I like weird. I am a collector of odd things, I applaud the avant-garde, I don’t squirm in the presence of different. Somebody wants to stuff their dead pets and arrange them around the dinner table as guests, or loop a twenty minute video about Man’s obsession with masturbation and call it art, I’ll buy that ticket. When I heard the premise behind Unholy Heights ($2.99), I gladly stamped my passport to strange.
Part landlord sim, part dating network, part furniture shopper, part Pokémon, working under the label of Tower Defense and coming from Japan, Unholy Heights tries to tuck a little bit of everything under its roof. Rather than using the not-euphemism of ‘throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks’, however, developer Petit Depotto manages to include it all here in a way that makes sense and is entertaining.
As the Devil, renting out apartments to homeless monsters, while seemingly a good deed, is also your modus operandi, as you are merely doing so to build a massive, high HP / MP army of humanity’s worst nightmares. Your tenants unwittingly become soldiers, and missions take the form of varying quests, themselves just waves of enemies to outlast, tower defense-style, in order to earn cash, new furniture options, or advance the storyline.
Much more than window dressing, your monsters’ moods and opinions matter. As the old saying goes, a content demon is a useful demon. This will require you to invest in each monster’s particular brand of happiness, buying furniture and other items they crave, or having a compatible ‘significant other’ (ahem… erotic cakes, anyone?) move in to give a boost to your available infantry. The little things, too, like status messages and what each creature is currently doing, help to give you an understanding of your renters and build a relationship with them as landlord / overlord, one that will prove essential once the battles start.
Knowing who to place on the front lines is key, and changes based on the adventurers you’re fighting against. Even the weather can bring good fortune, as certain allies are stronger during certain conditions. Different aspects to each friend / foe, such as melee, ranged attacks and affinity for magic, will have to be considered, and the game does a mostly solid job in laying out the pros and cons to each quest you undertake, steering you clear of tougher missions until you’ve unlocked the ability to expand your building or attract stronger occupants.
In a way, this can make for a slow-moving crawl towards world domination, though you can speed through the more bland moments (largely) unimpeded, stopping to take on bigger quests or manage your roster of renters. The only real issue I found with the game was its sometimes uneven difficulty, with certain missions harder than others despite lower star / difficulty ratings. You can work around this by saving often, though, and testing the enemy waters before fully committing.
Otherwise, Unholy Heights is very well-done, a quirky, adorkable (yeah, I‘m using that word) game that manages to accent its personality rather than tower defense, a welcome addition to a genre that too often does the exact opposite, drowning players in trial-and-error and bland resource management / unit production. Here, it’s made to be fun and offer meaningful choices / customization. In that, it easily succeeds.