Ghost House
by Robert Frost (1913)

I dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

O'er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;

The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me--
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

They are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,--
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things,
As sweet companions as might be had.

A fascinating and challenging video game for the Sega Master System. Our hero and protagonist is Max, a young man (or elf, depending on how you interpret his appearance) who has just inherited a treasure trove of "diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, and even opals," according to the game box. However, he has to retrieve them from a lovely estate in Transylvania, inhabited by not one, but five "Draculas". In each of the six levels, Max needs to defeat baddies (see below) to find the keys to the Dracs' coffins, soundly thrash them through punching or swordplay, and find a magical exit. This game is quite notable for defying a number of rules of video game logic.


  • Dero-Bats: Analogous to the goombas of Super Mario Brothers fame, these flying nuisances are essentially Max's cannon fodder. Contrary to usual 8-bit logic, the bats actually die upon coming in contact with you, not the other way around. However, their kamikaze tactics can put you in a jam when you're low on health.
  • Ghosts: An eerie shade of blue, these non-corporeal beings like to push you out of doorways (which rapidly transport you through the house) and otherwise be bothersome. Max can punch them, stab them or use the classic jump-on-the-head method. (How he makes contact remains a mystery.)
  • Fire-Breathers: These enemies look a lot like the Kool-Aid mascot would in a bad nightmare. My best guess at their body make-up is that they have a reserve of hydrogen in their massive stomach. This would explain the catastrophe that occurs when Max stomps or stabs one, as they explode in Hindenburg-type fashion.
  • The Mummy: Another undead nemesis, the Mummy is intelligent enough to climb ladders in pursuit of poor Max. It takes two stabs to defeat the Mummy (he is -- *gasp!* -- unsquashable), who proceeds to melt into the ground, presumably because Max has caused him to leak out too much precious embalming fluid...
  • Dracula: After Max obtains a key from one of these lesser enemies, he can open up one of several coffins in the house to set Drac loose. Drac can fly around as a bat and head-butt you into submission, or resume his human form, trap you against a wall and claw/bite you to death. As you progress through the six levels, Draculas are continually tougher to defeat, taking one more stab (or two more punches) per level to beat him. Wooden stakes are unnecessary. After three or more good stabs, Drac breaks into pieces and decomposes -- as another evil twist, each level may contain one "True Dracula," which reincarnates immediately after decomposing, to attack you again. After defeating one of these monsters, Max needs to grab Dracula's floating, still-beating heart to obtain the gem he was protecting. (This heart also restores all of Max's health. It would appear that Max eats the heart to find the prize in the center. Those programmers sure were wacky then.)
  • Traps: What trip to a haunted house would be complete without some traps to hinder your progress, deplete your health, and otherwise make your life miserable? Well, the sadistic designers of this game have several.

There are actually some things in the house that will make Max's quest easier (read: manageable). "?" boxes on the ground serve as first-aid kits, restoring some health, secret passageways in the walls allow you to go around the house while avoiding enemies, and fake walls allow Max to pass into hidden areas. Most important are the ceiling lamps that (almost inexplicably) allow you to stop time, leaving you free to go on a killing spree.

After level three, the levels repeat, but are more chock-full of enemies. The swords and arrows fly at your head about three times as quickly. As you complete a level, your gems are displayed, along with an increasingly exciting adjective (Great! Excellent! Outstanding! Unbelievable! etc.). The music is a moderately repetitive blend of jazzy and spooky elements. In all, one of the most entertaining games to grace the SMS's Sega Card.

The Ghost House is a location found in games in the Super Mario series, first introduced in Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. A ghost house is shown as an old wooden building, that looks like a typical "haunted house", and which is full of ghosts of various types. Since Super Mario World was introduced in 1992, the Ghost House has appeared in many different games, including games where it makes less sense (such as in the Mario Kart racing games).

To put the Ghost House into perspective, it is necessary to give a brief recap of the Mario series. The first Mario game, Donkey Kong, took place on a single screen. The first true Mario game involved movement and exploration, but it was linear: you moved from left to right. The next two games introduced non-linear exploration and puzzle solving. The third game actually introduced the ghost enemy Boo, but he was just in a "fortress". In general, the technical limitations of the original NES, with its simple palette of bright colors and limited memory space, kept most games simple and linear.

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System expanded the technical range of games. With its wider color palette, its graphics were slightly less cartoony, and it also allowed transparency effects that could portray fog. Also, Nintendo was very successful and had a captive audience, and no longer needed to cater to linear, kinetic game play. Thus, the Ghost House: a level full of ghosts, transparent effects, and with the player needing to solve a series of puzzles to succeed. The usage of a supernatural motif was not purely just graphical: with its shifting platforms, appearing and disappearing enemies that appeared to be hunting the player, and constant sense of being lost, it did present some psychological suspense to the player, more so than the normal brightly-lit levels where Mario jumps fantastic distances. Indeed, if we wish to follow in the footsteps of those who have analyzed Mario, we could read a lot into Mario's attempts to find a key to fit into a hidden lock or his quest to uncover a secret door, all while being pursued by amorphous blobs of ectoplasm.

That being said, while the presence of the Ghost House does widen the game play and atmosphere of the Mario games, Mario is still a bright, happy, fun, and almost plotless game series designed for all ages of video gamers: I have never heard anyone say that a Ghost House level's ghosts were so scary that they couldn't play. The Mario games are many things, but horror is not one of them.

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