Genre: Action Developer: Brian A. Rice Inc. Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1992
When I think of Genesis-to-Game Gear conversions, each version is mainly different from the other. Home Alone is one of the few examples of the case where the handheld port is similar to its 16-bit counterpart. That says a lot because the Genesis version is a great game and arguably the best of the releases based on the first two movies. You get the obvious downgrade in graphics and audio on the handheld, but the gameplay is still the same, albeit with a couple of altered aspects.
The Wet Bandits are robbing the neighborhood. Taking control of Kevin McCallister, you ride your sled around the block, trying to save the five homes before they are looted and flooded. The core gameplay hasn’t changed in this conversion; you still go to houses and set traps before they show up. One advantage the Game Gear port has over the Genesis version is the ability collect more traps. Regardless of the situation, you need more than that to even the odds. Every weapon is here, and nearly all of them have the same parts required to use against the Bandits along with assembling and disassembling.
Outside, you are going to hit some snowmen. As mentioned, they have traps hidden in them but also the ammo necessary for your weapons. Follow where the Wet Bandits’ van goes, but your sled has a limited charge that can be refilled quickly via a sled power-up or slowly when you’re inside a house. Thankfully, the developers did not alter the design of the five houses and the specific thing that can hurt all three characters. That being said, there are some small details in a couple of that differ. Most notably is the old house that blows out steam from its radiators instead of rotting floors. Inside, you must stop Harry and Marv from filling up their loot meter and instead fill up their pain meter. When the pain is maxed out, you get a cheesy line that Kevin says, some bonus points, and the satisfaction of stopping the bumbling thieves.
The graphics are not that bad for an early Game Gear game. The characters resemble their movie counterparts well. They sport great animation when moving around and falling from traps. Very few weapon animations on the Bandits are shown in detail compared to the Genesis game, but that’s a given. The visuals suffer a downgrade in the houses, but outdoors are not as horrible as I was expecting. There is still that Christmas look outside, and some of the houses are very sharp in 8-bit. It is what it is, and not much was sacrificed. Compared to the audio of its 16-bit sibling, the audio on the Game Gear is not a strong point. I’ll give the developers credit for at least trying to bring the music onto the handheld, but it’s not handled well due to the rush of it and overall quality of the instrumental compositions. The sound effects are there, but they’re mainly from the sled, weapons, and attacks. Even for Game Gear standards, the audio is rather weak.
I don’t have much to complain about concerning the controls. Moving Kevin around is very easy, and you can alternate what the two buttons do. Pausing to the weapons menu is not a hassle. Firing your equipped weapon is quick, and jumping is solid. There are tires you can collect from snowmen so that you can bounce really high in places, and while the button combo (down and then start if you’re not next to stairs) is palatable, the effectiveness of the bounce does vary. It doesn’t make the house designs bad, as you can find your ammo and parts and get most of them quickly. Really, the difficulty isn’t that tough. It may seem that way at first, but when you get used to it, it’s good with some minor hiccups when you play the first few minutes.
There is a time limit that counts down until the cops arrive. With that comes two modes, similar to the Genesis version. A 20-minute beginner mode is a fixed route for the van, and the weapons and traps are in the same places with an auto assembler in the menu. Then there is the 40-minute expert mode that makes the bandits quicker and the weapons and traps random. You also have to figure out which parts are used to make weapons. Plus, you don’t know which house the Bandits are going to target first, and so forth. This mode makes for a unique run each time.
With all that aside, Home Alone has a few issues. It is random on expert, but some houses are ignored until late in the run. This can be a little bit frustrating, but the Game Gear port doesn’t punish you severely. Although the graphics aren’t bad, they can look glitchy when there’s a lot of stuff onscreen, mainly affecting the characters. My last quibble is with the inconsistent frame rate when you’re outside the houses. It’s not a huge problem, but it is noticeable. Other than these issues and the audio, Home Alone is still something to get for the Game Gear. It’s one of the few licensed games from a movie that is rather good.
It’s your neighborhood. Go defend it.
Score: 7 out of 10