Lynette has just gotten a rotten deal in divorce court!

Lynette has only been married one month, and her husband Barry has just unexpectedly asked for a divorce. To make matters worse, she’s going to lose her business too, since her husband stands to win it all when they split. Who on Earth is responsible for that prenuptial agreement? Her lousy lawyer and best friend, who claims she must have missed that clause. Yikes. Determined not to give up (and not to hire the new lawyer she so desperately needs), Lynette decides to start a new business and find a way to reacquire her old company. I won’t spoil the plot, but there’s plenty of surprising twists.

The game play method is nearly identical to Build-a-Lot when you start. You are given a certain amount of cash, and a number of materials and workers when you start. At the top of the screen, you can also see your bank account, income, and guests, as well as your level goals. Essentially, you need to build up various properties as you play. You can buy extra materials and train extra workers as you go along, which you need in order to build, repair, and upgrade the different structures.

There are three types of structures you can build – hotel, commercial, and service. Hotels include any buildings where guests may lodge, ranging from cheap campgrounds to posh hotels. Commercial buildings generally increase the value of surrounding structures, like gardens that improve the value of whole rows, and statues which greatly improve the two adjacent properties. Service buildings include the construction mill, the real estate agency, and the museum. These give you powerful bonuses, like the ability to use the rapid construction power-up and repair all your buildings at once.

You can also buy available property by clicking on it when it goes on sale. Similarly, you can sell your properties by putting out a "for sale" sign. A cellphone will appear to indicate an offer, which you can accept or decline. Property is only available for a limited time, so you need to complete interactions before the offers expire. Property can also increase and decrease in value, depending on items you build, but also on random factors. 

Buildings need regular maintenance, so you are frequently asked to repair or clean them. If you’ve built the wrong type of building, you can always demolish it. There are special conference checks, which you can earn by clicking on them when they appear over a hotel. In an interesting twist, you earn upgrade points as you play, which you can use to unlock new build types and facilities.

To keep things challenging, you have a basic income goal to meet, but also have the chance to earn the expert score and beat the expert time goal. You can replay levels to aim for these, adding some replay value to the game. While there is a timer, it’s optional. You need to beat the level within the time frame in order to earn the expert goal. However, you can still proceed to the next level even if you exceed the time limit, provided that you meet all the goals. In this sense, you really can’t lose.

The locations are interesting, including spots as diverse as Egypt, Hawaii, and South America. Despite these drastic localities, the game play remains the same in all. The production values are good, with suitable sound effects and music, and attractive graphics. It’s fairly challenging, even after just a few levels, and the pacing is very good. It manages to be hectic, yet attainable. The length is also fairly good, taking roughly 5 or 6 hours to beat, and that’s not including replay.

The tutorial is alright, but glosses over some concepts important in the game. If you’ve already played Build-A-Lot, this won’t matter much, but it might be tougher to follow if you’ve never played this sort of game before.

The biggest issue with Hotel Mogul is it’s lack of originality. It doesn’t add anything particularly unique to the building simulation genre, and lacks some of the greater depth of later Build-A-Lot titles. While the mechanics certainly work, and it’s fun to play, it doesn’t stand out as something innovative or particularly exciting. 

If you love hectic building simulations, and can’t wait for the next installment of Build-A-Lot, then Hotel Mogul is definitely one to try. However, if you haven’t played many building simulation games, you might want to start with others in the genre first.

For similar games, try Build-a-lot 3: Passport to Europe, Build in Time, and Be Rich!.