Set in a haunted school dorm where players must stave off the attacks of a ghoulish Dream Hunter, Haunted Dorm is the nerve-wracking, horror-themed tower defence game from indie developer, Mihuan. Released on the app stores this February, Haunted Dorm has been gaining a steady following thanks to its original take on the tower defence genre, which departs from the standard button clicking mayhem we’re so used to, to deliver a more chilling experience.
Here are five reasons why we think it’s worth a try, if you dare..
A genuine fright
The origins of Haunted Dorm began with a nightmare suffered by its producer, Meiyu Lei, in which a ghost was trying to enter his home. After a futile attempt at staging resistance, the ghost eventually managed to break in.
The anxiety it induced left a lasting impression on Meiyu, inspiring him to try and make a game that could replicate the same terrifying effect. We’d be lying if we said Haunted Dorm was quite as scary as that - and we likely wouldn’t be writing about it now as it would be too frightening to recommend - but it certainly delivers just the right amount of chills to make you want to keep playing it.
The very premise of the game, which tasks you with choosing a room and defending it from a ghost while your avatar sleeps, is terrifying enough. But the design choices made by the developers is what really ramps up the tension.
Everything about the game has a creepy vibe, from its crude and sinister ghost designs to its eerie sound effects, all combining for a genuinely thrilling experience.
A break from the norm
Aside from its horror-theme, Haunted Dorm breaks away from the typical tower defence blueprint in a number of ways.
For instance, instead of making you face a constant barrage of attacks from different enemies in a game like Plants Vs Zombies, Haunted Dorm only ever presents one ghost per game. Their appearance may change, but the way they move and the way they attack remains the same, which, given the concept, makes a lot of sense.
The thrill of playing Haunted Dorm comes from the fact that the ghost is genuinely terrifying; you’ll never know exactly when it will attack you, or how powerful it will be when it does.
Haunted Dorm also departs from the norm in the fact that it doesn’t rely on featuring a wide array of gimmicky turret types. Yes, turrets do feature in the game and they’re your primary mode of attack, but it doesn’t force you to depend on them. Instead, Haunted Dorm focuses more on strategy by supplying an abundance of supporting objects that offer buffs and unique skills, which brings us onto our next reason for giving it a try.
One of the most fun aspects of Haunted Dorm is the variety of objects you can build. These range from practical assets like repair benches (to repair your door when it's attacked) and watchtowers (to increase attack range) to quirky and downright bizarre items that offer cool buff effects, like refrigerators (which slow down the ghost’s growth speed) and ATM machines (which provide gold whenever your turrets hit the ghost).
Every object will produce a different effect that consumes one of two resources (gold or electricity) so figuring out exactly which ones you should build and how much you should risk spending to get them opens up a lot of possibilities.
Along with figuring out how to best use the objects available in the game, there’s a bunch of other potential strategic options at play as well.
For instance, every map features a number of rooms (one of which you must choose to occupy) that differ in layout and size. Every room will also have a distinct object already in place, such as a refrigerator, a grave, a plant, a games console, or a trap, meaning that each room will provide a distinctly different benefit.
You’ll be playing in a team with other players, so the geography of the map and your proximity to them will also have an effect on how you play. For example, choosing a room with less space might normally be less desirable. But, if it's situated close to another player who’s likely to build turrets nearby, it may free you up to play around with different types of tech rather than worry about defence.
Variety of modes
Up until now, most of what we’ve covered has concerned playing the role of the tormented dreamer. But there’s another side to Haunted Dorm where you can play as the ghost, or Dream Hunter as it’s called, and assume the role of the tormentor instead.
All in all, there are four different potential game modes available: Normal Mode, Dream Hunter Mode, Story Mode, and Seven Monsters Mode, each with several maps and gameplay variations to choose from. Reclaim Ghost for instance is one of seven variations on the Story Mode where eliminated players become ghosts, but have the chance to be purified and returned to the battlefield by their former teammates through the use of "Ghost Trap Bottles".