The Haunting: Starring Polterguy

The Haunting Starring Polterguy
The Haunting Starring Polterguy Cover
Platforms Genesis, PSP
Genre Frightening Scarefest Simulator
MtAMinutes to Action 7
Score 8  Clock score of 8Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 8
Gfx/Sound: 8
Story: 2
Buy from Amazon

The Haunting Starring Polterguy is a 1993 Sega Genesis game all about scaring a rich family out of their snazzy home any way possible. This is a pretty obscure game and the only way I know anything about it is from my deep past where I used to read any video game magazine I could get my hands on. One of them was Game Players, and in one of those issues lies a review for The Haunting. I have no idea what score it got but it stuck in my mind as "this game sounds cool and someday I would like to play it." Well, that someday has finally arrived 15 years later, and it's pretty much as cool as I vaguely remembered wanting it to be.

I really don't know anything else about this game, except that it is probably the goriest 16-bit game I have ever played. There are severed heads, tons of blood, and lots of other crazy stuff that kept surprising me. Just check out the screenshots below and you'll see what I'm talking about. On that note, let's get right into the review.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I press the Start button and the first hour begins. A cutscene begins showing off a family moving into their "snazzy new home." Whoever is narrating (text at top) has a surprise for them!

Haunting Sardini Family Moving Truck

01 - Now we're looking inside their house from a Sims-style isometric view. The wall of the house if cutout to show the inside. Polterguy introduces himself as the "green dude hangin' on the left." The woman in the room with me is Flo Sardini. I guess she can't she the green zombie guy in the room.

02 - Haha, Polterguy looks like he's on rollerskates the way he's moving his legs while just standing there, and he just did a few laps around Flo to boot. Polterguy moves around the room and shows me "fright 'ems" which he uses the scare the family. Fright 'ems show up as glowing orbs on nearly every object he approaches. For the record, this is still the intro, I'm not controlling anything.

04 - Pressing the A button makes Polterguy dive into a fright 'em and A again has him jump out, this triggers the object. Haha, the demo has him jumping in and out of objects making them quiver, Flo walks over and gets scared as they transform into something crazy!

Haunting Flo Sardini Evil Bed Toupee Scared

05 - These character animations are really good, well detailed and they seem quite varied. Flo runs out of the room screaming and some green goop appears on the floor. Polterguy has to collect that for whatever reason.

06 - Now it's a scene of the Sardini family eating, the kids are throwing food at each other. Awesome! The chandelier just fell from the ceiling freaking everyone out!

07 - I now have control over Polterguy, sweet. I'm in the family room and my first target is the father. I jump in and out of the dartboard. As he approaches it, the board turns into a blood dripping eyeball! Nasty! Next the armchair starts licking him. Vito Sardini's fear level begins to rise.

Haunting Sardini Family Chandelier Falling Scared

09 - Wow, this game is pretty creative. I turn Polterguy into a small rocking chair and start chasing Vito around the room! His fear level is so high he just runs right out of there!

10 - There's a green bar that is continually depleted, I guess I have to scare the family and collect the ecto goo balls to keep it up. The ecto is only released after the family member runs from the room. Pressing the Start button brings up a map of the house and shows where the family members are.

12 - Next up I find the son, Tony and begin freaking him out. He has a Ninja poster on his wall and that's my first object of manipulation. Oh man, this kid screams like a little girl! He also has quite a few things to take over in this room such as a model plane and a skull in his drawer. They certainly freak him out good. Though the plane crashed and I think Polterguy lost a bit of health.

Haunting Vito Sardini Polterguy Bloody Eyeball

14 - Tony runs out of his bedroom in horror and I collect the ecto. On the map it looks like I'll be harassing the daughter, Mimi next.

15 - Well, after a minute of torturing her with oversized ballerina dolls and moving teddy bears, Polterguy's health runs out and I'm in a brand new place. It's somewhere underground, poltergeist hell maybe? Guess it is called the Dungeon. Anyways, I have to collect ecto drops to continue. They're just dripping from the ceiling.

