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Video Game / Haunting Starring Polterguy

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Haunting: Starring Polterguy
"I've got a radical surprise for 'em"

Haunting Starring Polterguy is a 1993 video game released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis developed by Electronic Arts (ported to Playstation Portable in 2006). In a shout-out to the haunted house genre, it gives the player the unique experience of being a poltergeist. It includes various horror themes, even some blood and gore, but always in a comedic way.

Hero Polterguy is a friendly punk teenager who was killed in an accident involving defective skateboards. These were manufactured by evil business mogul Vito Sardini and his corporation. Polterguy seeks revenge by haunting him and his family through no less than four houses. Polterguy can jump into a variety of household objects ("fright 'ems") to activate them. Whenever a member of Vito's family is around, these objects will jump scare them and finally drive them insane so they'll finally leave the house.

Polterguy can't die through normal gameplay, but he has a gauge of ectoplasm (green slime). As soon as it drops to zero, he has to go to the Underworld where he has to collect a trail of ectoplasm and avoid scary traps. This is the only area where Polterguy can lose the game. From the second house on, he'll meet also ecto monsters and the family's dog, the only being that can spot him.

For a later game that used this type of gameplay, see Ghost Master.

This game provides examples of following tropes:

  • All There in the Manual: The game's backstory is only given in the manual. Polterguy was a standard 90s teenager who liked skateboards. As those were crap, he died in an accident. Polterguy wants to tell it once but somehow chooses not to.
  • Ambushing Enemy: The arms in the underworld only come out when Polterguy immediately passes them.
  • Anvil on Head: Shortly after Polterguy transforms into his human form again, a huge anvil, presumably produced by Vito Sardini's company, lands on his head and makes him a ghost again.
  • Asshole Victim: Spooking Vito Sardini could be considered justified to an extent, as his apathy led to Polterguy's death from a shoddy product. Subverted with Flo and the children, who just happen to be his family members and likely not involved in his business decisions, however their character bios do suggest that they are all generally unlikable people as well, even if Polterguy has no personal grievance against them (Flo's hobbies include "whining and moaning" and "collecting furs", Tony is shown sticking a rat in his sister's hair, and Mimi is depicted ripping the wings off of a butterfly).
  • Bat Scare: Happens in the underworld. Polterguy has to dodge a swarm of bats that emerge from a coffin.
  • Bloody Horror: Polterguy can temporarily turn a table cloth into a pool of blood.
  • Body Horror: Many fright 'ems are like this, like a mutilated corpse in the shower or some deformed creatures that Polterguy can summon.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: One of the many reactions Tony and Mimi can have to Fright-ems is to wet their pants.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Until the day of his death, Polterguy is just a normal 90s teenager. He dies because the Sardini Company sells crappy skateboards just for profit without regards for safety and life.
  • Chainsaw Good: In the garage, Polterguy can activate a chainsaw a scare the crap out of the family members (mostly Vito, because he hangs around here a lot).
  • Color Motif: The color green is associated with the presence of ghosts in this game. Polterguy, the ectoplasm and the on-screen text all share the same slimy, bilious green.
  • Comedic Underwear Exposure: Happens to the adults. Polterguy can literally scare the pants off of Vito and Flo. When sufficiently spooked, Vito can also jump out of his clothes.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Vito Sardini is the CEO of the Sardini Company that sells defective skateboards to innocent teenagers. He has a nasty facial expression, smokes a fat cigar, values his money over everything and has according to the on-screen text an MBA in "sleazy economics".
  • Creepy Basement: The underworld is presumably set beneath the Sardini house and has many spooky things in them like skulls, coffins, bats, pits and arms reaching for you.
  • Delinquent Hair: Polterguy has a well-kept mohawk on his head. In the Gainax Ending you can see that he dyed it red.
  • Demonic Possession: With a magic spell called "zombie eyes" you can possess one family member and scare the other ones with them.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: After Polterguy defeats the final boss, he returns to his human form. Then an anvil appears out of nowhere, lands on his head and turns him into a ghost again.
  • Ectoplasm: Polterguy constantly has to collect ectoplasm (bilious green slime) that drops from the ceiling to the floor when he successfully has scared a person out of the room or when he's in the crypt.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The family's dog (a very ugly chihuahua) can detect Polterguy and will bark at him to make his ecto drop. He also can calm down the family members so you have to scare them again. The only thing Polterguy can do against the dog is using a magic spell (found in the underworld) to give him food. He will turn into the final boss by the end.
  • Exorcist Head: Some of the fright 'ems invoke this, for the summoned monsters and for the Sardinis.
  • Flat Scare: When their fear level is on high or very high, even less impressive fright 'ems will set the Sardinis off and they look for a way to escape the house.
  • Food Fight: Tony and Mimi have one in the opening cutscence. What they throw around looks strangely just as green as your ectoplasm.
  • Friendly Ghost: Zigzagged. Polterguy is this towards the player (he speaks towards the audience a lot between levels), but not towards the Sardinis.
  • Gainax Ending: After Polterguy defeats the dog, he shortly seems to transforms into his regular human form, then suddenly a huge anvil lands on his head (!!!) and transforms him into a ghost again. After this the game abruptly ends.
  • Genre Blindness: The Sardinis fail to see that just moving to another house won't fix their problem. Even after they've been scared out of three of them in the same way that clearly points to a poltergeist, they just move to another house. Also, they never hire a ghostbuster or something like this.
  • Genre-Busting: With its unique gameplay it barely fits into an established genre. Mostly it's classified as action game, sometimes action adventure or even a simulation game.
  • Ghostly Glide: Polterguy's default method of moving forward.
