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Mac Monday: Jane's Realty

Jane's Realty is the latest in the series of games featuring this central character. This time around, she's getting into real estate, buying land, furnishing homes, and making her mark on the community. This is one of those "easy to learn, difficult to master" games, as it starts relatively benignly, then quickly adds complexity. It all seems so simple, but it will take careful coordination and planning to excel at this fast-paced simulation-style title.

So how does this thing work? Is it just SimCity Lite? Don't let the friendly graphical style fool you -- this is a challenging game worth your time, and you can get it right here at Big Download. Let's take a look.

Jane's Realty starts off simply enough, with an overhead isometric view of empty green grass lots divided by two-lane paved roads. The surrounding countryside is idyllic, featuring a slowly-moving tractor tending rows of dirt, and a small yellow windmill to the left. As you're looking around, a small glowing green grid will appear over a section of the lot, with the word "Sale" and a price below that superimposed. This is how property is gained; you must wait for sections to become available, at which time they may be purchased. If you wait too long before buying up a plot of land, the offer goes away.

Once you've clicked on the plot, it's yours to develop. However, you can only build upon that plot a building that conforms to that shape. Even if you have bought a grid of six squares, you can't place a four-square building upon it. In general, the four-square plots are used for residential housing, and larger plots (at least initially) are for commercial buildings. To skip back a bit, however, the very first buildings you must construct before placing any houses or stores are a water tower and a power station. These buildings are important for the duration of the game, as they operate somewhat like the pylons do in Starcraft; they enable the building of more structures.

To buy land, build structures, and upgrade buildings costs money. You'll start out with a given amount of money, which you'll need to use wisely. Once you've built a house, you'll enter it to furnish the space, which brings you to an interior view. You'll choose from a list of different furniture -- inside pieces like chairs, beds, and tables, and outside improvements like fences and new paint -- and decide where in the house you'd like to place it. There is a meter at the top of this screen that must be filled to make the house available to rent. Collecting the money from rentals is the main way you'll make money in the game.

Each item has a certain value attached to it, and these values are how you'll fill the Rent meter at the top of the screen. Only filling the meter will make the place available to renters, and each item also has an optimal space in the building that will yield the most value. Additionally, each item type can only be used a finite number of times before there aren't any left. Later levels will make this an issue, as you'll have more houses than you'll have furniture, necessitating buying more items from a store that you'll have to build yourself ... but we'll get to that in a minute.

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