17 - Geez, I have to collect every drop in linear order or else an arrow will tell me to go back, and there are a lot of drops and a lot of things that want to kill me down here. Hairy arms trying to grab me from the walls, bursts of steam from the ground, and bats that escape from coffins. Nothing too horrifying, not like in the house...

Haunting Polterguy Dungeon Ecto Drops

19 - After collecting all the drops, Polterguy starts breakdancing. Hilarious. I'm back in Mimi's room now with a full health bar. Well, she just ran out. I'm not really sure what my end goal is? To scare everyone in the house at the same time? Not really sure. Time for some Flo action.

20 - I find the mom in the kitchen, should have some fun in here... Well, I just chased her out of there in record time. Polterguy jumped in the freezer and for whatever reason turned into a black cat and chased her from the room. I follow her into the lounge.

22 - Woah! Mama Flo got so scared her dress fell down revealing her 16-bit black panties. That was a frightening moment for me! There seem to be three colors of orbs that designate different types of objects. Blue orbs attract the person over and scare them when they approach, orange orbs don't attract the person so you have to time it when they're nearby, and green orbs are flying objects that you can chase them around the room with.

Haunting Flo Sardini Polterguy Black Panties

24 - Flo ran out and checking the map, Vito looks seriously not scared right now, time for some more action with him.

25 - Just scared Vito with some orange orb swamp monster, good timing by the Polterguy! Vito runs out of the room in supreme horror. Tony is nearby and looking calm...

27 - After frightening Tony kind of lamely, he runs out of the front door and has disappeared from the map! Is he really gone?

Haunting Vito Flo Tony Mimi Sardini House Map

28 - I scare Mimi in the living room and have barely half of my life left. I think I'll keep chasing Mimi and maybe end up banishing her from the house?

31 - Awesome, after chasing Mimi around through a bunch of rooms, I have kicked her out of the house! But now I'm getting chased by a floating green head, and it hurts me when it touches me (that didn't sound that good...).

32 - Mama Flor was back in the lounge and it was time to banish her for good! A few timely orange orbs has me sending her out the back door in a jiffy. Only Vito is left, but my green ecto bar is nearly out.

Haunting Vito Sardini Severed Head Bloody

34 - Vito is in the kitchen and there was a pretty gruesome scene where I inhabited a chopping block and a severed head appeared dripping with blood! This caused Vito to literally jump out of his clothing.

35 - Oh man, I think I scared Vito enough to get him out of the room, but I ran out of life and am back in the dungeon. Now I'm getting a bunch of skulls chucked at me! But a moment later I'm break dancing with the best of them.

37 - Back in action with full life and Vito the only one left in the house. Crap, the loser just ran back into the kitchen where he was before. I also forgot to grab the ecto balls in the room I scared him in, whoops.

Haunting Vito Sardini Swamp Floor Monster

39 - Ah, there goes Vito out the back door and Polterguy does one last break dance for the heck of it. Polterguy taunts the family as they run out saying "I'm right behind your sorry butts!"

40 - Some rock riffs start playing and we see some art of Polterguy proclaiming his victory over those slimeballs. Haha, he just said that they dissed him. That's classic.

41 - Nice, another cutscene plays showing the family moving into their new home! Awesome! But I'm back in the underground world to collect ecto, not so awesome.

Haunting Sardini Family Sorry Butts

43 - The Dungeon is a lot harder this time, I get beat up quite a bit, but I don't die. Never! Well, now that that's over with, looks like I'm in the Sardini's brand new house now. The layout looks different but it's still all the same concept. Ah, Mimi is in the same room as me! Haha! She just wet herself!

45 - What the... looks like a dog just walked through the room. Dogs usually detect ghosts, don't they? Well, he made it through harmlessly.

47 - I'm going to continue hounding Mimi, her snide looks annoy me. I create a Grim Reaper apparition in the doorway, that freaks her out to the max, but then the dog wanders in and her fear goes back down to high. Stupid mutt. Okay, she keeps running between the same rooms, so I'm going to target Vito now.

