True to the last 45 minutes of the film, the game follows young Kevin McAllister as he tries to stop two bumbling crooks from ripping off houses on Christmas Eve. Some original elements keep this game from being standard side-scrolling fare, but still barely makes the game worth your time.
Depending on what you thought of the film, it’s either slightly scary or terrifying to think that Home Alone very nearly became a contemporary Christmas classic. Some sleazy network (read: FOX) usually runs it at least once, right next to It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. So it really is no surprise that someone made a game out of this – especially considering that anything during the late 80’s/early 90’s that was put on film or television was subsequently milked for all it was worth on the console systems.
Home Alone‘s concept is pretty simple. Two guys who call themselves the Wet Bandits drive around a neighborhood in a blue van, enter houses, steal jewelry, then flood the house and move on to the next. You play as a little kid hero Kevin and attempt to use your fourth-grade ingenuity and an assortment of traps to inflict enough pain upon the crooks to convince them to abandon five neighborhood houses, while stalling them overall for twenty or fourty real-time minutes (depending on the difficulty you select) until the cops arrive. You’ll do this through two screens – standard side scroller inside the houses, and an overhead perspective as you sled through your ‘hood to follow the Bandit-Van and move between houses.
The traps are definitely what sets the game apart and makes it somewhat interesting. If you beat the bandits to a house you will have access to a blueprint screen where you can place traps in various places throughout the house. Most of the traps seen in the movie are here, or others in the same style, ranging from marbles on the floor to blowtorches over the doorways.
Wherever you place these traps is reflected in the side scrolling “real world,” and it is your job to lure the bad guys into them. Comical hilarity ensues as the bandits slip on ice and other objects, and recreate the pratfalls seen throughout the film. They will stay stunned for a bit, giving you time to flee and set up your next ambush. You have access to a very limited number of traps however, so some strategy is involved.
Another chance to showcase Kevin’s quasi-genius is with the various weapons he can build. Throughout the houses there are objects to be picked up such as glue, hairdryers, and rubber bands. When you look at your inventory by pressing start, you can build new and slightly off-the-wall weapons, provided you have something to act as a base, activator, and ammo. Usually, items will automatically place themselves if they can be combined, and all you will have to do is click a wrench icon to automatically construct them.
These weapons give you a more readily-available method of dispatching crooks than the traps, and are useful to stun them or inflict small amounts of pain. It’s important to note that both the traps and the weapons work hand-in-hand, as neither group alone can cause enough damage to force the bandits into retreat.
Beyond these two interesting ideas, the game slips on a banana peel and falls flat on its face. Neither the traps nor the weapons cause enough pain, (demonstrated by a yellow on-screen meter) so you can literally throw everything you have at the bandits before you force them to leave the first house. And after the initial chuckles at watching the bandits slip on marbles and get fried by blowtorches, it quickly just gets annoyed as they spring back in cartoon style and go right back to liberating treasure from the vaults. Ammunition and objects for the weapons are fairly abundant and easy to find, which is a benefit, but these weapons are strangely weak.
Most configurations seem more intended for knocking the bandits down than taking them out for the count. Inexplicably, you do not seem to be able to collect more traps. The game would certainly be more enjoyable if you could create new traps as well as weapons, but for whatever reason, that is not allowed, and the only traps available are the few you have when you start.
On the technical side, the graphics are bright and attractive, giving a cutesy cartoon feel to the whole gig. It’s suitably amusing to watch the bandits trip, get hit, and take amazing amounts of slapstick punishment. If you thought men being hit with household objects and sustaining no permanent damage was funny on film, than you’ll appreciate it just the same in the game. It seriously does seem that special attention was given to making the game have the same “feel” as the movie, and that has been accomplished for the most part. This is backed up by a solid control scheme that is simple enough and responsive enough to get the job done well. You’ll have no technical complaints about this game, but the gameplay and its lack of balance will give you cause to grumble.
If you’ve read any of this and are slightly interested, then Home Alone is worth checking out. But if the idea only casually amuses you then you will probably just find the game annoying. There are better games to take your time.
A few neat innovations, clean look and sound
Poor gameplay balancing lowers the fun.