Haunting Starring Polterguy
Description official description
The ghost of a teenager seeks revenge against a snobbish family. Your job is to scare them out of their house(s). They can't see you, so your only means of scaring them is by possessing various objects throughout the household. For example, possessing a piece of furniture would cause something to fly out from it, and possessing an object would make it come alive in some way or another. You need to act quickly because you have something called "ecto" which acts as the fuel that allows you to roam the real world. You're awarded more ecto each time a family member exits the room. The more scares you did, the more ecto you gain. Losing all ecto sends you to the underworld where you have to regain your ecto to full capacity in order to go back into the real world.
Credits (Genesis version)
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Average score: 72% (based on 20 ratings)
Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 24 ratings with 3 reviews)
- Entertaining animations and graphics
- Unique concept
- Good challenge and score system
- Finding new ways to scare is fun
- Could use more than just one family to haunt
- Controls can be frustrating and picky
- Can get repetitive
- Navigation issues can get in the way of the fun
- Underworld stages need shaking up
The Bottom Line
The Haunting is a fun little game for the Genesis. I recently dug it up in my closet when scrounging for old games, and I had some faint but fond memories of it. It has a very unique and quirky concept and while it has some issues that prevent it from being as great as it could be, it is still worth finding a cart.
The premise is pretty simple. You are a ghost named Polterguy and you have a vendetta against the Sardini family, and you are going to do whatever you can to keep them running and screaming by haunting their houses and scaring them out. You do this by possessing various objects around the house. If you see a blue sparkle on an object, then it is a "Trap" possession. This is the most common. You press the A button and Polterguy will swoop in and then swoop out, and then the object will rumble if it is in proximity of one of the folks you want to scare; attracting them. Then when they approach they're in for a scare! Orange sparkles are much bigger jumps, but don't need to be "triggered." Once the family member sights them, it will activate no matter the distance. These are best for directing them in certain directions as these scares are often much more vicious. Finally, there are green sparkles. Green sparkles allow you to actually control the object you possess a bit more directly.
The possessions are all funny and the family members reactions are humorous and well animated. Green sparkle possessions are some of the best, I remember the first time I used a bench-saw and chased the Sardini's daughter Mimi with a severed hand I couldn't help but let out a morbid giggle as she cowered in the corner and sprung a trap I had set earlier, which caused her to open the trunk of her families car to find a skeleton in the trunk; all the while my flopping severed arm still terrorized her. Green sparkles are timed with a red meter, you can either press the "A" button and end it early, or keep controlling it until the red meter runs out.
Speaking of meters, you must always keep moving. You have an "Ecto" meter, which constantly ticks down. To get ecto, you have to rack up big points. The more scares you can rack up, the more ecto you will get once your victim runs from the room screaming. After leaving a room terrified, they will leave green ecto drops that you must gobble up to keep your meter up. However, note that if you get a high score, ecto creatures will come to try and steal it from you! It is best to focus on one family member at a time, as their fear meter will decrease over time, and it will make it harder and more arduous to clear them out.
Once your ecto-meter runs out, you are sent to the underworld where you must get enough ecto back to return to our realm. However, this is the only place in the game where you can die. You have a health meter here and if the various cliche hazards such as bouncing skulls and evil hands in the wall tear you apart, the game will end. The Underworld stages get very old very quickly though. They are the exact same lay out and will often just have you going in the reverse route you went before. They do get more difficulty, but seeing a new portion of the underworld or having a different layout would have been nice as your 3rd time visiting the underworld will be rooted deeply in tedium and it only increases each time you go there. The biggest bonus is that once you get out, it always returns you to the exact spot you were in when you lost your ecto- meaning your target won't have shuffled to a new room or lost their fear level in the mean-time, which is nice.
In all, there are 4 stages. However you will most definitely still have plenty of challenge on the way. It takes some time to learn how to get high scores racked up right, and you will also want to experiment with all the various ways to haunt each new house. This is one of the issues though; some more stages would have been nice in the end, and I would have liked to haunt more than just the Sardini's. I would've even preferred if the Sardini's numbers expanded, but you only have Tony (the son) Mimi (The "Daughter." My guess is this is why Polterguy has a thing against the Sardini's, Mimi is clearly some sort of satanic demon in human skin. Just look at her portrait.), Flo (the mother) and Vito (The father.) to haunt throughout the game.
The game can also get repetitive and controls are an issue. The game is very picky about when it will let you possess objects, and you often have to be at a very specific angle which itself is an issue as Polterguy's sense of direction is quite sensitive. You can end up losing big points simply because Polterguy won't jump in an object before a family member walks out. Navigating the map is also an issue. You can pause the game and see the map and what room certain family members are in as well as where Polterguy is, however doors and entrances are hard to get through and some are nigh impossible to see as well. It also doesn't help that most of them serve as Orange sparkle scares, which will often stop you from going through to remind you and Polterguy's specific need of direction once again rears its ugly head. This means you can often waste lots of ecto just trying to get in the right door.
