Looking for something paranormal to investigate? How about a strangely dressed person breaking into a collector’s shop to steal a glowing crystal skull? And how about instead of hands, that person has slimy tentacles? That’s your hook for Haunted Halls, and boy does it reel you in.
Haunted Halls: Nightmare Dwellers is almost all adventure and puzzle. As you explore the twisted world of dreams and half-hallucinations, you’ll bump into some seriously strange obstacles. A frog in a bib needs a chili pepper. A flamingo is scared of loud noises. The donkey doorbell won’t let go of the umbrella. The list of puzzles and items reads like a dictionary in a blender. Once you get into the rhythm of things, however, they make much more sense. Well, a little more, anyway.
You play the role of an investigator in Haunted Halls, which means you’ll do a whole lot of snooping. Whenever something extremely paranormal shows up (that’s really saying something for this game), you get to break out your Secret Service Glasses. They look like something you’d get in the mail after sending in some cereal boxtops, but they work wonders. All you have to do is pop these things on and you’ll get a glimpse of another world. Strange symbols float in front of your eyes. Put them together in the right order and you’ll see an important clue.
Just like everything else in Haunted Halls: Nightmare Dwellers, the puzzles are weird. Many of them don’t make logical sense, like the time you’ll give a pearl necklace to a bird. In most casual adventure games this might be a negative. However, Haunted Halls runs with it. Instead of throwing nonsensical solutions in your face and watching from the shadows, this game runs clues by you to help connect the solution to the puzzle. When you encounter the bird, for example, you’ll see some text remarking on her lack of “accessories.” Since there’s a necklace in your inventory, the relationship suddenly makes sense.
As for hidden object scenes, they’re few and surprisingly far between. Most of Haunted Halls consists of moving back and forth, collecting items and using them to appease various animals. When you do find a hidden object scene, it plays more like a puzzle than a traditional item hunt. You’ll only need to find a few items at a time, each one becoming a piece of the puzzle you must solve in order to find more items that pop up at the bottom of the screen.
Haunted Halls: Nightmare Dwellers does a great job standing out from the crowd. Its mix of a traditional paranormal setting with off-the-wall, surreal events, visuals and puzzles makes it the kind of casual adventure that keeps you clicking for hours on end.