Review: Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition

Building to a good time.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 11/29/2018 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Good balance between options and approachability; pleasant visuals and music; surprisingly relaxing and addictive
Poison Mushroom for...
Some mechanics are fairly inconsequential; generally a little too easy; no touchscreen support during portable play

While city management sims have garnered most of the glory throughout the history of gaming, there has been another sub-genre for would be urban planners that are a little more singularly focused- the tower building sim! That’s right, instead of building an entire city, you are tasked with constructing a single building, albeit a rather tall one with a variety of unique concerns that need to be managed. Fans of this slightly more macro approach to sims now have a way of satisfying their tower ambitions thanks to Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition for Switch, and lucky for them it’s actually pretty good.

The core principle in Project Highrise is pretty straightforward: build up your tower while filling it with a variety of businesses so that the revenue generated is greater than the cost of upkeep. Of course, it’s the latter part that is most difficult, as even the most basic of tenants have demands (like telephone lines, or plumbing) while more affluent, and better paying, renters have much steeper requirements that cost plenty to maintain. Altogether, you need to strike a balance between expanding your physical space for more people to move in, investing in the services they require to succeed in your space, and making sure your current tenants are still happy where they are. While this is a fair amount to juggle, it actually feels quite reasonable with just a little bit of practice and never really feels overwhelming.

As you build your tower, you have five general types of businesses you can fill it with: apartments, offices, stores, restaurants, and hotels. Each one has a progression of subcategories based on size and quality of service they provide; for example, offices start as one room affairs for insurance agents and cap out with multilevel headquarters for international banks or broadcast companies. Unlocking new levels of tenants is based on your Prestige, which is built up by achieving certain milestones and more or less functions as your building’s level. While it’s fun to build higher and higher, you’ll also carve out a substantial basement as this is where you will need to build all the facilities and services your tenants need to do business, starting with simple stuff like more phone lines and eventually moving into onsite printing and security services. Of course, having all these extra infrastructure projects and services costs more to maintain, so you need to make sure to balance your opportunities for more rent revenue with the initial investment and ongoing costs of expansion.

These mechanics will be available to you across two main modes in addition to a fairly useful tutorial. The main focus is really the option to just freely play, where you select your difficulty and lot size before being given an empty, one-story building to start out with. From there you can do whatever you want, in fact there’s even an option for unlimited money and resources if you just want to build without fear of repercussions. For those looking for a more structured challenge, there is also the scenarios mode with a plethora of options that introduce unique goals and limitations. These situations might limit the types of properties you have access to and/or force you to build around the limitations of an already existing building. The scenarios don’t radically change the game, but they do offer a nice bit of variety. My only real complaint with them is that you do need to unlock most of them by hitting certain milestones in previous scenarios. The requirements usually aren’t too difficult, but it does slightly hamper your freedom of choice.

While the game generally encourages this freedom, there are a few other concepts that might be more appealing to the goal-oriented gamer. Across all modes you can accept contracts that pay a little money upfront with the promise of a lot more if you can accomplish a specific goal, such as increasing your population to a specific amount or building a certain number of specific stores. Also, in addition to amassing money and Prestige, you’ll also earn two other types of currency with additional purposes: Buzz and Influence. Buzz allows you to institute short term perks, like reduced costs for adding more electrical lines or increased foot traffic for your tenant’s businesses. Influence unlocks more long term perks like increasing the height limits for your tower or faster construction times from your workers.

The only real issues I found with Project Highrise is that sometimes its pacing feels a bit off and on the base level it feels maybe a little too easy. Early on in any game, finances are often tight as you must seriously consider how to spend your money. However, after clearing a couple hurdles you’ll likely wind up in a more fiscally secure space, but you’ll likely find yourself going through long periods of little activity as you make investments and then wait for your cash to recover. This might be somewhat realistic and you do have the option to accelerate time to some extent, but it still hurts the overall pacing. However, you will eventually reach a point where your income will make it pretty much impossible to run low on cash. Furthermore, some gameplay elements actually feel somewhat inconsequential; for example, spaces eventually grow dirty and rundown over time and the game encourages you to renovate them, however, in all but a few circumstances it seemed like tenants were far more concerned with other issues, like amenities and rent, so they were more than happy to live in the crumbling filth around them. Also, there is the option to invest in art throughout your building as well, though there honestly seemed to be little benefit.


There are also a few interesting oversights in Project Highrise that would make the experience much more convenient if corrected. First, there should be an option for laying down the various lines and pipes in bulk. Yes, since not every tenant requires every system available there is a certain strategy to how you wire/plumb your building, but later on you have so much money and more businesses require more services, so it would be much nicer if you could easily put down everything at once. Second, the interface is a little cumbersome, as are most sim games on a console, and it generally works quite well after a little time getting used to it. However, they really should have put in the option to use the touchscreen during portable play; it really seems like such a no-brainer that it’s actually quite surprising it isn’t here.

When it comes to presentation, the game is perfectly pleasant. The art style is pretty simple and straightforward with everything being presented in a 2D perspective, though when you zoom into individual businesses you can see some cool little details. Once your tower gets bigger and you have hundreds of little people walking around your building the scene can be a little busy, but it’s only a small annoyance. The music takes a similar approach, choosing pleasant simplicity over anything even remotely bombastic. Some could be potentially unmemorable or too repetitive but, more often than not, it just sort of melted into the background in a relaxing sort of way.

While the sim genre is home to some of the most ridiculously complex games ever conceived, Project Highrise has no ambition to join those ranks and it is generally better for it. There are a few design choices that feel a little under developed and the game could have been balanced for a more consistent challenge, but for the most part it’s still rather satisfying to play. There are enough choices to give you reason to think but never really overwhelm you, thus resulting in a game that is surprisingly relaxing and maybe even a little addictive. It’s such a pleasantly mellow time that hours can just vanish as you constantly think about doing just one more thing before calling it quits for the day. Something a little more ambitious might have been more interesting in the long run, but for what it is there’s still some fun to be had.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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