Ghost House [Sega Master System] – Review

Ghost House

Among the Sega Master System’s library of a few hundred, Ghost House is one of the few games released on a Sega Card. Having little experience with Sega Cards or NEC’s TurboGrafx-16 (another platform that used a similar format), I found it quite novel. That being said, my primary interest lied not with the game’s format but the game itself. I thought it was a visually impressive, zippy action-platformer. At the same time, there was a lot going on that resulted in annoying damage to my character. It was a difficult game so after an hour or so of moderate success, my patience gave and I felt satisfied with what I’d accomplished.

Developed by Steve Hanawa and published by Sega in 1986, Ghost House put me in the shoes of a young boy named Mick who recently inherited his family’s jewels. This would be great news… if they weren’t located in Dracula’s castle. And so, in order to reclaim them Mick needed to fight off Dracula, his monster friends, and navigate the confusing passageways of the mansion. Each round tasked Mick with retrieving five jewels. To do so, he needed to locate a key for each of the coffins strewn about the mansion and defeat Dracula or one of his four dummies. Once all jewels were obtained, Dracula’s castle reset and Mick would repeat this for at least six rounds. I only got good enough to complete the first round, and that was good enough for me!

Ghost House - Fire Blower
Visually, the game had a lot going on and featured a fairly broad color palette.

Despite his apparent wealth, Dracula’s castle was in poor shape. Cobwebs and incomplete walkways were found across each of his castle’s three floors. It was vibrantly decorated however, with many objects and enemies bringing it to life. Often times, there was so much going on that I found it difficult to avoid taking damage. As half a dozen different enemy types flocked to Mick, I had to make quick decisions on how to address each threat and deal with environmental obstacles such as flying knives. In the early going it was an overwhelming experience, especially considering each enemy needed to be dealt with in a specific manner. With time, I learned when to effectively duck, punch, or jump on top of Mick’s hindrances. Dracula and his clones were far trickier, requiring a solid strategy and lots of luck.

When Mick located a key and opened one of the coffins, Dracula would immediately burst out and begin flying around the screen in bat form. His trajectory was erratic but it would always center on attacking Mick. Every now and then he’d transform into his human self but irritatingly, it was usually someplace I couldn’t reach before he transformed again. As it was hard to attack him in bat form, the best approach was to lure Dracula near a chandelier and then have Mick jump into it, freezing time in the process. With Dracula frozen (hopefully in a place I could quickly access) I took the opportunity to wail on him. The chandelier trick was only good for a few uses and if they were depleted, this battle was frustratingly tough and depended a lot on luck. Not something I felt compelled to keep attempting.

Ghost House - Dracula
Fighting Dracula and his doppelgangers was challenging and often required a lot of luck.

After an hour or so with Ghost House, I was satisfied. I’d repeated the first round enough times to consistently reach the true Dracula, eventually besting him and moving on to the next round. All the knowledge I needed to complete the remaining rounds was acquired but the prospect of putting up with annoying chip damage or the luck-based battles with Dracula and his clones had me tapped out. I thought the game controlled well; Mick’s responsiveness was only tainted by the imprecision of the control pad and it was a good looking game too, with a lot of variation and colors. Overall, it’s not a game I would recommend or encourage someone to avoid; it’s just a middling action-platformer.

Additionally, here’s the sole let’s play I produced while playing this game. I played much more than this (about an hour across a couple of sessions) but this was definitely the best performance.

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