Bristol, Jun 2017
Given a choice of games I tend to choose the one that doesn’t have a horror theme, not so much because I object to a gory or scary room but because after a while the bloodied plastic body parts and other staples start to get a bit tired. But Poltergeist was the last available Puzzlair game none of our group had played, so we signed up for it happily enough.
In fact, it turned out to be the variant of the genre I like the most, somewhere between macabre and tongue-in-cheek creepy. The story places you in an abandoned, haunted nursery full of twisted toys and disturbing decorations. Of the six Puzzlair games this is the one where they’ve put the most work in on the decorations and story. There is an actual clear backstory that emerges as you play, with at least one puzzle that ties into it and reinforces it.
The decorations are entertainingly warped, but not particularly fear-inducing. The game has a couple of very good surprises, and players of a more nervous disposition may get more rattled than we did. For us, the most effective scare was near the beginning when one of the team turned around to find the operator in the room and right behind her – she’d slipped into the room to fix a problem with the audio system.
We found this to be a fairly tricky game, sometimes because the puzzles were hard and sometimes because they were a bit tenuous.
For the climactic ending we knew exactly what to do to solve it, but it took several attempts and some encouragement from the hint screen to get the mechanism to trigger correctly. That was a shame and thoroughly took the wind out of what should have been a good finish to the game.
There’s a distinct variation in the quality of the Puzzlair games, and our consensus was that Poltergeist, Jack Travis and Secret Agent were the better ones. Of those, Poltergeist is more variable than the others, but in its good moments it’s the best of the group.