hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Haunted Hollow

Review: Haunted Hollow

2:00 PM on 05.03.2013 // Chris Carter

Build, fight, scare, and conquer

Firaxis Games is on fire again after the launch of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Both a critical and commercial hit as well as one of my favorite games of 2012, it seems as if they could only go up from here. So of course, Firaxis decided to strike while the iron was hot, and follow up a hit complex strategy game with yet another surefire hit -- a freemium iOS title based around monsters, mansion building, and scaring townsfolk. Wait, huh?

Despite how absurd this prospect may seem on paper, you know what? It's actually pretty decent.

Haunted Hollow (iPhone [reviewed on an iPhone 5], iPad)
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Released: May 2, 2013
MSRP: Free (With microtransactions, and a $7.99 Season Pass)

The concept of Haunted Hollow is simple: scare the entire town, and win the game. You'll attempt this task on a symmetrical map, with two player-owned mansions on either side, and the town in the middle. Each turn you'll start with a certain amount of "scare tokens," which you can use to build pieces of your mansion, build units, or complete individual actions like movement, attacking, and "scaring" the neutral houses in the middle (the latter of which is the only way to win, ultimately).

Units generally derive from three types -- scare-only units, fighters, and hybrids. How you choose to approach each map is entirely up to you, as it's easily possible to outwit your opponent with zero fighters, practically all fighters, or an army of halflings. As you start scaring houses, you'll earn a "neighborhood" bonus for hitting up everything in a segmented area, and eventually, you'll piss off the town enough for them to organize a mob and fight back. Like a lot of tabletop games, you can choose your stable of potential units before each match, and if you're not careful when balancing out your choices, the game can potentially be lost at deployment.

At first, all of these mechanics may seem fairly complex, but it's all pretty easy to pick up. As you come to realize that each round the game is giving you a random mansion tile to build, you'll learn that you have to make due with what's given and adapt on the fly. As you start laying your mansion on brick by brick, you'll put new units into the fray, and adapt to those as well. It's a genius way to pace a game and help new players get used to the feel of the action.

But that's not to say it isn't deep in general though. Once you've played your first full game, the tactical ceiling of the game is immediately evident. Haunted Hollow essentially gives you a finite amount of moves and lets you do whatever you want with them. Do you build up your mansion first, and thus increase your army size and prowess, or do you immediately start scaring up and capturing houses to amass more turns and map control?

For example, you may start out with the hybrid vampire units who can both scare and fight, then slowly amass an army of werewolves, who are fierce fighters, and can counter-attack, blocking off choke-points as your vampires slowly take the town. Whatever you choose to do, it'll earn you experience (which resets every individual game, and earns you one-use items like buffs or heals), which helps keep you in the game as you're always getting somewhere, even if you make a few tactical errors. If you're ever lost, you can hit the question mark button and see what every unit, building, or room in the game does -- even your opponent's, which is a nice touch.

Visually the game is fairly simplistic in nature, with some character designs vastly more detailed than others. Haunted Hollow barely manages to forge its own identity, as most of the designs are "been there, seen that" in nature; the team really could have stood to re-imagine a lot of these creatures in their own way. It runs silky smooth on my iPhone 5, but I was able to witness it on an iPhone 4 as well, and noticed significant frame-rate issues, so be warned.

As you can see, the game is free: so what's the catch? Well, you can buy different types of monsters and items to augment the experience, ranging from $1-2. As you can imagine, buying new characters in a strategy game can easily throw off the balance -- but for the most part, the monsters you get with the core game are enough, especially when powered up.

What I'm not a fan of is charging for select items that can give you a more clear-cut advantage depending on the situation. While you do unlock the item for unlimited use, and still have to level up (within each round) to earn the right to use it, the mere fact remains that this style of monetization simply shouldn't be in the game. Monetizing characters makes sense, but paywalling simple items that can instantly turn the tide of battle seems a bit petty.

These items aren't overpowered per se, but given the fact that they can be used instantly and anywhere on the map, it can get dicey. Thankfully, there's a Season Pass available if you want everything on offer right now, which is a nice concession, since most games would happily charge you $50 or more through multiple transactions that you won't notice over time.

There's a single-player mode, but it gets dull fairly quickly as there's no real joy in playing the AI in Haunted Hollow. This is exacerbated by the fact that there's no difficulty settings, so once you outpace your AI opponent, the mode is basically useless. What else can you do? Outside of a few scant single-player challenges, the game really shines in multiplayer.

Now, the challenges are basically built to show off all the cool DLC characters you can buy, but you know what? They're actually fun, and serve well in teaching you some more advanced tactics. It's just a shame that there's only nine brief total missions in the current build, as adding more would vastly increase the game's replay value.

