Genre: Platform Developer: Sega of America Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1993
It’s taken two hours, three continues, and fifteen lives thrown away on the final stage alone, but I’ve managed to finish Home Alone 2 in one final marathon session. For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Home Alone 2 is based on the film from 1992, which was the follow up to the massively successful Home Alone in 1990 that starred the young Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister. In the film, Kevin defended his home from the blundering and inept burglar duo Harry and Marv, AKA the “Wet Bandits,” played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, using all sorts of traps and unconventional weapons.
But you already knew all that provided you haven’t been living in a cave for the last twenty-odd years, right? This time around, Kevin ends up being lost in New York City while his parents are down in Florida on vacation. To make matters worse, Harry and Marv have escaped from jail and are seeking revenge on the streets of the Big Apple. Sounds like fun, right?
Unlike the first game, in which you ran around the neighborhood collecting items to construct traps and weapons to protect each house, Home Alone 2 ditches most of that for the action-platformer route and has Kevin collecting presents for points; milk, water, and pizza for health, turtle doves for extra lives, and various items that he’ll cobble together to make a new weapon to defend himself against standard enemies and the nefarious Harry and Marv. Each weapon upgrade piece is scattered around the level so you’ll have to do some hunting to find them. The HUD at the bottom of the screen shows you which piece you’ll need to find next with a flashing icon as well as Kevin’s health, the number of lives, score, and the health bars of Harry and Marv when you inflict damage on them. Kevin begins each stage with a default weapon which can range from a baseball, football, pie, flyswatter, and brick. These are okay for initial defense but lack power to take down the more difficult enemies in a single hit. Depending on the stage, there will be one or two weapon upgrades that Kevin can acquire, such as a slingshot, and a selection of projectile firing weapons that will dish out pies, plungers, baseballs, balloons, and other goodies that you’ll use to dispatch Harry and Marv when they aren’t tripping over their own feet or knocking their heads to render themselves unconscious. Keeping these two clowns at bay is essential because if they manage to catch you, not only will they sap a good chunk of your health like the chokers in Vigilante, they’ll also destroy whatever weapon you’ve recently constructed, leaving you with your default weapon again. You can temporarily knock Harry and Marv down to slip past them, or you can really put the hurt on with an upgraded weapon and K.O. both dumbbells permanently so they can’t bother you anymore until the next stage.
Kevin’s overall objective in each level is find the exit and collect as many points along the way for extra lives, which you will need in the later stages when the torrents of enemies start showing up. The stages cover a small variety of locations around the city and begin in the airport concourse just after Kevin arrives in New York. From there, you hit the luggage processing area, replete with conveyor belts and vacuum tubes that will suck you in and spit you out across the stage if you aren’t careful. After that, you’ll be on the streets by day travelling past storefronts and a shopping district on your way to a toy store with mechanical toys running amok, another small neighborhood (this time at night), and an abandoned apartment building. In these areas, you can use various traps like electrified water, knocking over paint cans, and wooden planks over holes in the floors to take out Harry and Marv. Next up is a network of pipes inside a water park that is infested by insects and mutant frogs that belch out large and small bubbles which you’ll use to float up through the pipes to reach new areas. Finally, it’s on to the ice-encrusted park downtown where Kevin has to find the elusive Pigeon Lady to finish the game.
Home Alone 2 does a good job on the first stage of suckering you into thinking it is a decent action/platformer. The game controls are responsive and work well. Kevin can jump with the C button, and he can slide under enemies and avoid damage by hitting down while running. The B button fires weapons, and the A button is for activating buttons or pushing objects like ladders or trunks to help him reach higher elevations. From bopping other travelers with baseballs that knock them on their butts while you dodge their dropped suitcases to collecting presents and weapon upgrades, grabbing a bunch of balloons to fly over airport security, and eventually taking down Harry with an ice cream launcher before dashing inside an elevator to escape, you’ll think that you’re in for a pretty good ride.
Then the frustration begins to set in. Home Alone 2’s most egregious faults are the Ninja Gaiden style knock-back that Kevin suffers after taking a hit and the endlessly re-spawning enemies who appear in the later stages. You’ll be constantly assaulted by cats, birds, rats, muggers, over-sized dragonflies, and more birds who relentlessly pelt you with snowballs. The last few levels are such a laborious chore due to the incessant stream of hits from enemies that you can’t defend yourself from and whose only objective is to slow you down so that Harry and Marv can grab you to drain your life and steal your weapons. Speaking of which, by the time the final stage in the park rolls around, both Harry and Marv have been endowed with super powers as they can leap and run faster than you can, making the job of trying to avoid them even more aggravating, not to mention the dozens of enemies swarming around.
Home Alone 2’s presentation is kind of lazy. The graphical style overall is average at best, and they won’t win any awards for the best utilization of the Genesis’ capabilities. The street levels are especially bland and drab in their presentation, and the interior pipes of the water park are dull and repetitive. The airport concourse with the parallax scrolling in the windows, the toy store with its flashing Christmas displays, and the park with the street lamps that illuminate some of the level while the rest is cloaked in semi-darkness are the only stages that are visually appealing. The sound department is a mixed bag with a good musical score by Paul Gadbois and Dave Delia, but the sound effects themselves are mostly generic and few are recycled from Batman Returns which both Gadbois and Delia also worked on previously.
So, would you like Home Alone 2? You might, if you enjoy high levels of frustration and excessive cheap hits that knock you about as you’re trying to make key jumps or hanging from moving objects. It’s a short game with no difficulty settings, which should only take about thirty minutes if you know where to go to finish it. Perhaps if the developers had ditched the enemy hordes and expanded the remaining stages with more platform elements so they were similar in style to the airport, toy store, and apartment levels this could have been a decent game. I’ll still keep my copy around, but if I’m going to give it another playthrough I’ll be busting out the Game Genie with an extra health code to counter the barrage of bad guys.
SCORE: 3 out of 10