BOO! Ghostly puzzle game will have you feeling incorporeal.
Imagine playing an old Resident Evil title but you are a zombie. Silent Hill but you’re pyramid head. Mario brothers but you play as…a goomba? This time of year is perfect for spooky themes and survival horror. How many games put you in the seat of the horror itself? Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror may be a light-hearted puzzler, but thematically this game sets itself apart from the pack with it’s simple yet challenging game play.
You are Henry B. Knight. You’ve built a mansion during your life and refuse to let anyone occupy your space despite a lack of heartbeat. Each set of levels takes place in a different time period. The first in the 1890’s, the second the 1980’s, followed by the modern era, and concluding during the office era. Each era new sets of people move in; Each era a new chance to scare the pants off them. Everyone has their own mentality about death. In the end, the most we can hope for is to leave a legacy behind. In Poltergiest: APH., you never leave at all.
The game play is simple. You have eight different powers in a limited capacity and you are required to scare the bejeezus out of everyone until they exit the building. This can be done in a variety of ways with things like possession, levitation, throwing objects from room to room, and even materializing beasts to chase them. Every level gives you a different combination to work with. The simplistic layout and setup will throw you off at first. There is a very specific way that each character reacts to each of your powers. It’s easy to sit back during a game like this, but despite everything being laid out for you to see it takes a strong grasp of how the people react before you can solve puzzles critically.
The real catch comes in after the first few levels. There are specialty characters who can block certain scares make you have to work your way around and plan you scares well if you’re going to succeed. Each character has a health bar above their head so you can study what is needed in order to get their attention or scare them senseless. At the end of each set of levels there are three boss stages where you have to scare everyone in the room before them, otherwise they can block every one of the scares in your arsenal rendering you useless.
Something that irked me about Poltergeist: APH is the difficulty seems to be set at random throughout the game. I got stuck on the fifth level, but once I found the solution I breezed through a whole bunch until I hit the next road block sometime around the boss. When the next set of levels started the first few were relatively easy again, granted there was a new power introduced. A few occasions worked out for me trial and error when I was trying to learn the aspects of the level, while other times I couldn’t figure out what to do for the life of me. There seem to be multiple solutions for each level, which is nice. Most of the levels ended with me using the last scare I had while others left me with a few in the bag.
Poltergeist: APH was created by Glitchy Pixel, a tiny developer from Columbia. This game definitely feels like an indie game, but Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror has a lot of charm to it. The visuals are 16-bit era throwback and the different characters for each time period are fun. During the 1890’s I had exorcists and gypsies to thwart while in the 1980’s there are ghostbusters and mullets. When I first started playing Poltergeist: APH, I couldn’t help but think that this would make a good iOS game. It seems like something simple enough to pick up even for people who aren’t regular gamers, but challenging enough to have a wide audience. Poltergeist won’t blow your mind, but you’ll get a good laugh out of the concept and a sense of accomplishment every time you send someone running out of the room. if you’re looking for something quirky to pass some time during this Halloween season look no further.
Final Verdict 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Mac, Linux, PS Vita; Developer: Glitchy Pixel; Players: 1; Released: Oct. 21, 2014; Genre: Puzzle; MSRP: $7.99