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Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror

Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror

Written by Cyril Lachel on 11/19/2014 for PC  
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There's something inherently fun about a haunted house. Oh sure, a supernatural attack is probably the single most horrifying moment of a tenant's life, but it always seems like the ghosts are having a great time. If Beetlejuice taught me anything, it's that Harry Belafonte is the perfect mood music for uncomfortable dinner parties. More on topic, the 1988 movie went out of its way to definitively prove that it's better to be the one haunting than the person cowering in terror.

Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror takes the Bettlejuice approach, putting you in the slightly transparent shoes of a ghost haunting a large mansion. You play Henry B. Knight, a wealthy man who vows to keep his sizeable estate free from new tenants after the tragic death of his wife. He does this by making scary sounds, throwing chairs around the room and even possessing his unsuspecting victims. It all leads to a ghoulishly fun puzzle game that is a perfect fit on the PS Vita.

The goal of each stage is simple: Spook all of the unwelcome houseguests until they run from the house in tears. But just because you're incorporeal doesn't mean you have an unlimited bag of tricks. As it turns out, Henry has a set number of moves in each stage. This means that players will need to plan out their ghoulish scares, or else our hero will run out of moves and be forced to attempt the stage over from the start.

What makes this haunting tricky is that each of the living characters has their own health bar. Simply making spooky sounds or shaking a table won't be enough to run everybody out, so players will need to figure out how to get the most out of each scare. Henry will discover that some frights are more effective than others, and knowing the best times to use each scare is the only way to win this game.

To make things even more complicated, some of our spectral hero's tricks won't work against certain types of humans. Gypsies, exorcists and even "ghostbusters" are able to block some of Henry's more powerful attacks, forcing the player to rethink their strategies. It all comes down to figuring out the right steps to scare everybody away from Henry's cherished mansion.

Although the concept is simple, Glitchy Pixel manages to keep the puzzles fresh by constantly adding new challenges to overcome. There are 60 unique puzzles spread across four different eras, each with their own set of characters to scare and objects to manipulate. The game starts in the 1890s, but Henry will also haunt the 1980s, present day and beyond. These four eras conclude with a series of challenging boss battles, each requiring players to spook all the other houseguests before going head-to-head with the person in charge.

As the decades stretch on, Henry has access to more frightening attacks. He is able to take control of the television and summon a ghoulish beast to chase the unwelcome houseguests. Even though there are only eight moves, it's fun to see how the different scares change throughout the eras. Having said that, I do wish there was more variety in the frights. The puzzles may change in interesting ways, but you'll likely get sick of seeing the same animations dozens of times.

Each puzzle is made up of a series of interconnected rooms, each viewed from an overhead isometric perspective. Players choose their attacks and manipulate the level by using the PS Vita's touchscreen, which works well for this style of puzzle game. Like the title suggests, the graphics are pixelated and resemble what you might have seen from late generation Super NES games. It has a look and theme that reminds me a lot of Haunting Starring Polterguy on the Sega Genesis.

Although I did get hung up on a few stages, I found that most of the puzzles were fairly easy to solve. The difficulty ramps up towards the end, but even then it didn't take more than a little trial and error to get past most obstacles. The levels are small and bite-sized, which makes this an ideal fit on Sony's handheld.

It may not be very scary, but Glitchy Pixel's newest Vita game proves once again that it's more fun being the ghost. And at $7.99, it's a great deal. With a memorable art style and dozens of clever puzzles to solve, Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is one of the best Halloween-themed games coming out this month.

What feels a lot like the spiritual successor to Haunting Starring Polterguy, Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is a clever puzzle game that puts players in the shoes of a ghost trying to scare away unwelcome guests. The gameplay may be simple, but the level design shines and the 16-bit visuals are charming. Glitchy Pixel's new game proves once and for all that it's more fun to be the ghost.

Rating: 8.5 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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