Haunting Polterguy Floating Demonic Head

49 - Well, this game is getting kind of monotonous now. Scaring people over and over is interesting, but the animations are certainly repeating themselves. Though Vito did just lose his pants, good stuff.

50 - Speaking of monotony, I just lost all of my ecto bar and I'm back in the Dungeon.

52 - Geez, I have basically no health left down here. If I end up down here again I'm going to die for sure.

53 - That green head and the dog are chasing me now. But I'm chasing Vito... Ooh, he's in the bathroom now, I've never scared anyone in here.

Haunting Polterguy Tony Exploding Head Bathroom

55 - Now Vito is just running between the same rooms over and over. Lame.

57 - Tony gets so frightened he does the classic Exorcist head spin and careens out of his bedroom. Tony has left the building!

59 - Oh crap, my health bar is gone and I'm sent down under...

60 - It doesn't take long for me to lose what's left of my life. Polterguy wonders why the dungeon was trying to kill me when he was just trying to get some ecto, but that's that and the credits start to roll. The Haunting's first hour is complete. My high score was 32,271.

Now for some scores out of 10.

Haunting Polterguy Nasty Dungeon Game Over

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 7

Gameplay: 7
What The Haunting has going for it is some great original gameplay that I've really never seen anywhere else. Jumping into objects to make them come alive and scare people is simply awesome. I'm trying to think of games that have ever even come close to what The Haunting does and the only one that comes to mind is Mister Mosquito, a game where you play as a mosquito terrorizing a family in their house by sucking their blood. Anyways, like I mentioned near the beginning, Polterguy controls like he's on rollerskates and that just doesn't feel right. Picking up ecto goo is inconsistent and the whole Dungeon sequence just plain sucks. It totally removes you from the real fun and I'm not sure what the point of that was.

Fun Factor: 8
The Haunting is simply a fun game for the one hour I played it, though I honestly don't think the fun would last much longer. This is a problem for these arcadey games, the first hour is typically pretty fun but sessions that last longer than that can grow to be really repetitive. I was starting to feel that repetitiveness kick in at around the 50 minute mark and was ready for the hour to end. But what I played was original and very fun. There are a ton of objects to mess around with in the game and the family's reactions are classic. Great stuff.

Graphics and Sound: 8
I saw a few screenshots for this game and wasn't really impressed, but I was super impressed by this game after seeing it in action. The isometric view works perfectly for the gameplay and the sprite animations were simply great. There are only five characters but there is a lot of variety in terms of movement, reactions, and responses. All the objects morph smoothly into their evil counterpart and I was constantly smiling at all the surprises this game had for me. There is so much original content in The Haunting, great stuff. As for the sound, none of the music stood out but the sound effects were pretty good. The family's screams were quite memorable and the objects sounded real. I feel like the game could have used some voice acting though, plenty of Super Nintendo games did at the time but I'm not familiar enough with Genesis games to know if it was really possible for them.

Story: 2
Okay, what bothers me about The Haunting is that we have Polterguy, a poltergeist who is for whatever reason ticked off at this family and wants to cause them as much trouble as possible. The Sardini family may be rich but there doesn't appear to be any motive behind Polterguy's antics. Once again, maybe this is the case of the mysterious instruction manual story similar to Turok, but maybe a short flashback showing the family somehow causing the death of Polterguy would have helped. Also, what is the Dungeon and why does Polterguy get sent there? And what are these floating green heads doing chasing me? Man, there sure are a lot of questions!

Overall: 8
This game really surprised me, I was thinking going in that this would be another bomb like the last few weeks, but The Haunting's first hour gave me a solid game. There's a short tutorial at the beginning that pretty much told me everything I needed to know, though an explanation on the orb colors would have been helpful. The Dungeon sequence was pretty bad and seemingly unnecessary, and pretty much the only blemish on this game. This is a unique and quirky experience that I would recommend checking out, even if it's just for an hour.

Haunting Polterguy Slimeballs Deserve It
Polterguy is green but his nose is quite Caucasian.