In Play

When I was young, I struggled with a lot of the games I played; my usual role was to watch my brother play – Red Alert, Civilization 2, and Heroes of Might and Magic (2) were particular favourites. As an adult, I’ve played many of these games again (except Red Baron. I try not to think about Red Baron) and generally found them a lot easier.

Except Constructor.

Constructor is a charming take on life for an omnipotent estate agent in a surprisingly vacant British suburb. You begin with wooden huts of various description and poor, scumbag tenants – you get a choice of two types of couple: ‘The Slobs’ are good at churning out babies and dying young, and ‘The Greasers’ are good at paying taxes and complaining about the local sawmill. You want the Greasers to live a long time so you can get a reliable source of income, and you want the Slobs to die as soon as possible because Mrs. Slob can’t keep a consistent pace with her babymaking. This is basically how being a Landlord works, right?

And so it goes on –  The game starts off simple (“I want a tree in  my garden”), but escalates rapidly, and woe betide you if you wander into the ‘Steel Buildings’ era unprepared for the Thunderdome-esque conflict that will ensue. You enter, and you leave in a coffin – literally. Run out of money, you lose. Don’t fix tenants’ problems, they complain to the council, and you eventually lose. Fail a critical council mission, and you lose.

Your basic tenants just want a fence, for example, but ‘Students’ won’t have anything but a green hedgerow. All tenants hate to have a factory operational next door, with the exception of ‘The Punks’, who – if you place them next to a factory – insist that they want you to keep it running forever, otherwise they’ll complain to the council. If two lots of ‘The Nerds’ are placed next to each other, they will enter an infinite loop of jealousy over who has the most garden equipment – the only solution to which is to evict both. The ‘Retired Major’ doesn’t like evergreen trees or garden gnomes, even if they’re in somebody else’s garden.

It’s worth saying at this point that you can have rival, AI controlled estate agents in play too. If you’re foolhardy enough to include them, expect thugs, clowns, dodgy plumbers and ghosts to infest your estates before you can say “crusty jugglers“.

You might never finish this game – I certainly didn’t, and won’t – but in a world currently packed with boring sequels, overly melodramatic FPSes and rage-filled multiplayer battle arenas, everything about Constructor oozes cheerfulness, even down to the cute ‘beep, boop’ robots that represent the AI characters on the setup screen. For a few quid on Good Old Games (or reportedly on tablet at…um…some point), it’s absolutely worth checking out.

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