In a quiet little town nestled between two cliffs, families gather for the evening. A small meal is laid out on the table. There’s a knock at the door. “That’s odd,” Father says, “it’s too late for guests.” Little do they know there’s a war going on in this quiet town, between two opposing teams of monsters, that threatens to tear Haunted Hollow apart.
You can’t help but imagine the terror that the denizens of Haunted Hollow are going through. In this freemium strategy game, you play as one of the owners of a pair of haunted houses surrounding the small town. Each turn, you’ll receive Fear Points that let you build additional rooms, summon monsters, and move them into town. Your goal is to convert every last house to your side by scaring the people inside.
Each monster you summon has unique abilities– Scary monsters can convert houses, Fighty monsters can attack opponents, and Special monsters can do both. In the default monster pack, you’ll find basic creatures like ghosts who can teleport and zombies who can gather into a mass. While you can play with these basic monsters indefinitely, like in Outwitters, eventually you’ll want to unlock more monsters and house types with the $7.99 Season 1 Pack.
The townsfolk won’t be victimized by your monsters for long, though. When enough houses are attacked, the townsfolk will gather into a mob at the church and begin roaming the streets, burning corrupted homes and chasing monsters. If you end up next to the mob, they’ll destroy even your strongest monsters with a single attack. Part of the game’s strategy can involve stringing along the mob like a kite, or letting the mob burn your opponent’s houses so that you can win.
Haunted Hollow can be played either online through Game Center, on a single device through pass-and-play, or against the AI. The AI isn’t very challenging, but online opponents can be much more intelligent. If you buy the additional monsters, you’ll have more options in terms of attacks, and potentially surprise your opponents online, but otherwise Haunted Hollow seems balanced regardless of whether or not you buy anything.
In addition to the well-balanced strategy and spooky setting, we especially enjoyed Haunted Hollow’s visual style. The Nightmare Before Christmas seems to be a big inspiration for blending scary creatures with cartoony, family-appropriate graphics. The townsfolk’s angry mob bristles with energy, which is appropriate for a unit that can disrupt your otherwise careful plan of attack. And each monster has three levels of strength, which show off more details. For example, the basic vampire looks like a hideous Nosferatu, while stronger vampires look more like Bela Lugosi or Twilight’s Edward Cullen.
Haunted Hollow is an excellent freemium strategy game from a developer, Firaxis, that has a successful track record within the genre. Their other games (like Civilization Revolution and the upcoming iOS port of X-Com: Enemy Unknown) may be more complex, but Haunted Hollow is well-designed, fun to look at, and highly replayable. As a free download, you’ll receive many hours of enjoyment, and if you choose to upgrade, you’ll end up with many more.