Unholy Heights hits a plateau on the 3DS
Unholy Heights is, at a glance, a rather minor and unremarkable addition to the simulation and tower defense genre. Players follow a salaryman who goes from menial office worker to the Devil King. Except, he’s a lord without minions. In order to create an unholy army, he has to gradually attract various monsters to his apartment complex, so they’ll defend both their home and him from various villagers and do-gooders. It’s cute enough, with silly characters and a humorous premise, but hardly stands out on PCs. On the Nintendo 3DS, it’s given an opportunity to shine.
The 3DS is a bastion for quirky games. Titles like Aero Porter, The Denpa Men, Pocket Card Jockey, and Tokyo Crash Mobs get a chance at greater appreciation. This should hopefully pay off for Unholy Heights as well, as it’s the sort of oddity that deserves a larger audience and conditions seem right.
This is a game that works well in small doses. Your goal is to keep characters cozy in their alcoves, supplying them with various pieces of furniture and devices. You want to keep the rent at an appropriate price point, so they’ll remain satisfied and raise families, while also increasing your own bank account. Sitting and staring at a screen, watching their daily lives is hardly thrilling. (Even when they are spending their time reading fan fiction or sleeping naked.) On the 3DS, it’s easier to parcel out play sessions.
Especially since it feels like Unholy Heights gives you natural stopping points. You can take on quests, which will send at least waves of enemies to your apartment building. A pause for the cause works well after such an ordeal. If you’d prefer a briefer section, a few solo opponents will usually amble along every five to ten minutes. People powering through could even break after each apartment renovation. These stopping points occur rather naturally, and I could see each one offering a perfect opportunity to save, put away the 3DS and move on with your life. When it appeared on the PC, sitting and waiting for something to happen could be both tedious and exhausting. As a portable title where you have the luxury of picking up and playing in small increments, it’s more forgivable.
It also looks better on the 3DS. Unholy Heights isn’t very graphically demanding. Characters and environments appear hand-drawn, with very few details. On a computer, it looked rather sloppy. Layouts left lots of open, empty space. As whimsical as it could be, it came across as something unappealing and cheap. This hasn’t changed much here, but the size and scope makes such inadequacies easier to overlook. You aren’t zooming in and seeing the flaws. The nature of the hardware obscures them. Plus, menus have been reorganized, making them more efficient and allowing for a tighter interface.
In a way, the handheld version of Unholy Heights gives us an opportunity to be more forgiving, even if we are paying more for it. It’s $3.99 on PCs and $6 on the eShop, but multiple factors excuse the markup. It’s a rarity on the 3DS; it promotes an underrepresented genre. It gives us My Nintendo points, even though there aren’t many rewards worth spending those precious Gold Coins on yet. It’s giving us a more convenient way to enjoy an overlooked and obscure experience, which can be appreciated during the August and September lulls.
Unholy Heights has always struck me as a game that tried. It attempted to do something new, by mashing up the simulation and tower defense genres. It wants to make you smile, with a ridiculous premise and silly characters. The game has always done its best, and the PC version could easily be overlooked in favor of more prominent, engaging or revolutionary contemporaries. On the 3DS, a game that’s absolutely entertaining and often quite good, even though it isn’t exactly remarkable or stunning, is getting a chance to make itself at home.
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