Tokyo Highway Review
For a person who commutes almost 2 hours a day, a game about highways immediately raises my hackles. As he proceeded to open the box, my friend James was at the sharp end of my gaze. He assured me that it was “going to be fun”. I didn’t feel any better when I saw a handful of grey popsicle sticks and pair of tweezers (yes, tweezers), among other vaguely familiar shapes. I begrudgingly allowed him to continue.
The premise of the game is simple enough: build roads, place cars on said roads, don’t knock shit over. All of these are harder than they sound (see also, tweezers). The game gets its depth from the pylons that the roads are built on. What are effectively just small pieces of dowel rod, these pylons allow you to change the height of the road and provide the game with an interesting verticality. This is also what allows you to build your section of highway over or under another player’s, earning the ability to place a car on your road for each. The first player to place all of their cars wins.
Oh, I mentioned that the last part of the game was not knocking shit over. With the focus of the gameplay being to weave your highway through the others, it’s almost inevitable that you’re going to inadvertently do your best Godzilla impression and bring the Tokyo traffic to a standstill. At least until you pay damages to whoever’s road you demolished and return it to its former glory.
This is probably the part where I should mention that James was right, it was fun. With three players, the whole game took us about 30 minutes, from setup and explanation to torn down and packed up, but I imagine a game could be finished in about 10 minutes. The setup is simple enough that such a short playing time isn’t a problem, and I actually found it a refreshing change of pace. I liked being able to build in three dimensions and appreciated the light strategy that went with it.
All in all, Tokyo Highway strikes me as a bit of a strange bird in today’s gaming scene. I find it easier to compare to games from an old toy aisle than a modern game store: specifically, it feels like Jenga and Operation had a baby in the backseat of a cab. That being said, it still seems to fit in. It probably won’t be that game that my friends and I look forward to playing every week, but it certainly won’t be scoffed at for hitting the table. Also, it has “turn me into a drinking game” written all over it.
You might like Tokyo Highway if you:
- Enjoy dexterity based games
- Want something quick and easy
- Want to play something with kids or family
- Aren’t deeply scarred by spending 40 full days a year commuting to an unfulfilling job that you tell yourself you’re going to quit but can’t because it allows you to provide for your family
- Have steady hands and good spatial awareness
Coffee pairing: anything in a travel mug