Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 8

For some challenging puzzle based gameplay with a spooky twist look no further than Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror. The game features charming visuals, an appropriately spooky soundtrack and plenty of puzzles that will have you racking your brain for the solution. The pixelated visuals are not exactly cutting edge, but the addictive gameplay makes the game hard to put down. Overall, it is quite an impressive offering from a very small studio and is definitely worth checking out.

Gameplay: Use your puzzle solving skills and supernatural powers to scare some pesky people out of your haunted house.

Graphics: Features an interesting blend of 2D sprites and 3D objects, all with a pixel art twist.

Gameplay: Spooky tunes and plenty of screams

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Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror

Developer: Glitchy Pixel | Publisher: Glitchy Pixel | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Indie / Casual / Puzzle | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

With Halloween looming on the horizon I was expecting a few spooky titles to make an appearance, but Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror caught me by surprise. It stars Henry B. Knight, a man so devastated by the tragic passing of his wife that he confines himself to his mansion and refuses to move on even after his own death. With the supernatural powers he gained from his attachment to the mansion, Henry focusses on scaring away any and all who dare set foot in his beloved abode.

I was expecting something like the 16bit classic Haunting: Starring Polterguy or the more recent, Ghost Master, but despite some similarities, Poltergeist is much more of a puzzle title. Instead of controlling the spirit of Henry directly you are given a handful of powers with which to drive away everyone inside the mansion. Each level consists of a few rooms and a couple of people roaming around inside them. Barring the bosses, the people won’t travel between rooms unless driven to do so by one of your powers. Since you are given a limited amount of each power per level you have to use them in the most efficient manner possible to win.

Things start off easily enough with a small selection of rooms and folks that are quick to scare, but after the tutorial levels are done and new powers are introduced things become a bit trickier. Not only do the amount of rooms per level increase, but folks become harder to scare as well. Each person has a scare bar shown above their head which must be emptied before they flee the mansion in terror. To make matters worse special characters are introduced, such as ghost hunters, priests, psychic mediums and more who are able to block certain powers. This means you have to isolate them from other people or else they will block specific powers for the entire room. The game is designed in such a way that if you waste a single power you usually won’t be able to complete the level. There is no optional “three star” awards here for scaring everyone away, nothing less than perfection will win you the level.

Completing each of the sixty levels that the game has to offer requires quite a bit of planning although the difficulty felt a bit uneven. Sometimes I breezed through a couple of levels with no problems before hitting one that had me scratching my head in frustration. Although you have eight powers at your disposal not all of them are available to you on each level and you can usually only use the ones you have once or twice.

Powers include the ability to shake things, make a noise to lure people into a room, throw things, possess people and the ability to possess objects. Later on you will also be able to call specters, summon a ghostly dog to chase people into another rooms, and create vortexes that sucks in everyone nearby. Sometimes people are distracted, which means you have to scare them first in order to get their attention or to get them away from objects you need. Since each room typically have a limited amount of objects to interact with, which objects you use is often just as important as what power you use on them. After all, having the ability to throw or rattle something in a room won’t help much if there is nobody in the room or no objects to use these powers on. I would have liked the ability to rewind instead of having to restart the entire level after making a mistake, but each level is generally short enough that this isn’t a big issue.

Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror runs on the Unity engine and, true to its name, features some nice pixelated visuals. The visuals are actually a blend of 2D sprites for all the characters and 3D objects for the stuff that you can move around. Since the 3D objects use the same pixel art style as the sprites the difference isn’t that jarring and it means that objects you throw around actually employ physics. The physics are not always very realistic, but it is still a nice touch and provides some humorous moments. The isometric overhead view cannot be rotated or zoomed, so all you can do is scroll around the playing area. This never felt limiting though and levels are generally small enough that you can view almost everything without having to scroll around too much. The interface could probably have benefited from a bit more polish, but overall I really like the visual design of the game. The focus is definitely more comedic than spooky though. The game has four themes, so you get to scare men, woman and dogs during the classic, eighties, modern and office eras. Each era has its own style with modern eras introducing distractions such as televisions to make your life harder.

The audio features a couple of appropriately spooky tunes and some rather nice sound effects. The screams of terror as your victims flee the mansion is particularly well done and never gets old. Although the music isn’t particularly memorable it does fit the theme of the game quite well and never becomes annoying which is a big plus. The game is entirely mouse driven as well and would work quite on tablets should the developers ever decide to bring it to mobile devices.

Overall Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror offers enough addictive levels to keep players busy for quite a while. The length of the game felt about right for the price and I was quite impressed by what the small team of Columbian developers were able to accomplish. This game apparently won the Square Enix Latin American Game Contest back in 2012 and the team made some improvements for this Steam release. If you are looking for a nice relaxing game, with no time limit and simple to understand gameplay, then you could do far worse than Poltergeist.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP+
  • Processor: SSE2 instruction set support
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: DX9 (shader model 2.0) capabilities
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • OS: Windows 7+
  • Processor: SSE2 instruction set support
  • Graphics: DX9 (shader model 2.0) capabilities
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space

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