Genre: Action Developer: Brian A. Rice Inc. Publisher: Sega Enterprises Players: 1 Released: 1992
Home Alone is definitely one of the more unique titles out there. For starters, it has the distinction of being one of the few movie-to-game ventures that haven’t totally bombed, and its fun and creativity play a large part in that. This game starts off at the climax of the movie: the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv, are coming to Kevin’s neighborhood in search of loot, and Kevin’s the only one there to stop them. Your job as our hero Kevin is to stop the two bandits with whatever household items you can find, and prevent the five houses on your block from being looted and flooded. While the game could’ve followed the path of most run-jump-shoot action games, the developers instead decided to create a more intellectual, slightly slower-paced game that relies on planning and careful use of items rather than complicated jumps and shooting. The end result is a fun and entertaining game that is a unique and enjoyable take on the standard action genre.
You, as Kevin, must stop Harry and Marv in their wicked pursuits. You do this by “saving” all five houses on the block; to save a house, you must inflict a certain amount of damage to Harry and Marv before they take a certain amount of loot. (Each house has conveniently placed safes, which are quite conspicuous, and which Harry and Marv can break into easily!) The “Pain” and “Loot” meters at the top of the screen show Kevin’s and the Bandits’ respective positions.
How do you inflict damage? By setting traps, and using weapons. You can find many household items and goodies on the shelves and on top of the furnishings in each house, and there are also occasional goodies outside in the snow, which you can get with your sled. Many objects you find can be used as traps: marbles, tar, or toys can be placed in houses to trip up or otherwise inconvenience bandits, and other items such as blowtorches can be put above doors to give the bandits a nasty surprise. Before you enter each house you can place your traps anywhere in the house with the aid of a blueprint; clever placing is a great way of increasing pain and also slowing down the looting. Be careful, though, since Kevin can slip on the marbles, ice, etc. that he himself has set.
Most objects and items you find that aren’t traps are used for making weapons. Kevin’s default weapon is the BB gun, which does a small amount of pain and holds up the robbers for a bit. However, you’ll want to use the items you find to make more powerful, creative, and fun weapons. By combining, say, a crossbow, balloons, and pepper (all three components can be found in surprising abundance in the houses), Kevin can make a pepper rifle. By changing the pepper to glue, you can make a glue rifle, and by changing the crossbow to a rubber band you can make a glue mortar. There are literally dozens of combinations you can make: glue, pepper, snow, rope, and more can be used as projectiles, which can be shot out of rifles, bazookas, launchers, or mortars. Each weapon has its advantages and disadvantages. Some incapacitate Harry and Marv for longer periods of time, while some inflict more pain. The amount and type of ammo used by each weapon also vary, and you can assemble (provided you have the correct items) or disassemble weapons at any time.
Thus, the gameplay mostly consists of collecting items either in the snow or from shelves, then setting traps and creating/using weapons with the items you find. Harry and Marv will chase you if they see you while they’re busy looting; if they catch you, they’ll stick you onto a clothespin and you’ll waste valuable time in squirming and wriggling to get loose. On top of this hazard, most houses also have a “guardian” of sorts that can hurt and incapacitate Kevin and the Wet Bandits alike. These nasties range from a ghost in the colonial house, to a cat in the country house, a security robot in the ultra-modern house, and a spider in Kevin’s mansion.
The gameplay is quite fun and enjoyable. There are lots of items to collect and many weapons that can be made, and experimenting with the weapons and effects is amusing. The traps are also fun and the clever placement of traps and usage of weapons will not only guarantee a victory for Kevin, but also provide a few laughs from the bandits’ antics. On top of that, each house has its own distinctive feel. There’s a good deal of strategy involved – not only with the placement of traps and usage of weapons, but also in the acquiring of items (some of which are in very hard-to-reach places and require extra planning), and this combination of strategy and fun is a good one.
The graphics and sound are average, and about what you’d expect for an early Genesis game. The characters move pretty fluidly and the animations are good, and there’s lots of variation in the graphics as you go from house to house. The weapon effects are also unique and well drawn. Sometimes the characters can seem to be a bit too bland. Harry, Marv, and Kevin have the general body shape of their movie counterparts, but few defining characteristics can be seen, and the snowy background isn’t extremely impressive. Still, the game manages to be pretty colorful and it usually looks good, so the graphics get the job done.
The same could be said for the sound. There’s nothing particularly memorable, but the sound does what it’s supposed to: it helps set the mood. Each house has its own score, and the tunes vary from a “typical” orchestral melody in Kevin’s Mansion, to a twangy, Banjo-ish tune in the Country house, to a technical beat in the ultra-modern house. All the scores work well with the general mood and themes of the houses. The weapon effects are fair: the sound varies as you change platforms (launchers) or ammo, but nothing really stands out. As with the graphics, the sound is fairly good and helps the general atmosphere.
I didn’t particularly like the control. It’s not complicated – A drops a tire (you can collect tires and then place them on locations where you need a jumping boost); B shoots your weapon; and C jumps. The A and B buttons are okay (there’s little delay when it comes to shooting, so that’s good) but I personally didn’t like the jumping. It seems quite awkward as there is a bit of delay between your hitting the C button and Kevin actually jumping. This combined with the fact that the characters move quite slowly and don’t jump very well can get a little irritating. Climbing the stairs is achieved through the directional pad, and this can be a pain if you don’t get it right (getting the diagonals on the D-pad can be hard if you’re in a hurry or if you’re flustered!). These aren’t huge flaws, as the game is far from unplayable, and you should get used to the control after a while; however, the quirky control does irritate a bit at first.
You would think that this game doesn’t have much replayability; after all, all you do is run around the neighborhood and enter five houses shooting the bandits over and over! True, but there are lots of variations. For one, the items and their locations are randomized each time you play. The general placing of the items won’t change a whole lot, but the items you find at each location will change. Plus, there are many different weapons and traps for you to assemble/set, and that combined with the variation of items ensures that the game won’t play the same way each time.
Then, it will take you a few good plays before you familiarize yourself with all the houses and the surrounding neighborhood, and even after you’ve done that the variation in items and weapons will still spice up the game. The fact that the game is just plain fun to play also helps.
Finally, there are two difficulty modes, Normal and Expert. In Expert mode there are more traps and weapon components (the Expert weapons are all fun and unique, and are nothing like the regular weapons). In Expert you must hold off the bandits for forty minutes, instead of twenty, so there’s a bit more challenge. Also, in Expert the bandits will randomize their route, instead of going to houses in a preset pattern like they do in Normal mode. This plays havoc on your trap placement because now you can’t plan ahead too far, although you still can think ahead to some extent by watching the movement of the bandit’s van.
Home Alone is quite a good game. Its style and approach are both unique and enjoyable, and there are few games that are quite like it. I recommend that you rent this game for a weekend or hell, just buy it (it’s practically free nowadays) and have a little bandit-foiling fun. If you’re terribly impatient you won’t like it, but the more intellectual action fans out there will have a ball. Certainly worth looking at!
SCORE: 7 out of 10