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The Haunting: Starring Polterguy

1993 Electronic Arts (now EA games)

Sega Genesis



Classic gaming is not a pastime suited for everyone. While many of us are of the impression that the games of yesteryear often play better and show more imagination than newer games, it also becomes apparent that the rampant "mee -too-ism" we see so often today is not a new phenomenon. A cursory glance at the libraries for the various 16-bit machines will show that for every good, original game that gets released there will be dozens of derivative, unimaginative cash-ins riding on it's coat tails. No company has it's name so blatantly tied in with "rehash" than EA games, who after a long stint of buying up all their competition in the late 90s ignored their now vast resources, talent, and gigantic holdings of franchises and character properties and put out the exact same football game every single year.

Anyway, it may surprise some of us to learn that not only was there a time when EA didn't own everything, but that they also used to put out original games that had nothing to do with football. This particular game is actually pretty original, despite the fact that it's main character would be laughed off the cover of any self-respecting gaming mag nowadays. Just remember in 1991 the kids weren't as sophisticated as you youngsters today.

Our main protagonist is named "Poulterguy." Since this is the early 90s, Polterguy has to have 'Tude, as in "Attitude," which consists of standing slightly to the side with arms crossed ala some kind of rap artist, spinning around and pointing with gun-like finger movements and using lots of surfer boy and hip-hop slang while talking, and generally acting like a dumbshit. Poulterguy is a ghost who wears a leather jacket and has a really stupid looking haircut (akin to Guile from Street Fighter but ten times more exaggerated.)

Turns out Polterguy bit the big one because of a one Vito Sardini, who is such a cheap bastard that in the interest of cutting costs substandard parts were used in his skateboard company, whereupon Poluterguy is sent to the big half-pipe in the sky because of bad quality control. Thus Polterguy makes it his personal mission to make life a living hell for the whole Sardini family, which involves following them from house to house and scaring the bejesus out of them.

This is the meat of the game, and the most original and entertaining idea in years. Since you're a ghost the Sardini's can't actually see you. Each room has a certain number of objects that will flash a small light when you're close to it. Pressing the A button allows you to leap into and "posses" each item, where upon the Sardini family member in question gets the crap scared out of them in the process. An object with a blue light will shake and attract their attention. A yellow light means the trap won't go off until the human looks in that general direction, while a green light allows you to actually take control of the item and follow them around with it. Each scare builds up a fear meter, whereupon eventually the family member in question will be scared out of the room. Scare them all out of the house completely and the level is over.

There are a few random hazards in these gameplay segments, by level two the Sardini's get a family dog that can actually see you and warn them of your presence, also random ghosts and such start showing up to impede your progress, but for the most part these segments go pretty quick and are pretty enjoyable, if for no other reason than to see the various scare animations.

The scares are actually the highlight of the game. Nearly every object in the room can be possessed, resulting in a funny reaction from the effected Sardini. The bed post comes to life into a hideous monster face. Pits to Hell open up in the floor. The dishwasher opens and starts flinging plates and bowls at them. A model airplane comes to life and chases them around the room. A poster with a Ninja on it takes a swipe at their heads. The trunk of the car opens up to reveal a hacked up body inside. The grim reaper appears in a doorway to block their escape. The way the Sardinis react is just as enjoyable - eyes bug out, the wife faints, the kids pee themselves (with corresponding puddle on the floor.) Pure genius I tell you.

As you posses objects you use up ectoplasm, which is measured by your green "ecto-meter." As the various Sardinis are scared out of a particular room they leave puddles of ectoplasm for you to collect. Run out of ecto and you're transported to the underworld, which is this long cave with skeletons and arms coming out of the walls and such. While here you have to collect all the puddles of ecto while avoiding the various traps and monsters and such. This is the only area in the game where you can actually "die," and lose the game, although its so easy that you'd pretty much have to be blind to do so. These segments of the game lag pretty hard. I do appreciate the attempt to get past the usual "lives" formula that every single game seems to use (and it makes sense that you can't die, since you're already dead and everything) still this portion probably would have been better handled via some kind of quick mini-game. On the last level in this environment you also fight the last boss, an encounter that seems to come out of left field, since you don't really fight anything else in the game except the occasional random ghosts that you usually can just run away from.

Overall a very original an entertaining game. It doesn't exactly reach masterpiece status or anything but is a good diversion if you're looking for something else besides a generic shooter or tired mascot platforming game for your Genesis.

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