Saturday, February 07, 2015

Be a poltergeist in Glitchy Pixels beautiful puzzle game

Poltergeist: A Pixelated Horror
Developed by: Glitchy Pixel
Published by: Glitchy Pixel
Release Date: October, 20 2014
Available on: Steam (reviewed), Playstation Vita

I'm not one for horror games so when I was approached by the fine folks at Glitchy Pixel to review their game I was a little leary. On a quick look at the press release my first impression was that I would end up crying and having nightmares for the next month or two. After taking the time to read it in full I realized that it wasn't me that was being scared but I was the one doing the scaring. This simple change made all the difference to me.

Poltergeist is a puzzle game where you take on the roll of a overly protective and mildly vengeful ghost named Henry B. Knight. Mr. Knight worked hard to build the mansion of his dreams, when he died he had some trouble letting go of his pride and joy. As such he now spends his afterlife haunting his mansion and scaring away any would be squatters.

When you first open Poltergeist you will be greeted by a main menu (big surprise, I know) showing a very simple yet eerily beautiful pixely 3d model of the Knight mansion. This simple yet eye pleasing aesthetic is continued throughout the game. The rooms and objects are all simple 3D models, while all the "residents" are pixelated sprites. This may seem like an odd matchup and has in many other games left for an inconsistent visual style. In Poltergeist everything is well matched and nothing seems out of place, in fact I actually thought at first the sprites were 3D models made and animated like sprites.

The objective of the game is to scare the residents of the mansion enough to make them flee. This is done using a selection of powers that are given to you at the beginning of the level. Your powers range from simply shaking a lamp, to possession, to opening a vortex to the void.

This may sound simple but after a few levels your infamy grows and various ghost hunters come to make a name for themselves. These ghost hunters come in several forms and each one has the ability to prevent one or more of your powers if they witness it. This adds a nice depth to the gameplay without being too overbearing.

As you progress through the levels you will unlock special levels with unique characters called "Bosses" (I know, I've never heard of them either). These bosses have the ability to negate almost any power you possess if they see it, and in most circumstances will actually move to the room you use the power in. This makes using your higher tier powers more difficult as they can negate them before they have finished, making your possess just as or less effective as you move objects.

In many ways the gameplay functions similar to most puzzle games in that you have multiple abilities and many levels have multiple paths. There are times when it feels like your shoehorned into a single path or that the characters act in a unpredictable manner. I've had a few times where after using a power the resident would move to another room despite the power not having that ability. This could be an intended feature or a bug but it was confusing when it occurred since it is so rare. This has never caused me to fail a level since I'm quite capable of doing that myself.

Performance wise there is not much to say. It's a game made in the Unity engine but does not include the prelauncher. There is no key rebinding, mainly because there is not keys to speak of since it's all mouse driven. I was able to run it at max settings (1080P, 8x AA, Shadows on, no vsync) at about 150FPS without trouble. If you want the 3D objects to be more pixel art like then I would recommend turning Anti-aliasing off since it smooths out the jeggies (or veggies if you believe spellcheck!) that make pixel art, well pixel art


  • Performance
  • Art style meshes well
  • Controls
  • Writing
  • Animations
  • Strange glitches
  • powers sometimes don't work 100%

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