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Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: Mad Tower Tycoon (Nintendo Switch)


Review by Matt S. 

In theory, I would love Mad Tower Tycoon. I find myself enjoying the tower builder simulators most of all. I still regularly play Project Highrise on my Switch, for example. I find the idea of little, self-contained communities within big towers fascinating, and with those really big towers, the balance between retail at the bottom couple of floors, a combination of office and residential further up, and then entertainment and restaurants with a view of the city at the top floors, is a dynamic that I really enjoy seeing play out. Not least because I'd rather like to live in one of these kinds of buildings, and never have to leave.

Unfortunately, Mad Tower Tycoon on Nintendo Switch seems to be broken. Really, really broken.

Most of the time when I play, the lifts that I install don't work at all. In other words, there's no way for my construction team to get off the first floors to actually put the residential, commercial and office spaces in. They seem to use stairs (sometimes), but without the lifts, that's pointless since the homeowners and office workers hate stairs. One time the lifts did work, and I was able to play for about a week in-game. But then my tower got hit by a disease event, which meant the building was "cleared out" and I needed to wait for the disease control people to come and clear the building before I could resume. Fair enough. Except that the disease control people were either super busy or lazy because, after two more in-game weeks, my building was still empty and no one in hazard suits had even turned up yet.


Make no bones about it: this is unplayable territory. There's no way to massage around these issues. The best I've been able to do, after a dozen attempts, is get around four floors of rooms in, but I was only ever looking at ghost towns, and even those rare times where things seem to be working for any length of time, I'm just counting down the moments before some catastrophic bug completely obliterates my game.

There's potential in Mad Tower Tycoon. I think. There's a good range of different facilities to unlock and build, and you can blend together shopping, apartments, offices, and hotel rooms. You need to make sure that there are adequate facilities (garbage bins, toilets), and power, water and other utilities. All of these traits are common to the tower builder genre, but it seems like they've been balanced in an accessible and enjoyable way here. Project Highrise looks like it's the more complex simulator, just based on what I have been able to see in Mad Tower Tycoon, but that's not to suggest that the accessibility that this game is going for make for an easy game - it does seem like you'll need to manage your resources well.

I'm not sure I'll ever like the aesthetics if they do fix this game up, though. The various characters that run around the map (or, at least, the ground floor) are low-poly chibi characters, which are cute enough, but an ugly contrast with the more realistic portraits that pop up when you interact with one of them. The backgrounds - and there are a fair few to choose between - are universally ugly, too, with an awful lot of animation and activity going on in them, and not a depth of field effect in sight. A bit of blurring of that background would have gone a long way to help distinguish it from the stuff that you actually need to interact with. Finally, there's a 2.5D camera effect, which means that the environment "bends" a little at the edges of the gameplay window. It's a neat enough visual effect, except that it actually makes it hard to place down facilities when they're on the edge of the camera. More than a few times I misplaced an apartment block by one "square" (the building is broken down into squares for measurement), and completely messed up my plans. I learned to re-centre the camera before plotting out space after a while, but it makes the controls very finicky.


There is no doubt that Project Highrise is a more dry experience. Its minimalistic kitsch is a stark contrast to Mad Tower Tycoon's bombastic colours and bright energy, and I'm certainly aware that there are a lot of people that would prefer the higher energy approach. Assuming, that is, that the game is patched to the point that it becomes playable.

This leaves me in a really tough spot for this review. I assume that there will be a patch for Mad Tower Tycoon that will get it to a playable state, and I've written reviews where I've given the game 1/5 because something about it completely broke the experience, only for a patch to then come, fix the problem, and from that point, I loved the game and the review stopped being representative of my feelings towards it. I don't think that Mad Tower Tycoon will be quite the same, as I do have issues with its aesthetics and prefer the design of Project Highrise, but the score you see below is representative of my assumption that a patch is incoming. I will update this review when that happens. Until you see the update, however, I must strongly advise against playing this game, as I've found it, in the state it's in right now, to be very much unplayable. 



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

The critic was provided with a copy of this game for review.

Review: Mad Tower Tycoon (Nintendo Switch)
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