The ghost in the machine.
Haunted Hollow is one of the more original games we've had the chance to play in recent weeks. Not for this game the shallow, cash-driven empire-expansion found in mobile gaming's dirtiest little free-to-play secrets. Neither will you find here the safe ground of physics puzzles, or endless running. Instead, it's a freemium game that combines a boardgame experience with turn-based strategy, albeit with a very mobile-friendly cartoon styling.
There are a handful of objectives in this two player game. To the left is your primitive mansion, a building you can expand each turn to create new rooms, which in turn create new ghoulish ghosts, werewolves and vampires. In the middle of the screen is a town just waiting to be terrified by your creations, while at the right lies the mansion belonging to your opponent, be they AI or human.
The main order of business is to terrify the local population, and you do this by moving your conjured cadavers out of your mansion and onto the playing area where you can move them around the village "board", claiming houses by scaring the occupants. Different creatures have different purposes - the straight-up Scary creatures put fear into the locals, Fighty monsters such as werewolves can do battle with your opponent's creatures, while Strange monsters add bonuses to your other wicked creatures.
The goal of course is to dominate the town entirely, but you only have a certain number of moves that you can make in each turn, and this is really the meat of the game's strategy. Moving creatures, creating new ones, fighting enemies and scaring the locals all costs varying degrees of your power, so you'll have to carefully balance domination of the board with holding your opponent's own creatures at bay. Dominate too much of the town and the residents will rebel, burning down houses and attacking monsters.
There's no denying that a real-life human makes for a much better opponent than the computer AI - an opponent that becomes rather easy to second-guess after a while. Stick to playing with friends and the game is a much deeper experience, whether you choose to set up a game with local pass-and-play, or use GameCenter for match-ups.
What about the costs though? Haunted Hollow is free to play, but you'll need to spend real money to unlock more devilish creatures. Some of those premium characters are particularly powerful too, so if you're determined to keep your hands in your pockets, you'll want to stick to playing with friends who you can assume a gentleman's agreement with.
Haunted Hollow gets a thumbs-up from us for offering something genuinely different on the App Store. But fun though it is for a while, it is a little rough around the edges - particularly when it comes to its premium purchases and AI performance. Everyone should at least check the game out, but without friends to play with you may find the experience a little underwhelming once the early days are over.
What's Hot:A very original game for the App Store, with gorgeous artwork and solid enough strategy gameplay.
What's Not:A much better multiplayer game, but only when you have friends to spare of course. It would be a stronger game as a paid download without premium monsters.