The purpose of most horror games is to shock/frighten/disgust the player, but in Haunting, that role is reversed. You play as Polterguy, the ghost of a dead teenager whose sole purpose in the afterlife is to terrorize an insufferable family of one-percenters who “dissed” him in his prior life, the Sardinis. In spite of (or maybe because of) his totally “gnarly” early-90s persona, Polterguy is both a fun and sympathetic protagonist.
Haunting is played from an isometric perspective, but the fact that Polterguy hovers instead of walks eliminates many of the annoyances typically present in isometric games. in fact, there is little to be annoyed about in Haunting at all. There’s no way to die (um, again) when you’re trying to spook the Sardinis; you simply move from household appliance to furniture to fixtures and possess them with a simple press of the A button, which will elicit a horrified response from whoever is in the room. Once frightened, the family members drop “ecto”- green slime that acts as Polterguy’s (constantly depleting) life bar. Once you run out of ecto, you’re dropped into the underworld, where you can actually receive damage and get a game over. However, the underworld segments are relatively short and not terribly difficult to maneuver through.
Charm and creativity are not exactly characteristics often attributed to EA games these days, but Haunting has both in spades. The scares (which there are apparently over 400 of) range from silly to pretty grotesque (the washing machine filled with blood and body parts comes to mind). These are a joy to behold, as are the Sardinis’ reactions. The animation of the family members’ reactions is excellent- both varied and entertaining.
Haunting is a game that takes an interesting concept and executes it in surprising and entertaining ways. It’s a fairly stress-free experience (relative to other games of the era) that never seemed to find the audience it deserved. With the proliferation of digital services for smaller and quirkier games now, Haunting could potentially find that audience. Whether in the form of a remake or proper/spiritual sequel, Polterguy deserves a second (er… third) chance at life.