It’s been said that good artists copy, and great artists steal. If you’ve already heard of Dream Heights and haven’t even played it, you might know what we’re referring to. Realistically, it’s impossible to say that every hit game has been original. Game developers and artists work off of the foundation of those who came before them to build something better. The real discussion shouldn’t be about the copycat nature of Dream Heights, but instead we should ask, does Dream Heights add something new to this style of game?
Dream Heights is a free-to-play game that tries to draw you in with a tower-building simulation. You are in charge of the entire building, from its floors to its residents, and it’s up to you to see how high you can build it. The game works in real time, so if you’re playing between classes or when your boss isn’t watching, you’ll notice that the business in your tower will continue to hustle and bustle while you’re away.
If you build it they will come.
Each floor can be one of two simple types: an apartment or a business. Apartments can house up to five people, and it’s important to keep the number of residents you have high, because those residents will work in the businesses in your tower. Businesses can be of several types, like retail shops, restaurants, and more. The success of these businesses is determined by the skills of your residents, and you determine who gets a job and who doesn’t. You’ll have to carefully pick which three people will get to work in each store, and those with the highest skills will sell and restock items the quickest.
While all of the people will take care of themselves, you’re in charge of monitoring supply and demand. If a store runs out of a particular item, you’ll have to order more. Once it’s in, you’ll have to order the workers to restock the item. If a store is out of products to sell, you can’t make any money. Without money, you can’t build more floors.
The game tries to inspire you to build a higher tower by giving you goals. For instance, the game will remind you what famous or historical landmark is taller than your tower. Can you build a tower taller than the Statue of Liberty?
While the game is definitely engaging, Dream Heights isn’t something you will play for hours at a time. Mostly, you’ll play for a couple minutes and then wait a few hours. You can, however, play bellhop and deliver visitors to their desired floors by operating the elevator. A simple up and down control switch gives you the operation of the elevator, but once you have a dozen floors or more, you may find this a time-consuming task until you buy a faster elevator.
Once your tower is really growing, you’ll find you have a lot of chores to do. Thankfully, the game gives you a Todo List, which jumps to each floor that needs your attention. It’s a handy way of showing you what needs to be done and prevents you from accidentally skipping a floor that requires attention.
Dream Heights also encourages connecting with friends. You’ll receive items from random or selected friends, and once you get three items of a similar theme, you can trade them in for more coins. It’s a neat way to encourage social networking of your towers, but you don’t get to actually see your friend’s tower.
In the end, however, the question must be asked: is Dream Heights better than Tiny Tower? The answer is simply this: not even close. Tiny Tower became the Apple’s Game of the Year because of its original gameplay, its quirky style, and its 8-bit graphics. It was time-consuming and addictive, and Dream Heights– while decently entertaining– doesn’t add anything new to the formula.
Everything feels derivative, and the Farmville-esque graphics are a lot more generic than Tiny Tower’s. Dream Heights also features annoying sound effects to let you know when a visitor has entered your elevator, which only encourages you to turn off the volume. Dream Heights is still a fun, free game that allows you to connect with friends, but it’s just a knockoff of the game that won our hearts last year.