I doubt anyone was expecting John Hughes’ Home Alone to be the highest grossing film of 1990 domestically. Despite a not so warm reception from critics (better than any of the sequels), Home Alone and the 2nd one are beloved by many and are cherished 90s classics. With how big it got, some companies were scrambling to cash in and video games were on that list. Nintendo systems got versions in late 1991 from THQ, with the NES version developed by Bethesda (yes, the Elder Scrolls company) and the SNES and Game Boy versions from Imaginnering. A lot of hate is given to these games, but they are not as bad as some make them out to be.
Imagine if a version of Home Alone 2 was still set in Chicago. The Wet Bandits are back and out of jail. They have a gang ready to rob the McCallisters with Kevin left behind again. For the pint size 8 year old, he must defend his home with traps and save the collectibles. It’s not anything original, but I doubt Hughes ever had the idea of Harry and Marv running in a gang.
There are only four levels in this version of Home Alone. Playing as Kevin, you must venture throughout the house, searching for valuables and dropping them down into the basement. The developers could have put in other things, but it’s in line with what they think burglars would rob: You got money and jewelry in one level, toys in another, and electronics in yet another. Then there’s one that’s very odd, but it’s very simple, which isn’t a bad thing.
Each level has a certain amount of valuables required to finish. They are scattered throughout the level, so searching everywhere is the main strategy. A limit to carry them is here, so a few trips to drop things off is required. After that, you get a key to go into the basement where you must avoid enemies and face a boss. When it’s defeated, you will go to a safe where the valuables are put, locked, and secured. Then you’re on to the next level.
Fighting the Bandits and their gang is not too hard. Kevin can avoid them, but there are few that require stunning or hurting them. He is armed with a squirt gun, but can upgrade to stuff like slingshots and baseballs. They did put in a few traps that make sense such as toy cars and paint cans. Much like the movie, the Bandits are really stupid and will fall for traps on the ground or not realize something will hit their head. The boss fights just require a block falling on them, so nothing special is needed to finish them off. Controls are easy to grasp. You can jump, fire the current weapon you have, duck, and switch weapons.
Graphically, it’s not much to write home about. The colors are nice, but it’s the way that it looks. I feel like this is an early Turbografx game with the way the objects and characters are. Kevin and Marv are represented somewhat, but Harry looks more like some old coot than Joe Pesci. The animations are okay, with the highlight being Kevin having nice leg movement. Digitized images from the film are seen in between levels, the intro, losing a life, and getting a game over. It’s a bit pixelated, but it’s not bad for being a very early game.
Out of all the games, the audio is the most impressive in this version of Home Alone. As far as what I’ve seen, it’s the only one to have a rendition of the theme John Williams composed, though it has a remix-like melody to it. There is quite a bit of Christmas related music, including a few Russian tracks from things like The Nutcracker. The original music has a few whimsical and intense tracks. Overall, it sounds nice. Sound effects are not anything special, but they manage to get a few digitized voices in of Kevin screaming and saying yes in triumph.
Kevin may have a few weapons at his disposal, but he will get hurt. Get hit three times, you lose a life. There are non-valuable items that will help him out in a jam. There are pizza slices that earn him an extra life if he collects eight. Cookies gain any lost hit points. He can go fast by grabbing what looks to be aftershave, leaving him invincible as well and knocking out bad guys. You can’t get anything in the basement, so whatever is left, you better be ready or find whatever is in the house before heading down.
The level designs are very simple. It’s going left to right, right to left in a house. Not much is required to outsmart the bad guys or get past an area that is inaccessible. You can probably blow through this game in a half hour to an hour. There is some challenge, but mostly, it’s easy. I don’t have a lot of complaints with this game. As I said, it’s not as bad as some make it out to be.
The biggest knock I have it for it is you don’t fight the Bandits as bosses. You’ll fight creatures that look like they came out of a Halloween project. I get Kevin is an 8 year old who is afraid of certain things, but the only thing he was afraid of in the movie was the basement furnace. They have a spider as a boss, but anyone that’s seen the movie knows who is afraid of it.
It’s not going to top the Genesis version and many other licensed games, but Home Alone can hold its own on the SNES. The presentation is a mixed bag with okay graphics and nice audio, but it plays well and has a concept that is easy to do. Some may be disappointed, but not a terrible game by any means.
Four out of five stars.
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