Later in the game, ecto-monsters become more frequent and you also have to worry with the dog. The dog is the only living creature that can detect you, and not only will its barks run down your ecto it will calm the fear of any family member in the room you are in. The dog also has another purpose later in the game, but you can figure that one out for yourself.
The Haunting is fun! Repetition, brevity, and control issues prevent it from fully realizing its fantastic concept, but it works well enough to be very entertaining. I found it interesting to see this was released by Electronic Arts and that Polterguy was even trademarked, does this mean he was intended to become a franchise? Shame he never expanded... I would love to see Polterguy return! A new "Haunting" game that improves on the concept of scaring the daylights out of various crazy families would be great. It's a fresh concept even today, and this fun little title should keep you amused for some time.
Genesis · by Kaddy B. (777) · 2010
The first time I laid eyes on this game at a Wal-Mart back in the day, I was instantly hooked without even thinking. The idea of being a malevolent ghost, terrorizing a family with all sorts of ghoulish manners instantly read in my mind...BINGO! I had been waiting for a game like this for ages and was jumping for joy to try this.
The first thing that struck me with this game was its surprising gore and blood factor, true nothing compared to today's standards, but back then this actually had a good bit. Everything from a piece of meatloaf turning into a screaming head with blooding flying everywhere to a shower shooting out a load of blood to even a turd throwing goblin....yes a turd throwing goblin, its in one of the later houses and even to this day, I crack up every time I see it.
There are tons of ways to scare off the family and even though there are some scares where you have no control whatsoever, just getting in and setting off the trap so to speak, there are some where you can control a chainsaw flying through the air or a stack of dishes being flung like frisbee's, its all fun.
Sadly, for everything fun about a game, there is inevitably something messed up, in this case some of the gameplay elements, the sound and most importantly the control.
First the sound is just a little off, the screams are a little distorted, nothing too bad, but you can tell the limitations the Genesis was straining under back in the days. The music isn't too bad, a little annoying at times, but you can get so focused at times you can easily forget it.
There are a few things that bothered me about some the main elements of the game, one is the ecto bar. There is no true health bar in this game, only the ecto bar, refilling of course when you scare off the family, failing to do so will result in a trip to the underworld dungeons to collect more ecto to return. The dungeons aren't that bad once you get used to them, it's just the idea of going to them a lot in the later levels as the difficulty increases.
The damn dog in the game can be a problem, not only can he calm the family down, he can drain ecto as well, you can distract him using the dog away spell, but you can't really get rid of him. Plus those damn flying heads are extremely annoying, constantly swarming you and attacking and no many times you get rid of them, more keep coming and getting rid of them is a pain, but I'll get to that soon.
The one other gameplay element that bothers me is the one and only boss of the game at the end of the fourth house, it gets very annoying, the only true time, besides the dungeons, where you can die in the game, so to speak. It takes a while to kill this thing off and it can wear on your nerves, so patience is a virtue, but if you're not much of a patient person, this will really annoy you.
The final thing and most important is the control. It was very ahead of its time, there is really no walking, just floating, but using the d-pad is awkward, it would really help with an analog, but that wouldn't come along for a while. It wouldn't be so bad, but the only thing that you have to defend yourself against those floating heads is either fireballs, which really isn't used that much until the final boss battle or kicking them and that is really annoying. You can just use the d-pad to aim and press the button to kick, you press the action button to start spinning then again to shoot forward, so basically it comes down to praying that you press the button fast enough to aim it at the ghoul, if it hadn't moved yet. A very annoying problem.
The Bottom Line
All in all, despite its limitations with the sound and the awkward control, it is a very fun game to play, if only to pass the time up or see what kinda gross things got by back in the days. There is a PSP version made by EA for its EA Collection a little bit back, so if you get the chance try it out, it's just a shame there isn't a PS2 collection, but I'm pretty sure soon it will be coming to Xbox Live and the Playstation Network, so if you get the opportunity, try it and have some fun.
Genesis · by Big John WV (26944) · 2008
The Haunting is an unusual game, which employs a some what inventive play style, as you take control of Polterguy, an apparition of a teenage boy who seeks revenge on the family that wronged him.
The family in question is the Sardini’s, a snooty high class bunch, the head of the family being Vito, a mobster like character, his high maintenance wife Flo, and their two brattish children, Mimi and Tony. Before each level begins, the Sardini’s arrive in their own personal delivery truck to their new home, which incidentally is always a huge, lavish place more like a mansion, and it’s up to you to scare them out of it. During these sequences, Polterguy communicates with you from beyond the video game, with some surfer type banter. Like, radical dudes!
The game takes place from a pseudo 3d overhead isometric perspective, looking into the house from a three quarter angle, not so dissimilar to games such as Skeleton Krew, D-Generation, or The Sims. The various members of the family will be moving around the house, going about their business, and when you encounter one of them, they won’t be able to see you, thanks to your unique disposition. You have the ability to possess objects at will, and you can use your supernatural forces to create havoc around your victim.
The object of the game is to scare them so much that they flee the house in pure terror. You are able to possess just about any object from a house plant to the family car. How this is accomplished are various things about the house will brandish a sparkle when it can be possessed, and you simply press the A button for Polterguy to transform into an ecto plasmic blob and throw himself into it, and this is a rather nifty little animation by the way, and press the same button again to leap out of it. Now the object is loaded up with ecto plasm and ready to scare the bejesus out of your victim.
