After the mental, physical, and spiritual horrors inflicted upon me after playing – or should I say, suffering – Wayward Manor, I had all but given up hope of playing a good haunted house puzzle game; believing that Ghost Master had been the pinnacle of haunting entertainment. I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Dead wrong. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahaha!
Ahem. Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror has a bare bones exposition: Henry Knight built his dream mansion with his own two wealthy hands. Alas, his wife died not long after its completion. Being the sentimental sort, Henry spends every waking minute in his home, pacing and brooding. He paces himself to an early grave, but his obsession outlives his corporeal form and he takes up permanent residence. Unfortunately for Henry, the homeowner’s association doesn’t recognize ghostly squatting rights and the house goes up for sale… fortunately for Henry he’s a poltergeist.
This is where the game starts. Little cartoony, 2D folks and pets meander about in a series of rooms (including bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces, etc.), violating the sanctity of your home – it has a very nostalgia-licious LEGO-y aesthetic. You’ll have a variety of ghostly ways to evict these unwanted tenants: levitating items, flinging them, possession, and much more. With each level you’ll find more people – with varying “health” bars – and rooms, but you’ll only have a set number of abilities, so you’ll have to be crafty. Some folks will be busy with a good book, distracted to the point where they’ll fail to notice your spiritual shenanigans. Others will be more hearty and will require extra scares. You’ll have to be creative, flinging items from one room to the next, or creating a noise to get people gathered into one spooky spot.
And just when you get used to making the most of each scare you’ll encounter tougher enemies. Wizards, priests, busters of ghosts, gypsies, and other spiritually sensitive types will come to visit, and they’ll be immune to certain haunts. Some might be able to handle a possession; others will stop any of your fling-happy tantrums. The old mechanics still apply – you’ll just have to be more creative, using their weaknesses against them.
Finally, you’ll have to deal with bosses. After completing one of the game’s eras, which include classic, 80s, modern, and others, you’ll face off against a truly masterful spiritualist with a prowess for stopping apparitions. You’ll have to eliminate an entire floor of the building full of people, all the while avoiding their nonsense. When you’ve scared everyone away and they’re alone, you’ll see their mettle for what it truly is.
Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is simple, wholesome, good-hearted fun. It isn’t brave or bold or new, but it’s fun and silly, and sometimes that’s all that matters. It’s adorable to look at but challenging; a classic ghost story with puzzle mechanics and no delusions of being anything but a cute distraction. If I have to fault it with anything, it’s that sometimes the furniture and items you manipulate clip through walls and people, which ends up looking goofy. That being said, Poltergeist will likely join my ever-increasing list of Halloween game traditions (Costume Quest, Amnesia). I would recommend you find space for it too. Or don’t; that’s fine too. It will likely find space for you.