Before I get into this review, let me take you back to the late 1990s to early 2000s in the PC industry; to a time when PC gaming was full of Tycoons and Sims. Everything from Vegas Tycoon to Mall Tycoon to one of my personal favorites, Skateboard Park Tycoon by developer Cat Daddy Games. This was during the heady days when you could go to your local Walmart and drool over the many PC games they had to sell. Among the top tycoons during this time were Roller Coaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, Ski Resort Tycoon, and the one that applies the most to this article, Sim Tower.
Now, as you may or may not know, Sim Tower is a micromanage sim about building a tower with many types of rooms and businesses within it, such as hotels, apartments, offices, restaurants, ballrooms, parking lots and more. With no story mode, and dripping with 1994 traits and development work, it is still one of the best sims I have played.
Now, on to reaching the skies with Project Highrise, a spiritual successor to Sim Tower.
Fast forward 20 years, and new developers are picking up where these classic games left off. Somasim’s Project Highrise is very familiar; still 2D, with the traditional objective of reaching the skies without going bankrupt. With a very approachable tutorial, Project Highrise is rather easy to understand but difficult to master.
What Project Highrise does right is generating satisfaction for building into the stratosphere with a no complaints building system. Every room type desires certain prerequisites and certain things to keep the renters happy. Some require just basic power or water utilities, while others desire building staff and a certain amount of other room types before you’re allowed to rent to them. This allows a feeling of progression within the game.
Now, there is much more to this progression. Project Highrise utilizes influence as a form of currency, which is earned by having specific happy tenants. You can spend that influence on research via a branching tech tree. These tech choices include Operations, which allows you to have more construction workers, more efficient maintenance workers, and exclusive elevators; Politics, which allows for bigger buildings, public transportation, and art decorations; and last but not least Aesthetics, which allows for decorations to give areas of your tower a luxury feel.
Construction is simple; you can add more floors, rooms, and different utility closets for each story of your building. However, it can become repetitious the higher you go or deeper you build into the ground. It also becomes more expensive as you expand. Each time you add a floor, don’t forget to add the utilities closets for both Water/gas and Electricity/Cable/Phone. You’ll also need to add garbage and recycling cans as well. Don’t put them too close to workers, though, as no one likes working next to a stinky garbage receptacle.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some buildings require special services that apply to businesses and residential. This was really interesting and unique to Project Highrise’s gameplay specifically. Services differ in importance to different residents and workers. This allowed for diversity in the gameplay, and the devs really took this seriously. With services like housekeeping, plumbers, daycare, personal trainers and more, there is a great hierarchy of needs to build into. Accomplishing this will ensure that everyone in your tower is getting the treatment they deserve. That’s just for residential systems; as for office services, you might want to put copy and courier services close to make sure those documents are delivered in a timely fashion. And as for Computer and IT services you can put them in the basement, right next to Richmond in the server room.
Another area where Project Highrise succeeds is with its GUI. I feel that it is on point. With a simple click you can find out what locations have the most traffic, noise, smell, grime, satisfaction, profitability and more. You can also click any room or person to find out special details on whats making him or her happy or angry. You can even find out how many regulars a business has! This made it really fun to experiment with the placement of certain businesses and how other business can really affect the profitability of others. There is also the ADA system/360, which is a retro computer that tells you everything you need to know financially and more about your tower. I found it to be a very important tool to make sure my tower was operating at peak efficiency.
There is a story mode where the player is put in charge of existing structures. Each scenario tower has a different name and is struggling with different issues. Your task is to repair the issues presented and bring the tower back to life. That’s it. No different skins, no different aesthetics that brings each location to life, nothing more to experience, and that seems like a missed opportunity to me. I would have liked to see themes for different place, as well as more businesses to build that might be specific to each scenario.
If I had to give this game a 0-10 rating I would find myself somewhere in between 6-7. I found that the lack of end game building uniqueness really showed that the first game you play is as good as its gonna get. Yes, the more you practice, the more efficient you are liable to be, but the replayability for something new simply doesn’t exist. I look to Sim Tower to really shine some light on what could have been. While this is a good effort, it falls just a bit short for me. You only get a certain amount of maintenance workers and construction workers as well, so once you get a very large tower maintaining it can be a headache. However, they have allowed workshop support, so with new buildings (and a BAD ASS Duke Nukem Statue) my opinion will likely shift as I find more mods to add more depth. If these issues don’t bother you and you are looking for a game that makes you feel like you’re building a elaborate organism disguised as a tower, Project Highrise will likely provide you many hours of entertainment.
Check it out on Steam today!