THE HAUNTING / EA / Sega Genesis

If you can get past the "Poochie" design of main character Polterguy, The Haunting is actually an enjoyable little oddity for the Genesis. At least for a little while.

Our "radical dood" Polterguy apparently was once a living, breathing sk8r boi, but a defective board caused him to do a 360 shove it to broken neck or something. As a member of the undead, he's decided to use his spectral powers to haunt the president of the company that manufactured the board, one Mr. Sardini, and his immediate family.

The goal of the game is to chase the Sardinis out of four houses by making spooky stuff happen and gradually driving them insane with terror. You've got an "ecto" meter that continually decreases, however, and can only be replenished when you scare a Sardini to such a degree that they run from a room in uncontrollable panic. Run out of "ecto", and you're kicked to some cheap-looking basement "underworld", where you have to dodge the beefy arms from Monkey Island 2 ("If this is five, what's this?"), bats and other miscellaneous obstacles a ghost shouldn't care about while you follow a trail of "ecto". Collect all the ecto drops from the basement/underworld and you return to your campaign of terror in the house at the point which you left off; get hit too many times en route and it's game over. In the first house, you just need to watch the ecto meter and try not to die when you get kicked to the basement, but in later houses, the Sardinis get a dog that can detect and chase you, and these little critters called "ecto beasts" show up when ecto is dropped to compete with you for it and throw attacks at you.

The meat of the game is in the scares you deliver to the Sardinis via household objects, and this portion of it is extremely well done. The four Sardinis will wander the house seemingly aimlessly, and the goal is to set up an efficient string of scares by "possessing" objects around each room. This leads to some really great, detailed, and sometimes surprisingly bloody and grim animations. There's not a whole lot of strategy to it, since they will wander over automatically to inspect anything you've possessed, but you need to at least start with something in their line of site as they move about, and there's special objects in some rooms that you can directly control (like a floating chainsaw) to keep them trapped in a room for a while, racking up bonus ecto as their terror level shoots through the roof.

The bad bit of the game is pretty much everything else. The collision detection in the basement sequences is pretty bad - sometimes you're right over the ecto and still won't grab it for some inexplicable reason, sometimes you're nowhere near it and it somehow gets picked up anyway. There's a few battle sequences in the game as well, including an overly long and difficult one that wraps the game up after the four houses are spooked out completely, and these sequences are just shoddy, hard to control and immensely frustrating. The game would have been vastly better off without them.

The concept is great, but it ends up just being sort of a neat novelty that you wish would have been expanded on much more. Once you've seen all the "scare" animations, you've really seen all that's worth seeing here. Different families to creep out would also have added some welcome variety, as following the Sardinis - who never seem to get wise and just call the Ghostbusters - makes it seem kinda like you're playing the
same level over and over.

I'd imagine it was a decent 2 or 3-day rental back in the day, and I'd say it's worth seeing at a low price, but don't expect too much meat on these spooky bones.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video