Unholy Heights may well be one of the quirkiest, and downright weird titles I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. A charming amalgamation of apartment management decision-making and tower defence planning that gives way to an unusually addictive and strategic Japanese indie curio that wholly embraces the weird and the bizarre, and it’s all the better for it. You’ve not played a game quite like this, I can assure you.
You play the role of the Devil (wait — it gets even weirder) who is not only the nefarious evil overlord we all love to hate, but he’s also taken to moonlighting as a landlord of a local lodging establishment, because of course he is! Your task is to micro-manage your apartments by taking in an assortment of eccentric creatures who are looking for a place to rest their weary head, whilst protecting your apartment complex from brave adventurers hungry to quash your newfound career path.
It’s a novel concept with some well thought-out gameplay nuances that fit together rather well. The wonderful and diverse array of peculiar creatures is amusing and each tenant sports their own strengths and weaknesses.
Interestingly, each monster belongs to a “breed”. Cheepies, for example, are a breed of super cute chicks. The basic type of Cheepie, and the first type you’ll discover playing the game, attacks really fast and gains a strength buff in direct sunlight, but unfortunately has the constitution of a fruit-fly. Thus, they make great cannon fodder, but are near useless on their lonesome. The more advanced variety of Cheepies are the mage-like Studeepy, which specialise in ranged magic attacks. Once powered up (more on this later), a group of Studeepys are a force to be reckoned with and can blaze through most gallant adventurers in a matter of seconds. The list goes on and on, with varieties of monsters ranging from your familiar strains of undead to the more peculiar elementals, demi-humans, chimerae and abyssals.
A big part of the charm of Unholy Heights is collecting all the different monsters and watching over them, in a similar vein to Bullfrog Production’s Dungeon Keeper. Buying various pieces of furniture makes your tenants happier, which results in Attack, Physical Defence and Magic Defence buffs. For the most part, as satisfaction with the monster’s room increases, monster’s abilities power up. I say “for the most part” as some monsters are kind of masochistic, and are basically Debby Downers who don’t want to be satisfied. These oddballs actually gain negative status effects when happy — I know, weird right.
As to be expected, your fiendish menagerie of villains pay rent every month, which can be increased and decreased on the fly. The rent gained every month can be spent installing new, shinier pieces of furniture to cheer up your ragtag bunch of misfits. The more furniture you purchase, the more chance you have of alluring the rarer, more nit-picky varieties of monsters, which as you probably have already guessed, are the more nasty and dangerous of the critters the game has to offer.
Your creatures can even fall in love and have babies, which is a pretty integral part of the game. The more monsters you have in a room at one time increases the overall man-power of your property so when invaders do strike, you’ll be more adequate to defeat them more swiftly and smoothly. Your creatures can even become unhappy with neighbouring breeds of monsters. Thankfully, moving your critters to different rooms within your apartment complex is only a few button presses away.
Another string to Unholy Height’s bow, is its charming, off-kilter humour. Everything from the delightful creature designs, the comical choices of furniture, to the odd tidbits of information that appear when you mouse over each of your amiable critters is expertly crafted to at least deliver a smirk to all but the most glum of gamers. When you see that one of your monsters, whose chosen career is a popular cosplayer, is currently “flicking through an erotic magazine”, while he/she pesters you to furnish their room with some brand new smutty wallpaper, you can’t help but give the game a thumbs up for just how batshit charming the whole experience is.
It’d be remiss of me not to mention my one and rather glaringly obvious gripe with the game: it can get fairly repetitive. The game does throw some boss battles your way and it does gradually amp up the difficulty as your apartment complex grows in both size and population, but it’s hard to get away from the fact that you will be mostly doing the same tasks over and over with few gear changes to mix up the rhythm.
That being said, Unholy Heights comes in at a very modest price-point. It’s a very chilled and unique experience that functions as a really nice palate cleanser, particularly after a night of high-octane shooty shooty bang bang games. It may not be the deepest and most complex game around, but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in sheer charisma. It’s a game that simply oozes charm and may well scratch an itch that you never even knew you had.
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