So fun – It’s SCARY!
Hey friends. Peter Graphic here and it’s my favorite time of the year. I can finally stop mowing the lawn (and rake leaves), I can break out my black hoodies, go pumpkin picking… candy transforms into its “fun-size” form. That’s right it’s Halloween! While I do love a good scary movie, I also love playing some spooky retro games and Haunting: Starring Polterguy fits the bill nicely.
You play as the titular Polterguy, a teenage punk who is accidentally killed during a skateboard session on a defective skateboard. Instead of going to the light, he decides to wreak ghostly havoc on the skateboard company’s owner Vito Sardini. That means tormenting Vito and his family by possessing household objects so much they head for the hills! As Polterguy says in the manual “Dude – Death sucks, but at least it’s better than going to school!”
The characters in Haunting are of course the main man Polterguy, but also Vito, his wife Flo and their two kids Mimi and Tony. The Sardinis are the stereotypical Italian family and are super rich from selling deadly skateboards. Oh there’s also a dog which plays a bigger part than you’d expect.
The fun begins with an isometric view of the Sardinis home. Your goal is to scare the whole family so much they all run out of the house. Polterguy can “possess” or use “Fright Em” objects such as furniture, electronics, toys and even some architecture. Each object will glow with a different color for you to jump in and take over! The Fright Em colors have different effects…
Blue – activates automatically when a Sardini is near.
Orange – you can activate whenever you want.
Green – The object is under your control! Some objects even shoot, or have an extra scary effect!
Each Fright Em costs you ectoplasm, so keep an eye on the meter at the bottom of the screen. Each family member will go from Calm to VERY HIGH. Once you scare a human out of the room they drop some ecto to help refill your meter and keep scaring!
Your ectoplasm can also be taken away (a lot at once!) by the dog barking or by a random Ecto Beast so scoop it up as soon as it drops.
Once you run out, you have to head to a dungeon maze-like level (or is it the underworld?) to regain ecto. This area is also Isometric, but the catch is there’s enemies like skulls and grabbing claws that can actually hurt you here. Once you regain ecto it’s back to haunting!
Polterguy also has some spells at his disposal such as leaving food for that pesky dog, extra ooze and even turning a Sardini into a zombie.
Polterguy can move all over the area floating anywhere you need him to go. It’s easy possessing objects with the A button. B does a super spin kick and C brings up your spells.
This is where Haunting really shines. The graphics and animation of the haunts are the best part of the game. Gory, scary and detailed. Here’s a few of my favorites… A TV sparks to life and the head on the screen shoves itself out of the set. A fly gets gigantic and turns its head to show the daughter’s face. Rugs turn into a puddles of blood. Spikes suddenly pop out of a loveseat and the best of all…a demon hops out of a toilet and literally tosses poop. There’s so much more. Trust me it’s worth a look on YouTube.
The sound effects are effective and really set the mood. The Sardinis screams can be mild and unimpressed to flat out terrified. The Fright Ems sound great too. While you don’t hear much music, it isn’t very memorable. It is creepy but it isn’t terrible.
Now, the main gameplay isn’t difficult per say, I do have some nit-picks. The Fright Ems are easy to do, but sometimes you can’t leap into one fast enough or one of the family just happens to walk out of the room after you “set it up” so to speak. That wouldn’t be so bad, but you waste all your ecto. The spells are kind of useless and don’t really help much. It’s also hard to plan where the Sardinis will run out of next, and they can take some time running to the main exit which can be a pain.
The worst part of the game is the dungeon levels. You really don’t have much of an attack as that spin kick is unpredictable. This whole section of the game really brings the experience down. About that dog? Well get ready to see what he’s really all about down here.
Full disclosure? I love this game despite its minor flaws. I still go back to play it just to see those animations from time to time. I think it deserves a modern remake or at the very least an HD re-release. Maybe even remove the dungeon areas altogether.
If you are in the mood for some spooky fun this season, grab some candy and pop Haunting Starring Polterguy in your Sega Genesis!
4 out of 5 Trogs!
GameTrog Review By
Peter Graphic is a retro game player and collector. He enjoys writing about and photographing his collection as much as he likes to play! Follow him on Instagram!