Its been a while since I've played a genuine premium mobile game outside of the wonderful Apple Arcade. However, I do keep an eye on the space, and I love a good game that takes advantage of the platform to do something unique. With the spooky season upon us, it feels right that I managed to find exactly that in HoloVista, a visual novel/hidden object hybrid that has serious sinister synthwave vibes. Does it manage to translate these vibes into a game worth playing?
You take the role of Carmen Razo, a woman who's trying to land a job with a mysterious architectural company known as Mesmer & Braid. Good news: she gets the job. Bad news: they ask her to spend some time in a mysterious and seemingly impossible mansion known as the Autohaus, not needing to do anything other than taking pictures of it and talk about it. While that may not sound like bad news, it isn't long before Carmen discovers there's more to this mansion than meets the eye, and it seems to be digging into her memories in a weird and intrusive way. HoloVista's story hits on themes of grief, jealousy, and trauma quite well, and it didn't take long for me to get wrapped into the narrative
The Call is Coming From Inside the House
A major way the game does this is by the unique way the story is told. Carmen's story comes out mostly through posts to an Instagram-like social media site and text messages to her friends and family. It makes the story really feel personal, as you're not just learning about Carmen, but you're also seeing people react to her messages who are both close friends and family, and total strangers on the internet who can't see the full picture. It's a pretty compelling tale, and I'm really glad I spent the time to go through it.
As for how it actually plays, HoloVista is mostly about finding hidden objects in bizarre environments. Taking place over the course of five days, you'll enter rooms and be given a list of objects to use your phone to take pictures of. It's as simple as finding the object and hitting a button to take a picture. There's no penalty for taking a picture of the wrong thing, and if you're ever lost there's an unlimited hint button that shows you where one of the objects is. You can either swipe the screen to look around or actually move your phone like an actual camera. This is all pretty basic and works just fine.
The real joy is looking around and exploring these environments though. While they may start pretty normal with apartment bedrooms and bars, once you get to the Autohaus—the mansion where most the game takes place—on the second day the entire tone of the game shifts. The mansion is equal parts beautiful and creepy, having a weird art-house feel that sits right on the edge of the uncanny valley. Being a horror game, this is used to great effect. Before long, I found myself constantly saying "I'm not sure that was there before." Statues began to cry blood, objects seem to blink in and out of existence, and there's a haunting feeling that when you turn around someone is going to be there ready to kill you. While there are no enemies or jump scares to be found in HoloVista, the atmosphere is always completely on point and it made for a super unsettling experience.
Between taking pictures, you'll also be posting photos on the social media app. For each photo, Carmen will write a description, then you have to pick the photo that best matches that description. Much like the picture taking, this is super easy as there's no penalty for picking the wrong photo. You just get to choose until you're right. You can toss some basic filters on your photo, just to really bring out the Instagram feel, and then read the responses. At the end of each social media segment, you then get a password field. There's only a single hint, usually with something related to that day's social media posts. While they start off easy, these quickly become the hardest puzzles in the game. They're also, noticeably, the only puzzles that you can just entirely skip. The reward for completing them is personal diary entries from Carmen, helping further involve you in her personal struggle. It's going to be up to you if that's worth it.
Five Days in Paradise
Oddly enough, there is one other puzzle type. During the first day, you get a single perspective puzzle, where you have to rotate pictures to make them line up correctly. After that one time, this never happens again. In fact, outside of that one extra puzzle, there are no breaks from the "hidden object, post pictures, password" routine. It's a little weird, almost like there was a plan for more unique events like this that just sort of got dropped partway through. It doesn't really feel like there's any reason there couldn't be more puzzle types, but since HoloVista only clocks in at about two to three hours, I wasn't bored of what was here before the end.
Besides, I was a bit too busy drinking the vibes. HoloVista's rooms are so uniquely beautiful that I couldn't really get them out of my head. From entertainment rooms loaded with all kinds of formats to a pool featuring Roman-style statues of mermaid grim reapers, each room in the game is a real looker. It gets even better when things start to get weird, as objects seem to be totally out of place and only vaguely related to the world around you. This is all tied together by a rad synthwave soundtrack that really fits the game so well, to the point where I already know I need to get it outside of the game so I can listen to it whenever I want.
HoloVista Review | Final Thoughts
If you're looking for a premium mobile experience worth sinking time into, look no further than HoloVista. While I wish it tried a few more puzzle ideas, the game manages to blend together synthwave worlds, hidden object games, social media manipulation, and a little dash of horror into a single package that really stands out. Now I just need to figure out how to recreate the Autohaus in The Sims.
TechRaptor reviewed HoloVista on iOS using a copy provided by the developer.
- Interesting Story Told in Unique Way
- Great Audiovisual Package
- Fun Hidden Object Gameplay
- A Little Too Easy
- Low Puzzle Variety