  • Ghostly Goals: Polterguy is a mix between type A (friendly) and B (vengeful). His main motivation is to take revenge for his death and freak out the Sardinis, but towards the player he's genuinely friendly and does not mean any harm. In the end, he temporarily switches back to his human form (with no indication that he ever aimed for this), just to become a ghost again. While taken by surprise, he seems to be fine with this.
  • Happy Dance: Whenever Polterguy collects all ectoplasm in the underworld, he does a short dance to celebrate. It is more of a punk dance however.
  • Haunted House: In this game you are actively encouraged to do this. Polterguy can activate a lot of fright 'ems to scare the hell out of Vito's family. The family has no defense for this besides flee.
  • Haunted Technology: There's a TV, a computer, a toaster, a radio and very much more.
  • Intangibility: The family will just pass through him. However the ecto monsters and the monsters in the underworld can touch (and hurt) him.
  • Invisible to Normals: Polterguy is completely invisible to the family; only the dog can detect him.
  • Isometric Projection: The default view of the game is an isometric view inside the houses (the ceilings and walls are invisible). This goes for the main levels and the underground.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: Polterguy is wearing his cool leather outfit from the moment he died. His skateboard is still gone for good.
  • Jump Scare: All over the place: After Polterguy lets the chandelier fall onto the dining room's table in the opening cutscene, he can make armours walk, let sharks appear form the floor, let chainsaws fly, let spikes appear from the the sofa and many many more.
  • Left Hanging: After the Sardinis flee the fourth house, we never get to see them again and their fate is completely left ambiguous. However Polterguy suggests that he will continue with his haunting but he does not specify where he will do this.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sardini sounds suspiciously similar to Sadist. They are evil after all, at least Vito.
  • New House, New Problems: The Sardinis go through no less than four houses. All of them are haunted.
  • The '90s: The game was made in 1993, is likely set in this year, and comes with a lot of 90s slang and costumes.
  • Nuclear Family: The Sardini family. Father Vito is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who sells crappy skateboards to innocent teenagers and does not care even if they die. Flo is his proud but easily frightened wife. Tony is their son who is interested in telescopes and ninjas. Mimi is their Bratty Teenage Daughter with Girlish Pigtails. They also have an unnamed dog that makes your game harder.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Polterguy goes only by the name Polterguy. His real name is neither revealed in the game nor in the manual.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Polterguy is a translucent, green ghost and appears in his leather outfit he wore on the day he died. He can not be seen by anybody besides the family's dog. He's intangible and everybody will just pass through him. He can't walk through walls and has to use the holes in the walls where the doors should be. He can't die in normal gameplay, only in the underworld, where he is sent to when his gauge of ectoplasm is empty (but he can pick up more ecto too) or between the levels. It's unclear whether he has other weeknesses like light etc., the Sardinis move into a new house at daytime but escape only at nighttime.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Polterguy thinks the best thing is to haunt the Sardini Family's houses to teach them a lesson.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Polterguy can summon a lot of them in various spots (e.g. the shower), they come with a surprising level of blood.
  • Poltergeist: Polterguy has become a translucent poltergeist after he died in a skateboard accident. He scares Vito's family with throwing around or transforming household items. And in true poltergeist fashion, he's tethered to the Sardinis themselves, not necessarily the house they inhabited, as he follows them each time they move out.
  • Punk in the Trunk: One of Polterguys jump scares. In the garage he can make a tied up person make appear in the trunk in Vito's car.
  • Punny Name: "Polterguy" is of course a pun on "Poltergeist".
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Polterguy's motivation is to remorselessly scare Vito and his family out of their house because Vito's company produced crappy skateboards (Polterguy died riding one of these). He is completely merciless with them.
  • Sanity Meter: Each family member gets one in the form of a "fear level". It starts at "calm" and successively reaches "low", "medium", "high" and "very high", together with a picture that shows how terrified they are. On "very high" level, they will completely panic and escape the house, as long as a door is nearby (if not, they'll just flee to another room and finally calm down again if you don't scare them again).
  • Sequel Hook: Polterguy's last piece of dialog tells us that he will continue spooking around after he has been revived and made a ghost again. However, no sequel was ever produced.
  • Stock Costume Traits: Polterguy is a standard 90s teenage punk. He has a mohawk and wears an oversized leather jacket and a knee-torn jeans.
  • Surprise Jump: All of the family members do this at some point. They jump very high into the air and often expose their underwear.
  • Three-Quarters View: The default view of the game is an isometric 3/4 view.
  • Totally Radical: Polterguy is a teenage punk who loved to ride skateboards (at least as long as he was still alive), moves in a cool and edgy manner, does a punky dance routine and uses a lot of 90s slang like "I'm right behind your sorry butts", "dude the slimeballs deserve it", "don't go too far you sorry suckers", "let's hose 'em good" and "I've got a radical surprise for 'em".
  • Undeath Always Ends: Subverted. In the very end, Polterguy turns into his human form after he has driven out the Sardinis the fourth time (without any foreshadowing that this would be possible). A second later, he's slammed with an anvil and turns back into his ghost form again.
  • Unfinished Business: Polterguy wants to take revenge on Vito Sardini and his family by scaring them. When he's done, he briefly transforms into his human form but is turned into a ghost again. Whether he reaches afterlife or not is not revealed.
  • Vengeful Ghost: Polterguy's main motivation is to take revenge on the Sardini family. He is a Friendly Ghost towards the player still.
  • Visible Invisibility: Polterguy is visible to the player (he's a transparent, green ghost) but invisible to the family except the dog.
  • Visual Pun: One of the fright 'ems is the family's computer. It's mouse will turn into a huge real mouse.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: Of course to Poltergeist. Comes with a lot of ShoutOuts.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: There are magic spells called "supr-scare" and "ecto-xtra" for you to pick up.