Halloween-themed hotel management game.

In the time management genre we’ve had our fair share of trendy themes: fashion games, farming games and building simulations to name a few. Alawar’s Haunted Domains shares a lot in common with a title like PlayFirst’s Hotel Dash with a spooky twist.

The game’s heroine, Sheila, runs into trouble when her dog is turned into a chest by Dracula. Sheila agrees to help Drac by running a few hotels and revamping an old boarding house to get her beloved dog back.

The game offers 50 levels in two grades of difficulty, as well as the usual endless shift mode. It’s worth noting that even the more challenging level of difficulty will not exactly overwhelm veterans of this genre, and the endless shift provides no additional features, surprises or guests. It still astounds me that most developers do not put any thought into these secondary modes, because they could offer so much more gameplay by just a few additional features.

Haunted Domain features a lot of quirky customers, all with their very own traits which you have to consider. The headless man comes with a second luggage; the witch bring along a cute kitten that Sheila has to catch on a regular basis; the invisible man likes to prove his exhibitionist habits to other customers (although there is not much to see, thankfully), and Dracula might be one of the most demanding guests ever, overwhelming Sheila with a large number of impatient orders.

Your basic task each day is to earn money, which can be done by serving guests, chaining similar actions, and color-matching guests and rooms. The demands of your guests are quite varied: sometimes they might order meals, wine, perfume, or books, while Sheila also has to deliver luggage and cash out guests, too.

It’s worth noting that every customer has a set order of demands, so that you can plan chaining in advance, if your memory serves you well. This money can be invested in various upgrades after each level, such as more slots for the chest, faster elevators, a number of decorations that increase the patience of your guests, and stars for each room.

Those stars play an important role in renovating the boarding house. For each guest that stays in a room upgraded with stars, you earn that same amount of stars. Those can then be used to add various decorations to the boarding times, such as a gazebo, a pool, or a new entrance. For each of those parts you have three choices, which improves customization, but the feature is hardly new (having been used in both Hotel Dash and Hospital Haste).
Theme aside, Haunted Domains lacks originality. In fact I could have simply copied the review for Hotel Dash and it would have been spot on. Neither the upgrades, the tasks, nor the design of the game bring anything new to the table, only the guests offer some sort of variation. This is clearly a pity, because there would be a lot of possibilities to spice up and change a hotel-themed time management game.

In the end, Haunted Domains is without a doubt entertaining and will really satisfy fans of time management titles, but just don’t expect it to reinvent the wheel. The gameplay is smooth, standard expectations are met, and two modes provide a decent playtime, assumed that you are not already bored by the end of the story mode. The personalities of the guests is definitely the most charming feature of Haunted Domains and contrasts with run-of-the-mill time management titles, but even here some comparisons can be made (Frankenstein blocking the way of other guests until served strongly resembles the bodyguards in Hotel Dash, for example). Still, avid fans of this genre who are in the mood for a spooky, tongue-in-cheek title, will be surely pleased with this game.