You've woken up in Hell! Don't ask why, you've got more important concerns. Like, you know, being in Hell. And being a ghost. And finding out the natives are hostile. And that you can't use your DVR if you're a ghost. (Trust us, that's the worst.) You could cower in a corner like a wrinkled old bedsheet, or you could track down the Devil and demand to be released! Show us you're the ghost with the most in Hell Tour, a turn-based strategy title from NOB Studio and entrant into the 6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition.
Turns out Hell is a board game, more or less. The objective in each level is to find the key, and then find the door it opens to descend another level. You can move to adjacent spaces by clicking on them if they're clear, or unexplored. Orange areas are places you can move to, red areas are places you've uncovered but are too far away to reach, and gray areas are places you haven't explored yet. Each time you move to a new place, all the nearby spaces are uncovered, revealing whatever dangers or items there are.
In order to keep adventuring, you need to keep an eye on your soul power, which decreases by ten each time you move. You can purchase items at the store to replenish this, or increase it when you go up a level. Gain cash by defeating the weaker creatures you'll find loitering around Hell's picturesque acid pools. Hover the mouse over an enemy to see their strength as relates to yours, and click on them to attack. Once you've destroyed their soul, they'll vanish, leaving behind a fat wad of cash for you to line your ghostly pockets with.
Analysis: Hell's scenic vistas never really change, which is a shame. Judging by the quirky, cartoonish monster design, the artist was more than capable, and by comparison, the board you're playing on feels pretty bland. Even so, there's something addictive about Hell Tour's one-click style gameplay that made me sit down and play all the way through the first time our eyes met across the room. It was terribly romantic.
Whereas the game initially ended very abruptly with a stark "congratulations" screen once I passed a certain level that left me feeling a little cheated, NOB Studios has since expanded it to include a bit of dialogue and one final challenge. You'll want to make sure you have at least one of your skills maxed out by the time you reach the last level, but with so many beasties around waiting for you to knock the cash out of their pockets, that shouldn't be a problem. What is a problem is how short the game winds up feeling. Hell is only twenty floors deep, apparently, and it probably won't take you long to get through them all. Why is there no option to play an endless mode? Or even just a double-length game? Instead, once you're done, you're done, and all your hard work is wiped.
The combat also feels unbalanced. Sure, I can stand there whittling away at the health of a stronger monster, but why would I want to? The reward for doing so isn't any greater than what you get for picking on some puny little hell-beast you can slay with one hit. Since enemies don't attack unless you hit them first, it's too easy to simply bypass the heavy hitters altogether. There are even several levels with no enemies at all, which become dull click-fests as you simply avoid pools of acid and play hide-and-seek with the key and exit. Hey, it's like a Saw movie, only not as boring, and you don't feel as though your intelligence has been insulted afterwards!
While Hell Tour lacks enough flesh over its ghostly bones to really feel like a full, hearty adventure to keep you coming back for more, it's still a fast, fun way to spend an afternoon. It's clever, easy to pick up, and definitely deserves a look. So go on. Let the spirit move you.