Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is an isometric strategy puzzle game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita and PS4 with compatibility for PlayStation TV. Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror began life as a prototype game created for the Square Enix Latin American Game Contest in 2012 which the game actually went on to win first prize in the contest and has since been meticulously refined into the game it is upon release.
The story revolves around Henry B. Knight who haunts the mansion that he once built when he lived with his wife as he wants no-one else to ever live there other than himself and his family, therefore he scares the living daylights out of anyone who dares to set foot in the mansion.
The tutorial is extremely helpful as it educates the player in how to perform basic and more advanced scares on tenants and animals living in the mansion, how to use a variety of powers, how to scare people and animals located in different rooms, how to scare people who are distracted as they watch television or participate in something which completely removes their focus from any possible scares, how to deal with special characters and bosses and much more besides.
There are a total of 60 levels beyond the tutorial levels which comprise of 4 eras with the classic era, eighties era, modern era and office era each containing 15 levels, although 10 levels must be completed in order to unlock the eighties era which increases noticeably to a requirement of 25 completed levels to unlock the modern era and 45 completed levels to unlock the office era.
The time trial mode is unlocked after completing all 60 levels and requires players to complete every level consecutively without a break within the rather difficult time limit of 90 minutes which equates to an average of around 90 seconds in order for players to remotely stand a chance of completing the time trial mode.
A variety of powers are available for limited usage to utilise strategically to scare the residents out of the mansion with residents usually having 3 points worth of tolerance before leaving which is also referred to as scare points, while further powers unlocked as the player progresses through the game. A total of 9 powers include noise to call residents into an area; altering a selected object removes a scare point from any resident who witnesses it; throwing a selected object into an area in the launching room and the landing room; a rather powerful portal which is capable of sucking residents; locking an area and creating a spectre to remove two scare points; possessing an object for a short period of time to remove two scare points; possessing a person for a short period of time to remove two scare points, although the power does not apply to dogs; summoning an illusion which is capable of scaring one person from one area into another and removing two scare points in the process; and an apparition of Henry B. Knight which can only be utilised when fighting bosses.
The character design includes a variety of men, women, children, special characters and dogs in which men, women and children have clothes, hair and facial hair appropriate to their period such as long gowns in the classic era and some mullets in the eighties era with various colours of clothes and hair, while some special characters consist of priests, bosses, gypsies, witches or even a ghost hunter that appears to have got caught up in the moment as the ghost hunter wears Ghostbusters style fancy dress including a proton pack, alongside dogs having their own colours and patterns to their coats of hair.
The environment design consists of a variety of rooms through different eras which have differently decorated walls and floors including a wide range of furniture assortments to manipulate and throw around to scare the residents such as potted plants, baskets, tables, book cases, televisions, chairs, beds, grand pianos, water coolers and more besides.
The extras feature allows players to view the 13 cutscenes which are unlockable as players gradually progress through the game, while there is also a listing of requirements for each of the 12 trophies as well as the artwork for each of the trophies.
Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror supports cross-buy between the Vita and PS4, although it unfortunately does not support cross-save, so you will not be able to continue from your previous progression from one platform to another. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing the Vita and PS4 versions of the game with just a single purchase.
The controls are well mapped to the Vita with the control scheme consisting of pressing L or R to scroll between special characters; pressing X to select or activate powers and accept in menus; pressing O to cancel in menus; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing left or right on the d-pad to switch power selection; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; and pressing start to display the pause menu and skip cutscenes. Thorough touch screen implementation sees the player being able to utilise a touch screen alternative to every face button, d-pad or analogue stick by tapping any of the 9 icons to select a specific power followed by tapping on the icon next to the furniture which can be manipulated by that particular power and tapping on an area if the power requires it to be designated; swiping across the touch screen to pan the camera; and tapping the pause icon to display the pause menu.
Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror is presented in a charming graphical retro stylised pixel art from an isometric viewpoint which is rather appropriate to the setting of the game as the first era is set decades before the advancement in graphical technologies, while the eighties era is when more home consoles such as the NES and Sega Mega Drive came to market, therefore the graphics weirdly tie-in with the majority of story the game is trying to tell in an era by era perspective.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menu, extras menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, d-pad and face buttons, although there is no support for navigation via the right analogue stick and rear touch pad. The background of the main menu consists of a ghostly figure presiding over the front of the mansion with trees either side, dark skies overhead and the title logo across the top of the mansion.
The audio consists of different sound effects and soundtracks for each time period comprising of sound effects including selection of powers, objects being possessed, overturned and thrown across rooms, banging, scratching, squeaking, beastly growls, ghostly growls and people screaming in horror, alongside atmospheric music in the classic and eighties eras and comedic elevator music in the office era.
The trophy list includes 12 trophies with 7 bronze trophies, 4 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. The vast majority of the trophy list includes 7 bronze trophies and 3 silver trophies which are story related ranging from the Henry’s Back bronze trophy for completing the first level to completing specific era levels and boss levels, therefore completing all 60 levels of the game will guarantee 10 of the 12 trophies. There are harder trophies including the Scaring on Schedule silver trophy for completing the time trial mode in less than 90 minutes and the A Glitchy World gold trophy for activating all of the secret glitched objects which consist of tapping on a particular object in order for it to grow and spin as it is continually tapped to intentionally make the entire screen glitch. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 5 to 8 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, but there are plenty of puzzles to solve with any puzzle being more than capable of tricking the player into attempting an incorrect approach resulting in the difficulty level being the equivalent to how hard the player feels the puzzles are to overcome, although a change in pattern to the approach of each previously failed puzzle with some common logic and process of elimination for each restart should provide a suitable solution sooner rather than later.
There is no multiplayer component which could have comprised of a player utilising Henry B. Knight’s abilities to scare a family out of the mansion, although the family calls a priest to exorcise the mansion with a second player attempting to exorcise the mansion and the first player attempting to drive not only the family but also the priest out of the mansion. There are also no online leaderboards which could have included leaderboards for the fastest times set by each player for completing each level, each individual era and the entire game as well as the highest accumulation of scares throughout the game including replaying levels and eras.
The replayability stems from various powers which sometimes provide multiple routes to scaring residents in the mansion across 60 mostly difficult levels and a time trial mode to further the gameplay by players unlocking the time trial mode after completing all 60 levels followed by having the challenge of completing those 60 levels within 90 minutes in time trial mode which will collectively certainly keep players returning for quite some time.
• Title: Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror
• Developer: Glitchy Pixel
• Publisher: Glitchy Pixel
• System: PS Vita/PS4/PlayStation TV
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: Yes (PS Vita/PS4/PlayStation TV)
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1
• Memory Card Space Required: 266MB