Dear Gut: you've made a lot of great assumptions and predictions in the past and while I still appreciate your abilities as soothsayer, trash compactor, and bile bag, you led me astray on Haunted Hollow [$0.99]. It's not a soulless or uninteresting free-to-play game. It's a solid strategy game that takes some actual brains to play.
You should give it a shot today, too, dear reader. It's available now wide as an actual release and the financial barrier to entry is as low as it gets: zero dollars. But what kind of game is it, you ask? In brief, it's a one-versus-one, turn-based strategy game that tasks you with building up a horde of monsters and taking control of a village by scaring the townspeople. The first player to get every building wins.
The push and pull revolves around the token system and the general make-up of monsters you're fielding. Some monsters are better at fighting off your opponent's monsters and can't "scare" townspeople. Other monsters move quicker and scare easily. To win, you've got to be able to counter your opponent and then hold him off long enough to grab each building. At the same time, you've got a limited amount of moves to work with. Moving, attacking, and building monsters requires tokens. You get a set amount at the start of each turn. The number you get goes up as you snag more buildings.
Another wrinkle: to build monsters, you need to build that monster's appropriate room in your haunted house, which, eerily, dangles over the map on the side of a hill. Each turn gives you the ability to build a new room to house a new monster. You can also combine a bunch of the same room and create an even bigger room that'll give you access to crazier and stronger monsters of that type. Deciding if you want an army of dudes versus just a few tank-y guys is just one of the many things you'll consider.
Also, townspeople don't like getting scared -- towns have a fear threshold and once it goes into the red an angry mob armed with torches pops out of the cathedral and starts to ignite controlled buildings and your guys if they're in the way.
There are a couple of different kinds of haunted houses, by the way, as well as several more monster rooms outside of the starting rooms to pick from. The catch: you've got to buy these rooms with real dough. From what we're seeing, most are $1.99. There's a 99¢ one in the shop, too.
To talk about the actual game for a second, matches tend to really hinge on positioning. In order to stop opponents from scaring up the town, you need a force of dudes in reach of your enemies, but just out of the way enough to avoid being wiped out. Harassing is a viable strategy, as well as plain old brute force. Heck, you can even use the fire-happy mob to your advantage since it burns down anything captured in its way. Also, items can swing the flow of a fight. During each match, your team levels up and you get access to special one-off items that can modify movement speeds, hurt opposing monsters, or even bring on the mob.
Anyway, gut, readers, whoever else is out there, Haunted Hollow is a pretty neat game. Don't let the whole free-to-play thing scare you off. It's not FarmVille With Ghosts or whatever. It's an actual strategy game from the makers of Civilization and XCOM. That's neat.
UPDATE: Looks like Haunted Hollow was removed. Hope you grabbed it earlier!
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