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Retro Review: Haunting Starring Polterguy (1993)

So many times of my life I’ve tried to figure out the name of this game, remembering it from my childhood, and recently I crossed it in a list of random games on a random site. Haunting Starring Polterguy. Yay for spending too much time on the internet! When I was child, I remember very clearly having no idea how to play this freaking game. I assumed it was due to me being young and naive but almost 20 years of gaming later; I still have no idea how the hell to play this game.
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You star in this game as The Polterguy, a green ghoul / ghost who’s out to seek revenge on the man that killed him; Vito Sardini. It’s said that Polterguy was raging against the machine and got hit by Vito’s vehicle while skateboarding. Message! Well anyways, the plot of the game is simple. Scare the life out of the Sardini family, which has four members; Vito, his wife, his daughter, and son.
The gameplay is simplicity complicated. The tutorial of the game is “jump into the glowing objects (Fight ‘Ems) to scare the family”. Sounds simple. What they don’t tell you is that you have a limited time to scare these people, or else you run out of a green bar. When the bar runs out, you’re sent to the underworld to gather more ectoplasm which fills your bar; mystery solved! So while you’re turning inanimate objects into frightening nightmares, you’re trying to do it as fast as possible. Which basically means the gameplay is as easy as “run around and bash the A button” (this triggers the Fright ‘Ems).
They also fail to mention how you have to focus on each member of the family until they run out of the house. So at first you’ll waste a ton of time thinking “I’m scaring these guys, and it’s not doing anything”. That’s where I got lost as a child and it almost got me now. As much as complain about modern day FPS’ having tutorials that aren’t needed (seriously, we all know the left stick moves) I’m realizing these older generation games needed them more than anything. It’s very overwhelming to have 4-6 buttons; all of which do nothing.
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So there you have it. You scare all four families out of the house, and then what? Well, you’re prompted with a cut scene that shows the Sardinis moving into a new house so you get to do it all over again! But before you can do it again, you’re thrown into a more challenging underworld. This is where I died and gave up on this stupid game. I don’t know how I died and that’s what so frustrating. I was barely touched by the obstacles, and the little guy at the bottom left that I assumed was a health notification seemed fine. But with no explanation I was dumped back at the beginning of the game. I didn’t feel like running around and mashing ‘A’ for another 10 minutes to be rewarded with a new house of the same tactic. Seems worthless to me. Maybe there’s more to the game but I highly doubt it.
The two things this game had going for it was the unique camera angle and the soundtrack. The angle was taken from the corner from the corner of each room, which was creative at the time. It was a day and age of side-scrollers and over-head shooters. Then the soundtrack was on par. Not amazing. Not like the Batman game I reviewed last week, but for a Sega Genesis game; it deserves some credit.
All in all, this game is a sweet idea and all creativity was lost there. Granted, I’m sure a lot of developers collided heads on the animation for each inanimate object, but when the game can be explained by “press A”, maybe you did something wrong. I mean, I will say this game is very un-derated considering most people haven’t heard of it. With it’s original idea and gameplay it does deserve some street credit but you won’t see it on any “greatest games of all time” lists any time soon.