Just like Advance Wars, Haunted Hollow has a "pass and play" option that allows you to hand off your iOS device to another person in-between turns. If you're so inclined, you can also play with friends through Game Center online in an asynchronous manner. It's pretty smooth, as I didn't really experience any delay with my play sessions online.

If you're planning on playing this specifically with friends (either locally or online through Game Center), it'll take some time before you get bored with the game -- especially if you mix things up with a few purchases. But if you're going at it solo, you'll quickly saturate everything there is to do in a few days, as playing with the AI isn't really compelling and there aren't nearly enough challenges to keep you busy. You can play with randomly matched people online, but I've found that randoms will eventually quit due to the long time commitment involved -- even if it's asynchronous.

Haunted Hollow is a surprising little game. It manages to rise above the status of a throwaway mictoransaction-begging App by providing a deep and compelling system at the core of the experience. With a few more tweaks, it would be worth spending more time with, but as it stands, depending on your ability to play with others it may be a more fleeting experience.



Haunted Hollow - Reviewed by Chris Carter
Likable - That's a seven, which is actually a different number than five. It's more than ok. We like this game. I don't want to play it every day forever and ever, but it's definitely worth the time I invested in it, and I'll be picking it up again to relive the fun sometime down the line.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Chris Carter, Reviews Director
 Follow Blog + disclosure DtoidChris Tips
Chris (Magnalon) has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! -----------... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
I recently beat Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow again, but this time I played on Hard mode from scratch. Outside of dying a few times due to me being an idiot, and enemies hitting harder, it was actually easy. Like really easy.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Today I replated bacteria that I made take up a plamid hopefully stitched onto the genes generatlight. Taken from other dead bacteria and put into a non glowing species, to make it glow. Fucking microbiology is the best.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
It seems fairy farts are a fragrance, a soap, incense, a vaping liquid and a kind of nail polish. I'm clearly in the wrong line of work and need to eat more chili.
Cannibal Steven avatarCannibal Steven
"You gave the Lost Soul a big smile, like you remember she likes to do... For some reason she sort of wants to smile back..." I'm not crying. Not one bit.
ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Just tried 'The Last Of Us' on PSNow Trial, only to be told... 'Something went wrong. Try again.' Game-appropriate error message or quickie plot-summary?
TheAngriestCarp avatarTheAngriestCarp
I hate when people say crap like "I admit that [thing] in games is problematic, but I still enjoy it" because it's an underhanded way of contradicting your own views while convincing yourself that you aren't a hypocrite.
ChillyBilly avatarChillyBilly
Well shit. I knew I was more than likely going to enjoy Star Wars Battlefront (cause you know, giant Star Wars nerd and all) but holy cow, the beta is fucking great! I need the full game like, now.
SpielerDad avatarSpielerDad
Anyone here going to NYC Comic Con? Always wanted to go and lived so close, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
Mark Plechaty avatarMark Plechaty
Well I haven't seen any levels like this on mario maker so maybe it's unique the I'd is 55BD000000961CBA GIVE IT A GO and let me know what you think
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Hey Stranger ... wadda you buying ? Want some crack ? Here ya go... [youtube][/youtube]
Sr Churros avatarSr Churros
My brother caught me this Pokémon in our room yesterday. How should I name it? [img][/img]
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Yay, I got off of work early and may have Friday off! I have a sinking feeling I'm going to work 10 hours on Saturday as a result, though :/ We ran out of stuff to make stuff with so they must ship us stuff so we can ship stuff.
SeymourDuncan17 avatarSeymourDuncan17
Yo yo I'm Marie and I got dat gangsta flow. High scores ain't no trip, cuz I whip that shit like Sonic quick. I-I mean no! I didn't say anything! Stupidrecordbreakingcombodolt. [img][/img]
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
I'm watching you.
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
SkarKrow avatarSkarKrow
Work noooooooooooooooooo D:
The Dyslexic Laywer avatarThe Dyslexic Laywer
I had such a awkward time playing Catherine because it shared the same name as my mother....
JayDGee avatarJayDGee
Broforce is coming out of early access on the 15th. I had no Idea it was an early access game.
James Internet Ego avatarJames Internet Ego
I have now played all 3 Witcher games. My verdict: Witcher 1 - alright, aged badly, lots of sex. Witcher 2 - good, very short, not much sex at all. Witcher 3 - Excellent in every way.
ikiryou avatarikiryou
I really wish MGO had been implemented with free-roam gameplay PMC (clan) setup instead of the standard matchmaking. Imagine roaming bands of PMC's opposing each other on the battlefield. How sexy would that be?
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Haunted Hollow

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -