Haunted Hollow Review
Good turn-based strategy games are hard to come by. However, it should be no surprise that the latest offering from Firaxis, developers of the recently-released/ultra-awesome X-Com, is another excellent turn-based strategy game, Haunted Hollow.In Haunted Hollow players build a haunted mansion as their home-base, summoning monsters to scare the local townsfolk and do battle with another would-be frightener. Each monster has its own special abilities to utilize, like the ghost's ability to teleport around units who are in the way, or the siren's ability to enchant opposing units and make them her unwilling slaves. Units come in three types: Scary (units built to frighten townspeople), Fighty (units built for combat), and Special (odd-ball specialty units).
Before each battle you can select a loadout of different units, allowing you to mix and match based on your play-style. Victory is attained when one player has frightened the entire town (or what's left of it, once the angry, inevitable mob of townspeople have finished torching the place). Plus, as you frighten more townspeople you gain more fear tokens (ability points spent on actions), which gives a nice sense of increasing momentum as the game goes on and turns go longer. Players can either duke it out against the computer, pass-and-play against another real life opponent, or go online to scare people over the internet.
Outside of the head-to-head battles that make up the bulk of the game, there are also special challenges that rate the player on their skill in using the special abilities of each creature. These not only provide some nice replayability, but they do a good job of highlighting each monster's strengths and weaknesses.
Haunted Hollow's aesthetics are spot-on. The simply animated monsters, townspeople, and houses are all quite endearing, and the background music hits that sweet spot between spooky and cloying.
One of the greatest things about Haunted Hollow is its price point— the game's free! Unlike most free games, Haunted Hollow doesn't beat you over the head with advertisements or push you towards in-game purchases. There are a variety of extra monsters and equipment you can purchase, but the free starter equipment is balanced enough that purchase isn't explicitly necessary. If you enjoy the free game, and do want to make purchases, you can either buy things individually, choose from several prearranged packs of items/monsters, or do the most sensible thing and buy the Season One pass for $8. An in-app purchase oriented around saving you money? That's practically unheard of.
Overall, any fan of strategy games, turn-based or otherwise, would be remiss not to pick up Haunted Hollow. The base game is free, for crying out loud, and the additional purchasable content, while fun, isn't imbalanced or required for continued play. Plus, with more content promised to arrive in the future, Haunted Hollow seems like a game that will keep you entertained for a long, long time.