I've always been an advocate for creativity, and originality in the gaming industry. I believe developers who are willing to try new things are the future, and that those who copy others' works are just drawings us back into the past. Without innovation the gaming industry, or any other entertainment industry for that matter is doomed for failure. That's why it's always a pleasant surprise to stumble upon a game that incorporates such innovative features. Recently I had the privilege to play such a unique indie, the likes of which falls under the label of creativity which I just spoke about. I ended up enjoying my playthrough thoroughly, and intend on finishing the game to it's end soon. The game in question, for those of you who are wondering is GlitchyPixel's "Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror". They take the simple concept of a haunting, throw in a unique plot about the ghost of a former mansion owner, and add in gameplay that is definitely genius in it's own right.
In "Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror" you'll be taking on the role of a former mansion owner, and resident named 'Henry B. Knight'. His origin, and end story begins and ends in the 1890's after he loses his wife to an untimely death. As is the case with most life partners Henry is grieved by his loss, and eventually succumbs to the grips of death following his wife's passing. In the days, months, and possibly even years leading up to Henry's death he chooses to stay in the confines of his mansion vowing never to leave, and never to be driven out of his home. This vow holds true even in death as Henry continues to scare new occupants from the home on a regular basis as a ghost.
As you can probably guess you will be tasked with helping Henry scare the bejeezus out of new occupants as they try to settle in, and make Henry's home their own. Through four eras (Classic, 80's, Modern, Office), and 15 levels each you'll be using your haunting abilities to frighten off everything from loyal pets, to guests, and even special persons of interest who are there to rid the mansion of spirits. Your skills which are limited in availability, and in use in each stage include everything from noise distractions to poltergeist related object movement, and even human possession. Your goal, or aim is to use these limited supernatural resources to scare the occupants enough times that they run from the mansion screaming.
Above each of the occupant's heads you'll find a bubble gauge with multiple bubbles which clue you into how many times said individual has to be scared in order for them to leave the premises. Some characters will not be phased until you choose the proper ability, or course of action. Others, such as the 'Special' persons of interest (ghost hunters, priests, mystics ...) can stop your chosen action in it's path rendering your efforts obsolete. Each person, or animal in some cases must be dealt with in a certain way, and precise order in order to rid your mansion of it's human haunters. Of course you will have to figure out how to go about doing this by assessing the scare points above each individuals head, their said role in the situation, and the rooms which they are located in. In the case of boss fights, which come into play after you have completed a certain era's levels will have you clearing the set of rooms of their occupants before delivering a final special scare that only becomes available when the final boss is left by his/her lonesome. In each era there are multiple boss fights adding to the already content, and challenge heavy gameplay scenarios.
When it comes down to the graphics included in this digital puzzle indie you'll find that the title of the game says it all. The semi top-down rooms in each stage are built of pixels as are the characters that reside in them. While things are built upon a pixel foundation you will still find interesting animations that bring the characters to life in a quirky, and often times hilarious manner. Possessed human characters for example will walk from room to room wailing with horrid expressions on their faces while their head rotates 360 degrees in an "Exorcist" fashion. The fact that the mansion's interior is crafted to make it look as if it was built in the Victorian age like the origins of the game's story makes the game all the more interesting. Even the subtle yet noticeable furniture, and prop additions that come into play with each new era in the game creates a uniquely interesting, and ever-changing atmosphere for the timeless tale of Henry B. Knight. Three dimensional elements such as those of the floating objects are pure icing on the cake as are the comic book style cutscenes which breathe life into the digitally lifeless characters.
The Verdict ...
I know I'm a day late getting this out to you guys seeing as it would have been a perfect Halloween game, but I still believe the game will be enjoyable past the Halloween holiday. The fact is I was pleasantly surprised by the innovative features included in this ghostly puzzle game, especially when it came down to the ingenious in-game mechanics. While it could be considered a casual indie "Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror" will definitely test your problem solving skills on multiple levels. As the eras, and stages unlock for playability you will find things getting more difficult to solve, and that more, and more abilities will become available making each choice, and each decision an important one. Don't fret though if you aren't all that inclined to solve mind numbing puzzles. There is a retry button available at the press of a button which will allow you to reset the stage, and figure things out through trial, and error. The good thing is that the game has a casual, and non-aggravating feel about it that any gamer can enjoy. There's nothing frustration, or overbearing about the challenges.
I highly suggest picking this one up for your PS Vita if you haven't done so already. It's very much worth the $7.99 asking price, and is one of the better indies I've seen released this year. I think GlitchyPixel did one hell of a job, and I hope to see more innovative games from them in the future!