My birthday happened as it does every year in February, and this year I finally got the one system I’d never gotten when I was little, the Sega Genesis. It is the weird retro remake that fits nicely into the palm of my hand, is packed with about 30 older games and plays some of the cartridges that I’ve found. One of those titles I’ve wanted to play for about twenty years is Haunting: Starring Polterguy, and it fired up quite nicely. Originally released in 1993 for the Sega Genesis by Electronic Arts, when they were still making creative games, it was a little gem that I missed in my youth but get to enjoy now.
As with a majority of 16-bit era games, the story is quite a flimsy one. You play as Polterguy, a recently deceased teenager who dressed like he fell out of 1950. How Polterguy dies remains a mystery in the game, but I’m assuming the family he begins to haunt may have had a hand in it. That makes sense right? He decides to haunt the Sardini Family of four from house to house. Obviously the houses are the “levels” in this game, and you get a brief break from the houses when you run out of ectoplasm. You get sent into a purgatory when you run out of ectoplasm. From there, you pick up your lost ectoplasm while avoiding holes and hands that are trying to take you to Hell. You lose your ectoplasm while scaring this family all over the neighborhood. Well, that’s the story, Oscar worthy right?
The controls are very easy in this game; there is no learning curve whatsoever here. The A button enters the “fright em” spots that help scare the family out of their room, then out of their house. The B button allows Polterguy to kick and spin kick, and finally the C button gets you to the power up menu. You need the B button as you get farther in game. After you scare a family member, ectoplasm drops, and there are other ghosts that want it. If you’re fast enough you won’t have to use the B button, but should you be confronted with a ghost trying to steal what is yours, you can kick them back to hell. When you hit the C button you can choose a special move, but for the life of me I never actually got it to work. A huge present appeared when I pressed C, but the family member never opened it up…so sad.
The most useful button is obviously A; this one allows you to scare the crap out of the four people in the house with the “fright em” spots. There are three types of the spots; blue, yellow, and green, and they all scare the family member in a different way. The blue spots, when triggered, shake until the unsuspecting victim investigates, and then they unleash hell on the victim giving them a nice scare. The yellow ones are activated when the family member looks in your direction while extremely frightened; this allows you to scare them with eyes in a rug and so on. Finally, the green spots, those are ones the player gets to control once activated. You can take control of toy airplanes and dive bomb the family members and so on. All of this costs you ectoplasm though so remember that as you scare the family because you will have to go back to purgatory every now and then.
Like a majority of 16-bit games, this one has also aged very well. The characters look pretty good, and their animations are great. Of course they do get repetitive; you can only scare someone so much before their scared face gets boring. The music fits the game; it’s a spooky tune that travels through most of the game. You actually tune it out the farther you get because you get so used to it. The controls are tight. I didn’t find myself losing lives or ectoplasm due to them. I did find the game insanely repetitive though; this isn’t a game I see myself playing over and over. It is very unique though which is a breath of fresh air. Games today are just mimics of other games and that gets very boring. I miss the humor and originality from this era, and the one that followed it. It was a creative humor than we rarely get now and I long for those days of puns and mocks.