Hands-on Preview: Haunted Domains

Originally developed for Windows PCs by Artifex Mundi and scheduled to land on iOS later this October courtesy of Alawar Entertainment, Haunted Domains tells a poignant tale of squeezing lemonade from the sour fruits life passes our way. The game’s protagonist, one Sheila Sullivan, has just been laid off from her job as a hotel manager. There’s only one hotel that isn’t being flooded with applicants just like her — a hotel that opens its doors at the witching hour and caters to every imaginable Halloween creature! Sheila has no idea what she’s in for when she accepts a post at the Haunted Domains, but rather than run scared, she’s determined to knuckle down and impress her frightening new employer. Even with some help from the ever-dutiful Igor and an inventory chest that follows at her heels like a tail-wagging puppy, this isn’t going to be easy.

This sounds like a fitting plot for the next Wes Craven movie, true, but it’s also a spooktacular setup for a time management game! Each netherworld traveler who checks in has only so much patience before he, she, or it storms out without leaving the tips Sheila needs to achieve her nightly collection goal. Within that short time frame, the player has to: a.) usher the guest to a matching-color room, with the more spacious suites strategically reserved for large parties who want to stick together; and b.) direct Sheila in pampering the guest as needed during its stay. This is where things get weird. Vampires make fairly normal requests for books and wine, but wizards might spill their experiments and request cleanups as green stuff bubbles out of their rooms. And no guest is safe from the cane-wielding granny who sneaks in to throw a temper tantrum because the hotel’s gotten too rowdy! These hijinks appear to be just the tip of the iceberg of what can happen at a haunted hotel. The further the player gets into the game, the more guest types there are to become familiar with.

If the player keeps his or her wits up and efficiently processes the guests streaming in, Sheila can dip into her tip collection to purchase hotel renovations. Aside from the taut management challenge, this upgrade feature will no doubt be Haunted Domains’ star mechanic; who doesn’t love watching a game environment evolve at the player’s direction? Even if you’re doing well, don’t get too confident — there are no less than five hotels in the Haunted Domains, and Sheila has to start from scratch with each one. Not to mention, the guest amenities get completely rearranged from one hotel to the next!

Sporting a 50-level campaign in addition to an infinite mode that allows the player to upgrade on the fly, Haunted Domains is sure to occupy time management and sim fans until the moment Trick or Treat arrives. Sheila’s spooky adventure begins October 11 at the App Store.