Indie Spotlight: Project Highrise

If you build it, they will come. Eventually.

Indie Spotlight: Project Highrise

Developer Kasedo Games

In Theme Hospital, do you remember how things never quite fit? You had a floor plan that was maybe 13 by 31, and rooms that were 7 or 5 squares wide. So, make them slightly larger? Bah. I’m too efficient for that. Fill in the gaps with a bathroom? Maybe. I don’t know why, but I love making impossibly-sized pieces work together. Project Highrise, and its many interacting rooms, scratches my strange itch, as I arrange everything upwards, from a network of one square electrical closets to massive, two-story shopping malls. 

The experience is not entirely what I expected from the screenshots and elevator pitch. I mean, it looks like a game where you place offices, flats, shops and unique locations, then watch the resulting simulation play out. And it is exactly that. But a combination of economic factors and the structure of how feedback is provided makes this an unusually stress-free process. Like, your net gain or loss is only updated at midnight, meaning I played slowly and cautiously. Nearly everything you place earns for you and it’s difficult to fail, beyond simply accumulating money more slowly. 

Indeed, I usually suffer from wanting to constantly restart in these kinds of games, to try for a more optimal opening. I played my very first game for absolutely ages because I felt as if I understood perfect play instantly, in an incremental way. Yes, a tenant will move out if they aren’t happy, but you can see a list of everything they need before you rent the space. You could try to cut costs by not providing a copy service, for example, but it’s far more beneficial to provide what one business requires, then target all the others who also benefit from it. 

As such, the opening of the game is modest. You’re balancing small legal and insurance firms with coffee shops and studio apartments. I don’t know why people don’t want to walk across the street for lunch, or get some fresh air, but I’ll capitalise on it, why not? Starter rooms require electricity, water and/or phone, and you manage cables from closets that stack vertically. To further connect floors, stairs are cheaper to maintain and elevators will frequently break, requiring a maintenance office, but people will only climb a little before complaining.

What really nurtures the “one more floor” feeling, and you can make your tower more than 100 stories high, is that better tenants have prerequisites, lots of them. To build the headquarters of an international banking firm, I needed an executive club and lots of medium tier financial offices in the building. To attract the latter, I needed a range of large restaurants, shops and services. To keep HQ happy, I installed helicopter and limousine charter. And this is only business. Examining the list of requirements, from dog walking to fashion outlets, for high tier residential apartments is exhausting.

Probably my only criticism is that I’m not sure Project Highrise is incredibly replayable. I’d certainly like to try to build a snooty building full of luxury lofts and jewellery stores, but I’m not sure how that’s possible, given all the groundwork that needs to be done first. You may circumvent some of the dependencies; and specialise, if you can accumulate buzz, which provides a range of temporary buffs; and influence, allowing consultants for art, politics and operations. But, you really need all of these and more, before any of the really great rooms become available.

Kasedo Games has, however, published an easy to follow modding guide and people are adding everything from car dealerships to Wally, which makes perfect sense. I absolutely love the minimalist art style, too, with its colour-coding and faint variation, but it can get samey after 30 floors, even if you’re popping in custom lobbies and art spaces. But there are several scenarios to attempt if you need a different challenge. As for me, organising 4, 5, 6, 7 tile long rooms made me inordinately satisfied.

I suppose I could mod a bathroom into any blank space.

Copyright © PC PowerPlay, nextmedia Pty Ltd