In Sega's Ghost House, you control a boy named Mick, who looks vaguely like Alex Kidd's Translyvanian cousin. The goal is each stage to find six jewels, each of which is guarded by a vampire. Said vampires are found sleeping in coffins strewn around each stage, which can only be opened by defeating other minor bad guys to find a key. Once you find all six jewels, a portal opens up, which leads to the next stage, and the cycle begins anew.
The most interesting aspect of Ghost House is the way you must use the environment to your advantage. For example, walking next to a candle fixture will trigger a knife to fly from the side of the screen. If you jump on it, you can wield it as a weapon, though it can only be used a limited amount of times before disappearing. If you walk next to fireplace, an arrow will be triggered, similar to the knife. You cannot wield these, but if you can patient enough and do this twenty or so times, then you'll become temporarily invulnerable. If you jump into a ceiling light fixture, it will freeze everything on the screen for a few seconds, though this only works a few times per level. The various black portraits also act as warp points throughout the stage, plus there are a number of fake walls and floors. For a game from 1986, it's all rather clever in that it gives the game world a unique identity, one full of tricks and traps that can exploited to kill the evil denizens that dwell within.
Utilizing these tricks is pretty much required to beat the vampires, which encompasses most of the play time. These bastards are tough, as they fly around erratically in vaguely circular forms, and they can be incredibly difficult to avoid given the cramped designs of the stages. It's all too common to be knocked down a ladder to a lower screen and have to climb back up to begin the fight anew. Actually hitting them in bat form is incredibly difficult, so it's much easier to wait until they change into a human, when they're far more vulnerable. Even then, the vampires don't so much as flinch even when your attacks land, and it's nearly impossible to destroy a vampire without taking at least some damage. Knives are practically essential in these duels, due to their length and power. Thankfully defeated vampires will give you a heart to completely restore your health, but until you can get the rhythm of proper vampire killing, Ghost House can be quite frustrating.
But ultimately the appeal of Ghost House is limited anyway, because once your familiarize yourself with these methods, there's not much else to it. All of the vampires are fought in the same manner, except for one trickster vampire which will come back to life after seemingly being killed. Since the game was initially released on card format, there's only so much you can fit into 32kb of space, so each of the three stages are largely identical, except for some palette changes and minor design variations. The second area introduces mummies, which look more like shambling bits of plaster than anything, but otherwise the game plateaus fairly early.
Still, like many Master System games, Ghost House is likeable because it has character. The goofy looking blue ghosts that patrol the floors, the large red fire breathing monster things, which bounce around every so amusingly, and even Mick himself, are all colorful and all indicative of classic Sega. It really did beg for a more in-depth game with bigger storage space, but so it goes.
Ghost House was initially released on Sega My Card format, owing to its small size. It was later re-released in cartridge format in Europe. Annoyingly, like many early Master System games, the jump and attack buttons are flipped from the standard eventually established by the NES.
Tec Toy published a version of Ghost House in Brazil called Chapolim x Dracula: Um Duelo Sssustador, or "Chapolum x Dracula: A Frightening Duel". In this release, Mick has been changed into El Chapulin Colorado, the Mexican-TV "superhero" (also popular in Brazil) who was the inspiration for Bumblebee Man on The Simpsons. The sprite is now a cartoon version of red-suited insect-ish hero, whose name translates to "The Red Grasshopper", but otherwise the levels and the enemies are the same. However, there are many changes in the background details, some of which are entirely new. They don't always seem consistent with the rest of the graphics, like the bright golden suits of armor, but the castle paintings hung around are a nice touch, and it makes the original version seem slightly barren in comparison.
Sega's little known 1981 arcade game puts you in the role of a young red haired kid named Little Red, as he takes on a trio of monsters. The first two screens take place in haunted manors, fighting against Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster. The third screen takes place in a garden, fighting against Chameleon Man (which sort of breaks the whole "movie monster" thing that the first two bad guys had going for them). Each has some sort of gimmick to aid or complicate movement - Dracula's stage has paintings that warp you around the screen, Frankenstein's Monster's level has pits which immediately drop you to a lower level, and the Chameleon's garden has gates which flip in different directions, plus color swaps which will reveal the location of the villain. Upon completing all three screens, the game loops, and the difficulty increases.
To attack, Little Red has a "zap" power, which lets him shoot little lightning bolts, but these only work against lesser enemies, while the sole boss monster in each screen is invincible. However, each screen also has a sword - if you light all of the candles, it will glow, and will grant a "Superzap" that can kill the main bad guy and let you proceed to the next stage.
There's a reason why Monster Bash isn't that well known, and that's because it's not particularly great. The minor enemies are all but inconsequential, and the first few loops are fairly straightforward. It only gets challenging around the third loop, when the boss monsters really start running away from you when you get the Superzap power, but at that point it's more frustrating than fun, since they are far more agile than your character. The perspective changes are also perplexing - the manor stages are from a sideview, while the garden is viewed from overhead, yet graphically and mechanicaly they are essentially identical.
Only two real things make Monster Bash worth investigating. First off, the graphics are fairly decent, with a spooky yet cute atmosphere, and the melting animation when you kill one of the major bad guys is pretty neat. Secondly, it's sort of a predecessor to Ghost House on the Sega Master System, which was released four years later in 1986. The first stage, with its ladders and warps and fighting against Dracula, is at least visually similar, though mechanically nothing alike. It's as if one of the developers of the Master System version liked the concept of Monster Bash and took it in a different direction rather than porting or directly enhancing it.
Monster Bash was designed and prorammed by Steve Hanawa, who was also responsible for a number of other early Sega arcade titles. Like Monster Bash and Ghost House, many of the themes, if not the gameplay, were reworked in various Master System titles - Tranquilizer Gun kinda sorta became Safari Hunt, Space Trek became SDI / Global Defense, and Space Odyssey became both Astro Flash / Transbot and Astro Warrior. However, Steve Hanawa was not involved in any of these console variations. He also developed the racing game Turbo (his most well known game) and Sindbad Mystery. Though there have been no official ports, a hobbyist programmer named Russ is creating his own version for the Colecovision.