Platform: Windows & Mac (also available on Xbox)
Release Date: 4th October 2013
Developer: Petit Depotto
Publisher: Active Gaming Media Inc.
Costing mere pennies and with cutesy graphics, I was definitely only expecting a casual time-waster, maybe with a few cool little gimmicks. Naturally then, I was a little surprised when I finally closed down the game after completing the storyline, satisfied, to see I had been playing for 20 hours. That’s not to say that the game hasn’t got any flaws – there are plenty – but as a sim-lover, I didn’t regret my purchase.
The general premise is that the Devil is fulfilling his lifelong dream by becoming a landlord for a monster-only apartment block. That’s pretty much the extent of the storyline, which is a bit of a shame as a stronger narrative wouldn’t have gone amiss. The casual mini-quest setup isn’t too bad though, with plenty of humor as you fight off everyone from the concerned nearby village to the Ghost Busters – there are a surprising amount of people who are interested in getting in the way of the Devil’s real estate plans.
The art in Unholy Heights is simple but attractive, though there isn’t really all that much to actually look at. Instead of watching your tenants run around and complete their daily activities, you can mouse over them for randomly generated updates of how they’re getting on. Just in case you wanted to know that your Zombie is having a nightmare or that the Cheepy on the second floor is reading erotic fanfiction. Similarly the selection of peculiar careers you can have range from UFO Fanatics to straight out Pimps. Even as minimalistic as the game is, it all works well to establish a fun and silly vibe.
The gameplay is deceptively complex. It’s more of a mash-up of lots of little tasks than any one particularly novel concept. You have to upgrade rooms, decide which monster moves in and where, then pick quests and battle with the incoming barrage. It takes a while to get into it, but you’ll slowly realize that there is a considerable amount of depth to the game. You’ll start having to please particular types of monsters in order to unlock new species, conserve bloodlines as your tenants breed to strengthen your army, and pick your new customers carefully to make sure they all synergize well in battle. As the game progresses, it causes you to have to think and plan further ahead.
Most of the game mechanics work well to add strategy to the game but some of them aren’t executed perfectly. Some monsters want specific types of furniture in their room to be happiest, forcing you to redesign and be wary of where you house each monster – but it’s only required in rare cases which feels like lost potential. The rent system doesn’t work very well either, as while you can try to only accept monsters with decent jobs, a lot of them will simply never be able to pay much rent. There isn’t really anything you can do besides evicting them or just letting them live scot-free. It’s not much of a problem because quests are far more important for your income than rent, but it could definitely be reworked so that it actually adds to the game, rather than forcing you to ignore the fact that you’re actually a business.
The combat isn’t too bad but it’s not interesting enough to be exciting for the entire game. Enemies simply march up your building towards the devil’s house and you have to call your tenants out of their rooms to take up arms. While there are a couple of different tactics you can try – such as catching enemies between two doors in a pincer attack – there isn’t a whole lot of room to change it up. Not to mention the fact that the easiest way to fight is simply to block the stairway so that their army has to come up one-by-one, an almost-cheat that makes most battles a breeze. It becomes a little better towards the end when there are a bigger variety of monsters to customize with, but for the most part it’s up to the player to entertain themselves when it comes to fighting.
While Unholy Heights is perhaps lacking in impact and special effects, and has some important flaws, I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting to. Anyway, even if it’s not the new Tetris, it’s hard to not get your money’s worth when it’s so cheap!
Check out the Unholy Heights trailer: