The Sega Genesis was certainly an interesting system. Compared to the Super Nintendo, the Genesis always seemed to get the lion’s share of bizarre games… such as this cult classic released by Electronic Arts in 1993.
Yeah, that’s right… EA Games. Back in the day, they were actually a pretty good company. Games like Road Rash, Jungle Strike, and Mutant League Football were immensely popular on the Genesis, and overall they weren’t afraid to take risks with unique game concepts. And thanks to that, we got Haunting, starring Polterguy from… Haunting Starring Polterguy. Look how fucking rad he is.
Polterguy, as you may have guessed, is a poltergeist. Having died in a skateboarding accident, he now seeks revenge on the manufacturer of the defective ‘board: Vito Sardini. Your goal throughout the game is to torment the Sardini family by possessing objects and scaring the shit out of them.
Pretty much anything can be possessed, from furniture and appliances to the floor and walls themselves in some places. Some activate automatically like traps, some need to be activated manually, and others can be directly controlled. Your goal in each stage is to scare the Sardinis out of the house one by one; they’ll roam the house freely, and you’ll need to follow them when they run out of a room. It sounds simple, but there’s certainly some timing and strategy involved. Also worth pointing out that the Sardinis have a pet chihuahua that can detect you and not only lowers your meter, but also reduces the fear level of any family member nearby.
Polterguy’s “ecto” meter drains over time, and when it’s empty, he goes to the Underworld where he has to pick up ecto drops to refill his meter. The Underworld is also home to loads of enemies who want to kill him for some reason, and if he’s hit enough times, it’s game over and you need to start from the beginning of the game. However, you can also find items in the Underworld that will help you in your hauntings.
When you complete a stage, the Sardinis move to a new house and you follow them. Admittedly, it all boils down to the same shit, with very little variety to the gameplay. However, a huge part of the game’s charm comes from the multitude of ways you can scare the Sardinis, with new options popping up in each stage. They range from goofy to morbid to downright disturbing.
All in all, Haunting Starring Polterguy is a pretty fun little game, in a way setting the stage for later games such as Ghost Trick and Geist. It can be a bit frustrating with its lack of continues, but it’s a fondly-remembered relic of the days when EA still gave a shit. Give it a try.