One thing worth mentioning is, when you pause the game, as well as giving you a chance to sip your beverage of choice, you are given a plan view of the house, which shows you where you are located, and also where all the family members are, represented by an icon with the first letter of their respective names. This can be effectively utilised for finding the quick route to your next target.
There is a cavalcade of things to possess, such as the dish washer in the kitchen, where you can shoot out plates by rapidly pressing the fire button, take control of the chainsaw in the garage, and thrust it about the place in abandon, make tins of paint explode, have monsters jump out from the family computer monitor in the study, turn a throw rug into a chasm with big sharp teeth, take control of a toy aeroplane and fly it across the room, and basically turn virtually every object conceivable into monstrous creatures, or move them about in some sort of poltergeist fashion.
When Polterguy is in the same room as one of the family members, that individuals’ face will be shown in a picture in a picture box, and this will give a visualisation of their state of mind. To begin with, they will be perfectly calm, but as you put the smack dab on their fear threshold, they will become increasingly distressed, and you will be able to see just how freaked out they are becoming.
While all this is going on, you have an ecto gauge, which is slowly depleting all the time, and this is expressed in the form of a horizontal green bar at the bottom of the display, and you have to try and keep this filled up by scaring someone out of the room. So the goal is essentially to take control of as many objects as possible, so every time you victim turns, they will be shocked or horrified from what they see. If you are successful, they will run out of the room screaming, and some droplets of ooze will be left behind for you to collect, to replenish your ecto supply. The more terrified they were, the more ecto is left behind for you.
One thing you have to be wary of, and can’t be possessed, is the family dog, which can see you, and also attack you, which subsequently rapidly drains your ecto.
Should your ecto plasm supplies completely run dry, you are plucked from the land of the living, and taken to a dark foreboding dungeon outside of earth’s realm. This is a kind of sub-game, where you must collect a quota of ooze droplets, which fall from the ceiling, while contending with obstacles like bouncing eye balls, hordes of bats that fly out of coffins, swiping arms that protrude from the walls, and vortexes that open up in the ground to suck you in.
In this section, the A button has a different function, and here it makes you somersault, so that you may evade the various hazards. Once you have collected all the droplets, a sort of checkpoint will appear on the ground, and touching it will start an animation of a door opening which leads back to the land of the living, and Polterguy will dance a little jig to some rock music, before entering it for another attempt at exacting revenge in the real world.
Every time you have to go back to the dungeon, you are slightly weaker, and this is shown by a face icon of Polterguy, which fades away more each time you go down here, and leaves you weaker, and more easily dispatched by the lurking darkness. When the face completely disappears it is game-over.
If you manage to scare away the entire Sardini clan, they will move to another house, and you keep pursuing them from one home to the next for as long as you can.
The visuals come off quite well, and there are loads of neat animations to grab your attention. This is of course an American game, and sort of has the flavour of some older Atari games like Paper Boy or Toobin’, in terms of the overall presentation, as well as the staging and articulation of the scenes. There are various silly visual gags, like pants falling down, and heads exploding, which expands on the cartoon theme of the proceedings. Some of the animations are quite gory, sort of in the fashion of a game like Battle Chess, where here body parts will fall out of the cupboard in a pool of blood, or a head will be decapitated, but it’s all done in a sort of light comic horror style which isn’t offensive.
The audio side of things compliments the visuals well enough, with some suitably ghoulish synthesised tunes, the one that plays in the dungeon section is more upbeat, and reflects the transition in the pace.
Sound is used here to some good effect, especially the heart beat of your victim, which starts out slow, and gradually becomes more frantic as they shift into a terrified state of mind. Other sound samples like the nervous chattering of teeth, yelps and screams, and the roar of the various incarnations of monsters is fairly well realised given the limitations of the Genesis sound hardware.
The game-play isn’t varied or deep enough to sustain any kind of real long-term value. The game is as simplistic in execution as it sounds, so the game is essentially an arcade style burst of two highly limited contrasting play styles, both being quite basic, so your interest will probably wane after only a few games. The only motivation for progressing deeper into the game is to see different level layouts, and some new animated content. I suppose it just depends on how much you like the formula.
The Bottom Line
I was honestly rather taken by this offering from EA, because it takes a chance at breaking away from the usual dire platform capers that are so overly abundant, it’s refreshing to play something that is a bit different, and dare I say it, even original. It doesn’t completely pay off, as it is really a bit too simplistic to hold your attention for more than an afternoon, but its fun and moves along well enough, which makes it initially quite captivating. The overall presentation has a kind of a manic charm which creates a unique atmosphere that harks back to a different, albeit simpler time.
Genesis · by Nick Drew (397) · 2007
Related Sites +
AllGameGuide.com - Haunting Starring Polterguy
Screenshots, cover art, & video!
- MobyGames ID: 8222
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Juan Ramirez.
Game added January 23rd, 2003. Last modified February 22nd, 2023.