A lukewarm rehash of a back then entertaining green building simulation

Although environmental protection has become less of a hot topic oer the last two years, it’s still a popular theme in games. The latest title with a “green” spin is Build It Green: Back to the Beach, from developer Nat Geo Games. The new building simulation, which could be the twin of Merscom’s Plan It Green, asks the player to revamp various polluted districts into prime examples of green suburbs and industrial zones.

Build It Green: Back to the Beach features 12 different locations consisting of five levels each. It is up to you to restore a whole island – which has been exploited for tourism by various mayors over the years – to its former natural beauty. Districts include Downtown Transport, Offshore, Traditional Village, and Industrial District. Each district varies in which tasks are expected to be fulfilled, and in this respect the game clearly resembles Plan It Green, too.
 Back to the Beach
Most of the time you will have to construct a number of buildings, implement different upgrades, reach a certain percentage of environmental health, or earn a specific amount of money. Residential houses include Zero Energy Homes, five different apartments and hotels, three Eco Houses, and others. Then there are Eco Businesses like Organic Vineyards or Farms, different shops and restaurants, as well as facilities that provide cleaner energy. On top of that there are also district upgrades, for example Water Treatment, a Recycling Center, or an Electric Car Charging Station.

Upgrades are not only applicable to houses, but also to most other buildings, and include solar panels, thermal paint, eco gardens, or waste recycling bins. The latter ones can only be added after building a recycling center, though. In most levels some dilapidated buildings will still pollute the district, and you can decide for yourself whether you want to demolish them or rather make them eco-friendly by implementing the going green-upgrade. Beside your regular income from houses and shops you should also keep an eye on the energy capacity and the environmental health in every level. If you exceed the energy capacity, power cuts will be the consequence, resulting in no income at all. And low environmental health will increase the probability of damaged houses.

If all that sounds familiar, you have probably played Plan It Green, because Build It Green: Back to the Beach does not only look similar, it’s nearly the same game. Most of the buildings haven’t changed, even most of the buttons and menus look the same. Differences are few and far between – a turn for the worse is the omission of energy credits, which made Plan It Green slightly more complex. Instead the player is able to purchase various cheats, that can either simplify or complicate gameplay. Those cheats are pretty heavy stuff, which means that levels either will become a breeze or absolutely frustrating. Moderate cheats that introduce mild changes to the gameplay would have been a better and more interesting solution.
 Back to the Beach
A pleasant surprise is that Build It Green: Back to the Beach features two different modes, and the player can decide whether he/she wants to play timed or relaxed before each level. So even if you prefer a challenge and want to play with a timer, you can still change to the relaxed version if one level seems impossible to beat. Additionally, the graphics and animations are gorgeous. You can see cars driving through the streets, the light changes according to your changes, which makes it highly satisfying to improve those districts, because you can literally see the nature reviving, and each upgrade is really displayed.

A large number of buildings, lots of modes and levels, achievements, and a top-notch presentation – so why does Build It Green: Back to the Beach seem flawed nevertheless? Because it’s no fun, plain and simple. It’s not challenging either. The game lacks the ability for the player to try out different strategies, or to buy and sell houses – two feature common to other simulations of its kind. In the vast majority of levels it’s crystal clear exactly what you have to do and in which order. Days go by extremely slowly, and you will spend more time waiting for money than actually playing. By contrast, the mini games in-between are surprisingly fast-paced and nearly impossible to beat. Experienced players will feel as if they are playing a stripped-down version of Plan It Green.

In the end, newcomers to the genre or players who absolutely dislike fast-paced and complicated building simulations might enjoy Build It Green: Back to the Beach for what it is: a relaxing and beautiful game with a decent length and some achievements to work for. Everyone else will likely find themselves bored and frustrated.