The game of Gloomy Hollow takes place in limbo. No, I'm not referring to the gorgeous black-and-white, soon-to-be iOS title of the same name, but instead to the concept of purgatory. You and the rest of the townsfolk of Gloomy Hollow occupy a space in-between the land of the living and the land of the dead. Not the usual concept for a casual Chillingo release.
At the start of Gloomy Hollow, you step into the cowboy boots of a mustachioed sheriff appropriated named Moustache Jim. This lawman is one of several characters you can play as, including the hammer-wielding Smithy and the mysterious Rosie, hidden behind her razor-sharp fan. It's up to you and these colorful characters to comb the Underworld in search of a batch of Soul Crystals that have been stolen.
This pretty much boils down to what you'd expect from a dungeon crawler like Diablo, which this title certainly aims to be. In fact, the simple and cartoony look and feel to everything is quite reminiscent of the recent brightening and scrubbing up of Diablo 3, only taken a few steps further.
I also noticed a few Borderlands touches in there as well, such as the rapid stream of damage numbers that fly off enemies as you attack them. It’s a lot of fun shooting and smashing monsters as you go grinding along for loot, but there are moments when it can feel a bit monotonous. Though that’s interrupted often enough by the appearance of an item or two.
That’s because, like both Diablo and Borderlands, Gloomy Hollow is (in addition to the search for the Soul Crystals), all about the loot finding. There's lots of goodies out there to collect that will power up your character of choice. Personally, I found myself playing with Smithy more than the other two. You just can't go wrong with a hammer-wielding dwarf. At least, I think he's a dwarf. He sure looks like one. The rest of the game is bigger than I thought, with levels branching out more than you'd expect as indicated by the deceptively simple map.
I liked the lighthearted style that was taken early on with an in-game tutorial in the form of a giant flashing sign that illustrated some gesture controls. There are two different options to choose from -- one a virtual stick and buttons scheme and another that's all based on said gestures, so clearly indicated by flashing signs. But that brings us to a couple of sticking points.
First there’s the issue of load times, which shouldn't be as long as they are for a game that’s not tipping the scales sizewise. But that will likely get fixed in a patch (or it could just be that I need to clean off my iPad). And then there’s the controls. Both options are definitely workable, but neither is ideal. While the control stick and buttons scheme feels the most familiar, it needs to be tightened up a bit.
The joystick in particular feels a little loose and I never quite had a handle on guiding my characters around. The buttons are also a tad small. The touchscreen controls, while also functional, don't feel intuitive enough, as if the touchscreen hasn't been properly retrofitted to work for a dungeon crawler.
Like many of Chillingo's titles, it's hard to argue against the value here that you get for only a buck. Despite some of the control issues, the load times and a bit of repetitive gameplay elements, this is a solid dungeon crawler title for iOS. If you're a fan of games like Diablo and Torchlight, you will likely enjoy the casual, simplified version that Gloomy Hollow offers you to play on the go.