App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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High Rise is one of those rare puzzle games that consists of a completely new kind of gameplay. On the surface, it may look like a simple match-three title, but it complicates things by asking to you try and match blocks by color and height to build a towering skyline. The novelty of High Rise's unique mechanics definitely make it stand out, but the depth you can find on subsequent playthroughs is really what makes it a special game.
The play area in High Rise consists of a 5x5 grid, which serves as the city block you are constructing on. At the bottom of your screen is a queue of colored cubes that you need to place on said block. The leftmost item in this queue is the cube you place with your next tap, and your goal is to place as many of these items as possible before running out of room.
The trick to saving space in High Rise is that adjacent cubes that share the same color and height merge with each other to grow into a taller structure that takes up a single space on your city block. As these cubes grow, they gradually turn into buildings, making your play area look like a city block full of high rises.
Immediately when you start a game of High Rise, you have to think strategically. Games start with three cubes placed randomly on your block, and you have to figure out the best way to work around these randomly placed items while managing your queue effectively. Some of these starting cubes (and ones that pop into your queue) may be multiple cubes stacked on top of each other, and those stacks may even consist of different colored cubes. This forces you to build different colored buildings close to each other while still needing to make room for your buildings to continue growing.
Thankfully, you aren't always locked into any specific layouts, whether they be predetermined or not. Every 500 points you score, a special item enters your build queue that allows you to clear any space on your block. With this mechanic, you can always recover from mistakes or advance your careful cultivation of a high scoring block, regardless of your starting hand or any curveballs the cube queue might throw your way.
High Rise is free to download and is ad-supported, but you can remove the ads for just $ 0.99. There are no other in-app purchases or microtransactions to speak of. Clearly, the best experience is an ad-free one, but it's nice that High Rise allows players to try the game out for themselves before deciding to actually buy it.
I recommend everyone try the free version of High Rise first, mostly because the game has a few quirks may or may not put you off from it. The first is that High Rise does not save your play sessions if you have to close the app and it has to restart. Another issue has to do with perspective. The height element of High Rise is what makes its puzzling so fresh, but it can also make it hard to see your city block as your structures grow and buildings rise. You can rotate your view, but even that can prove troublesome. Finally, High Rise doesn't exactly have a comprehensive tutorial, so you have to spend quite a bit of time with the game to really wrap your head around which way cubes move when merging and other little tricks involving how to move buildings and do more complicated combos.
The bottom line
High Rise truly feels like a new kind of puzzle game in the same way that Threes did back in 2014. While it lacks some of the elegance of Sirvo's smash hit, it still feels like a breath of fresh air and has a surprising amount of depth that will keep you coming back to it over and over again.