Formats: Mega Drive, PSP (via EA Replay)
EA gets a lot of criticism these days for knocking out games that arenâ€™t exactly innovate. Our take is that this criticism isnâ€™t entirely justified â€“ Boom Blox remains one of our favourite Wii games, physics-based puzzler Create was vastly overlooked, and weâ€™ve heard good things about Henry Hatsworth on DS. Back in the â€˜90s though, nobody could say that EA wasnâ€™t willing to experiment with new ideas. The Mega Drive-exclusive Haunting: Starring Polterguy is a fine example, with the idea being to force a family from their home by scaring the pixels out of them.
Thereâ€™s a reason for doing so â€“ the Saradini family made their fortune selling cheap and faulty skateboards, and now the undead teenager Polterguy wants them to suffer. Obviously trying to relate to the developerâ€™s audience at the time, Polterguy speaks in now-annoying skater speak. Dude!
In order to freak out the family, Polterguy had to possess their furniture until theyâ€™d leg it out of the house. Each possession required Ecto â€“ a green goo that family members sometimes left on the ground after being scared silly. Every possession led to a different animation, and this is what gave Haunting a lot of its appeal â€“ the animations were quite creative. Jump into the kitchen table and it oozed blood; possess a guitar and it turned into a snake. Some even gave you control of an object for a few seconds, such as a floating skull. There were over 400 items in total that could be brought to life in some form or another â€“ quite impressive given the limited memory storage of cartridges at the time.
When Polterguyâ€™s Ecto ran dry heâ€™d be taken to an dank underworld dungeon. This was where the game took a tumble for the worst. These sections simply were not fun â€“ giant fists appeared out of the ground without warning, sapping Polterguyâ€™s health, and due to the isometric perspective jumping onto ledges and the like was a pain. The other problem Haunting suffered from is that when youâ€™d seen the possession animations a couple of times they’d become a little bit tedious.
There were four houses to haunt though, with a family dog later making an appearance. The dog was the only character able to detect Polterguyâ€™s presence. Right at the end of the game the dog turned into a giant beast â€“ the final boss.
You kind of got the impression that the idea for Haunting came first â€“ to scare a family out of their home â€“ and then the developerâ€™s struggled with how to actually base a game around this idea. Still, for gamers at the time it provided a change from the usual 2D platformers out there.
2003â€™s Ghost Master for PlayStation 2, Xbox and PC shared a similar theme but likewise could have done with a bit more flesh on its rather bare bones.
It did get pretty tedious, pretty quick (the game, not the review), but the review is a nice reminder of a game that seemed an exciting, interesting concept at the time.
Didn’t realise that Henry Hatsworth was by EA – I should really look more closely at boxes.
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