Through a lawyer, two sisters learn of their uncle’s recent passing. Apparently, the uncle they’ve never met has left a mansion and five islands to the sisters, but not without a couple of twists. One sister disappears and the uncle’s sleazy lawyer has taken over the inheritance in Vacation Mogul, a real estate-style game that shuns being another Build-a-lot clone.

Despite worries about her missing sister and the strange goings-on with the inheritance, the second sister must run the tourism business to get the needed money to reclaim the house. With an intuitive point-and-click interface, she builds and upgrades different kinds of buildings including hotels, spas, volleyball courts, casinos and ice cream shops. The story updates occur between a handful of levels in cutscenes.

The sister works her way through 38 places on the five islands, following directions such as building three hotels and upgrading them to two stars, attracting at least 10 tourists and earning $50,000 per week. For each level, you aim to reach the given goals as fast as you can so you can earn the gold or silver cup, or you can move at a leisurely pace and still advance without earning bonus coins. However, you need those coins for investing in research.

Go to research to have your architects work on creating plans for new and bigger buildings as well as upgrading their stars from one to three. All of this costs money that you earn from completing the levels. Also, it takes time for the architects to draft up a new building, so buy the buildings before you need them so they work while you handle the next level.

You begin with a bungalow and work your way up to three different styles and sizes of hotels. The bigger the hotel means bigger profits. Hotels also bring in tourists, and many levels set a goal for the number of tourists you must attract.

However, tourists will not come if you don’t provide "Line" accommodations. These entertaining activities range from the cheap beach chair to the elaborate catamaran and yacht rentals. All they do is bring in tourists, no money. Then you can add shops to bring in income based on the number of tourists on site. The sushi bar, for example, brings in $1600 for every tourist staying on your island. You can also set up a karaoke bar and a stage.

Like in other real estate games, you can buy land, sell buildings for needed cash and demolish buildings to make room for others. Buildings break down requiring repair, which costs money for materials. The more materials you buy in one sitting, the more you save. The same applies for hiring construction workers.

You repair buildings, buy lumber and hire construction workers without setting up a school or lumberyard. Instead, go to research to buy bonuses that give you more materials for less, speed up workers, give you extra time and up the ante for saving drowning tourists. You can make at least $1500 every time you save someone from drowning. All of this action happens with simple point-and-click and it’s fun without the tediousness.

The game has a cool twist of including two mini-games that fit right in with the story. Alas, it only happens twice. In one mini-game, you look for your sister’s missing items and in another, you search for matching flowers and petals. It’s nice to see mini-games that have a purpose rather than be there for the stake of having them. Vacation Mogul‘s having just two mini-games feels incomplete. With a little brainstorming, the developers could have more to round it out.

Vacation Mogul started unacceptably slow on a new laptop running Windows 7 that has handled many games without a problem. Switching to a desktop, the game performed better. So before buying the game, try it out to see how it performs because it makes a big difference. While the storyline is decent, its occasional awkward grammar and weird description of the two sisters is off-putting.

You click the screen to move forward with the dialogue. However, it flakes out at times, reading like it skipped a dialogue box here and there especially in the confusing ending. If you miss any dialogue, too bad. You can’t back it up. However, the game play will entertain plenty to the point where you’ll want to revisit previous levels to go for the gold. Winning the gold is tough even for experienced players. It’s better to play through the whole game before going back to replay any level because the clock is ticking. The only time you must replay a level is when you need more money for research or else you can’t advance.

Vacation Mogul will entertain players of all levels and more than satisfy real estate game fans. Unlike many Build-a-lot copycats, Vacation Mogul succeeds in standing on its own two feet with its good pace, variety, colorful graphics and challenge.