Daily iPhone App: Haunted Hollow is frighteningly good

I've been crowing about how great Firaxis' Haunted Hollow is since GDC earlier this year, so odds are that you've probably already seen me telling you once (or more) to go pick it up. But in case the message hasn't gotten through yet: Go pick it up. Firaxis' latest game is just an excellent, well-produced strategy game, something that's casual enough for even kids to pick up and play, and complex enough that strategy nuts like myself will find plenty of depth to play with.

Haunted Hollow is a turn-based strategy game, where you build up a haunted house as you play, summon monsters from the various rooms in the house and then send those monsters down into a town to scare houses and fight other monsters. There's an excellent tutorial for the game that will teach you the basics, but just playing should be easy as well: The title uses "fear tokens" for each turn that make it very clear just how many actions you have left to use as you play. The game's various monsters mix things up as well: Some are very good at moving around and scaring townspeople, while others are slower but much stronger at fighting. There's a set of challenges to play through, which will introduce you to all of the game's more advanced strategies and monsters if you like.

And perhaps the best thing about Haunted Hollow is its business model. The game is free to play, and you get access to one of the game's houses and its associated monsters for free. If you want, you can buy a few in-app purchase packs to pick up the rest of the various monsters. Or (and this is the best part), you can pay just $7.99 once, and get access to all of the monsters for the game's "season 1" right away. That's a great deal -- this is an excellent, well-built game, and paying just $8 for all of the content (which will run you nearly $20 if you buy it piecemeal) is a nice refreshing option given all of the various in-app purchase scams out there on the App Store.

The one thing I think is missing from Haunted Hollow is some sort of out-of-game progression -- unfortunately, while you do level up throughout a match, there's no real progression system to keep you playing from match to match. But that's not a huge complaint, as playing the individual matches are plenty of fun anyway. So I recommend this one without reservation at all: Go download Haunted Hollow for free, and enjoy the great work of Firaxis in one of the best titles of the year so far.