If you’ve ever walked around your local shopping mall and complained about the store selection (or lack thereof), salespersons not suited for their job or litter on the ground instead of in trash cans, you can now put your mouth where your mouse is in Mall-A-Palooza, a new game that tests your skills at managing a mall. While not perfect, this game delivers a fun and challenging experience for sim fans.
In Mall-A-Palooza, players must accomplish a handful of tasks ranging from picking a spot in a mall to build a store, upgrading its appearance, hiring the best staff and dealing with problems such as thieves, electrical shortages and patrons who toss trash on the ground. In hiring the most ideal salespersons, you’ll match the type of store you’re building — clothing, music, electronics, books, toys and arcade — based on the comments made by potential staff. For example, someone who says there’s nothing more relaxing than reading a book is who you should hire for a bookstore, while the person who mentions fashion is their life is best for the clothing store, and so on.
Many of objectives will be to bring in a minimum amount of money (per store or for the entire mall), before advancing to the next day. Bigger stores, or ones in a premium mall location, cost more to build, but yield a much bigger return. If you need cash for the investment, however, you can sell existing stores, too. Building two similar stores beside one another (such as two that sell toys) translates to a bonus, as well. Stores cost more money over time as the mall becomes more popular, so it’s a good idea to buy as many as possible early on in the level. You can also buy stores owned by someone else (the computer) if you can afford them; once in a while you’ll see a temporary sale price, which is when you should scoop it up.
Beginning with the fourth or fifth mall you’ll be able to choose which franchises to buy for the bigger stores (such as toys or electronics); you can create “events” in the mall to draw more patrons (such as a show for kids); and you can start adding new items to the mall to boost happiness (food courts, ATMs, plants, and so on).
As with most time management games, you’ve only got a certain amount of time to complete the objectives or else you need to start all over. A timer in the top left corner counts down the days left (down to 0) so you’ll need to keep an eye on the clock at all times. Another challenging component to Mall-A-Palooza is the fact your decisions carry over through all the levels for that particular mall, so any decision you make in level 2, such as hiring two electricians and building three music stores, carries over to level 4.
In total, the game features eight locations – each with four levels and an unlockable fifth “sandbox” level that doesn’t have a timer – but these malls vary more in layout than in theme. It would have been a good idea if the developer dressed up each level to better suit its theme as the western-themed mall really looks no different than the island theme, for example.
But you’ll be rewarded for your hard work thanks to unlockable Achievements you can view from the main menu. You’ll earn trophies, such as earning a 10-star rating for a store, hiring 30 “best” employees in a row, and so on.
There are other minor issues with Mall-A-Palooza: only one mode (which limits replayability), no help button if you get stuck and the inability to speed up the game for advanced users (therefore you need to wait to make money, buy stores, and so forth) — but this challenging and rewarding sim should please those in search of a different spin on a popular casual game genre.