Wildhollow is a point-and-click adventure game that’ll also scratch your virtual pet itch. The fantasy setting frames a storyline that mercilessly (and hilariously) satirizes role-playing game (RPG) conventions, poking fun at wise wizards, savage dragons, and the inevitable guy who stands around in the middle of town all day. If you want to finish this adventure, though, you’ll need enough patience to master its surprisingly deep pet breeding system.
You can play Wildhollow as a male or female character, but the story remains the same: after a long time spent away from home, you return to your family’s monster ranch to find your parents missing and everything burnt down to the ground. You spend the game investigating your parents’ disappearance, which quickly proves to be a very expensive endeavor. Breeding and selling monsters is the only efficient way to raise the money you’ll need.
The adventure game aspect of Wildhollow is exceptionally good. Storylines flow naturally and you never have to do something wholly arbitrary to advance. The game makes it clear that this is a comedy game, so solutions to problems often require doing whatever would be funniest in a given situation. So when you need to join the Adventurers’ Guild, you don’t actually go out and slay a dragon. You find a way to lie about it and falsify evidence, since the local dragon is a polite fellow who doesn’t much deserve to be slain.
Wildhollow‘s virtual pet element is typical for the genre, well-done if not innovative. You can purchase pets early on and raise their value by feeding them. Once you’ve able to breed pets, you can discover new breeds by mating creatures of different types together, or just mating a particular strain of animals long enough to increase its quality. You want to sell pets only after they’ve grown old enough to reach their peak value. Each monster breed has its own dietary preferences and can only be bred when you’ve coaxed it into a very good mood.
Where Wildhollow runs into trouble as a virtual pet game is when it comes to feeding your pets. You can forage for food instead of buying it by playing simple mini-games, but these mini-games are not fun at all. The games for fishing and gathering apples are slow and frustrating, while gathering berries or acorns are tedious. Once you have enough money to simply buy pet food, you’ll probably do that just to avoid the awful foraging.
Of course, by the time you can just buy food for your pets, you’ll probably be near the end of the game. It’s impossible to advance in Wildhollow without being able to spend lots of money, first to completely upgrade your ranch and then on ludicrously expensive quest items. Since selling your pets is the only efficient way to raise funds, you’ll find that around half of your time in the game is going to be spent grinding for cash. This means waiting passively for pets to either have their babies or to reach peak maturity so you can sell them.
The long, nonsensical grind for cash mars what is otherwise a game with really great production values, and loaded with secrets to discover. The music is memorable and the bright cartoon-like artwork pleasing to the eye, encouraging you to discover all of the funny conversations to have with the characters around you. (In particular, there’s one long talk you can have with a fellow called Randerbast the Brown that will leave fans of fantasy novels in stitches.)
Completing Wildhollow took about eight hours on this reviewer’s clock, which some players could surely improve on. If that was eight hours of pure adventure gaming, this game would receive a perfect score. It’s the tedious cash grind alone that drags it down, rendering Wildhollow a very good game that will still be a waste of time for players who can’t stand waiting around for in-game timers to tick down. If you have faith in your patience and no allergy to grinding, though, consider Wildhollow recommended.