One thing every gamer knows for sure, scaring, torturing and generally being nasty to NPCs is fun. We’re not entirely sure why, just that it is and it’s immensely satisfying. This is something that Columbian two-person team Glitchy Pixel seems to know all too well and uses it in an interesting way.
In Poltergeist: A Pixilated Horror you play as Henry B. Knight. In the Year 1890 Henry bought a plot of land and built a mansion to live in with his loving wife. For reasons unknown his wife dies shortly after moving in to the mansion. Henry becomes a recluse, attacking anyone who comes to his home. He vows on his deathbed that he won’t lose his house like he lost his wife. As a result he becomes a poltergeist and so the haunting begins.
Music and visuals are fairly adequate for the most part. Nothing to write home about but they do the job. However, to have ‘musak’ better known as annoying elevator music as the theme of the Office Era was horrific. I actually had to turn the music volume down at that point. I don’t remember ever having to do that with a game before, I just couldn’t tolerate it anymore. The touchscreen controls are responsive and fairly accurate. There are manual controls if you prefer, though, I never felt the need to use them.
If you were after a genuinely scary horror game, this is not it. Instead it’s more comedic relief that draws upon many horror franchises. First thing it reminded me of was an old Megadrive game, The Haunting featuring Polterguy. The familiar mechanics of scaring people by possessing objects is awesome fun. I wish more developers with larger budgets would take note of this. You could even go really dark with it but I digress.
Essentially it’s a puzzle game that uses scaring NPCs with ghost powers as it’s main mechanic. Clear the house of unwanted guests and you pass the level. Haunting through the ages the game takes us to the Classic Era, Eighties Era, Modern Era and Office Era. They each consist of 15 levels with the final three levels of each Era as a boss battle.
The skills at your disposal include, move object, lure, throw object, possess person, possess object, shadow ghost, demon dog and Vortex. There are hero type characters that can nullify your powers effects. They come in the form of Ghostbusters (I kid you not) Witches, Gypsies, Priests and Skeptics. Understanding their weaknesses is key to beating the overall puzzle. Another interesting mechanic was the NPCs being distracted. Having to get their attention to free up objects they were using only added to the challenge.
Bosses are completely immune to all your abilities. Each boss has a unique trait to make the level even more challenging. For example there’s a Ghostbuster who puts traps in each room. Each trap will nullify a single ghost ability used in that room. You have to think carefully about what powers to waste to take out the traps and what to use for clearing the house. Once the boss is on their own you get a special attack that makes them run for the hills.
Overall, Poltergeist: A pixilated horror is a fun and challenging 4-6 hour puzzle game that I personally couldn’t put down until I finished it. There’s a time trial that’s unlocked by completing the game but other than that there’s no other reason to replay. There are glitches where NPCs end up in a room they’re not supposed to be in but these are very rare. This game never pretends to be anything other than what it is. It’s a quaint yet challenging puzzle game that hit’s at the sadistic side of every gamer that gets a vicarious thrill out of torturing NPCs.
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