perjantai 20. elokuuta 2010

REVIEW - Home Alone (1991)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1991
Available on: GB, SNES
Developer(s): Imagineering
Publisher(s): THQ
Players: 1

Alongside Die Hard, It’s a Wonderful Life, Batman Returns and of course, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, the first two Home Alone movies are my favourite holiday flicks of all time. No Christmas is complete without watching at least one of them – the anti-Culkin, anti-sense 3 and 4, on the other hand, suck major horse cock! I must admit that the ending of at least the first Home Alone movie made me cry back in the day. Kind of ironically, the first Home Alone game made me cry in its entirety, and for all the wrong reasons, while the ending was actually the most joyous part of the whole game. Home Alone the video game sucks so bad that it’s almost good.


Kevin McCallister is an eight-year old kid constantly oppressed and picked on by his whole family. The McCallisters sleep in on the morning they’re supposed to fly to Paris for the holidays and rush to the airport, forgetting all about Kevin sleeping off a tantrum in the attic of the house. Once Kevin wakes up and realizes the situation, the house becomes the party zone of one very happy and surprisingly resourceful child – until it occurs to him that the house has been targeted by burglars. Kevin fights the sleazy thieves back with all he’s got, after all it’s his house and he’s not going to just hand it over.

The game is really colourful, yet overtly, extremely boring. It looks pretty much the same throughout. Only the patterns change. The character design – that of the characters that are here for no apparent reason – is ripped straight out of a bunch of other games and movies. There’s nothing original about the game. It’s just a damn rushed movie license based on a film that really, really didn’t need a video game counterpart; oh well, let’s keep Wayne’s World and Blues Brothers in mind to bear this one’s bottom-end stupidity. The music will drive you out of your mind! There’s one MIDI track, some sort of rock ‘n’ roll adaptation of some American Christmas jingle – or an unauthorized variation of one – playing nearly all the way, and it’s insanely annoying. A generic MIDI version of “The Nutcracker” pops up in certain rooms. It sucks too, but it’ll bring you some peace for a glorious five seconds before that damn main tune starts rolling again.

Looks like Kevin found the game's true purpose.
We’ll have to start from a clean slate here, as it becomes quite clear from the very beginning that the plot explained above is the MOVIE’S plot. Here’s the game’s plot in a nutshell: Kevin McCallister is home alone on Christmas – although the time setting is not made clear in any way besides the music – for reasons unknown, and must protect his family’s property from a whole gang of thugs, and lock it up in the McCallisters’ four safes located in the four basements of the house. This property comprises of valuables, toys, electronics and pets. Of course, as the movie so clearly gives off (NOT!), the basement complex of the McCallister “mansion” is filled with spiders, bats, rats and... uh oh, GHOSTS! The glorious hour I spent with this game, and the additional 15 minutes I spent drinking coffee to bear to see the abomination to the end, was filled with laughter – I’m not sure of the source of that emotional display, ‘cause like I said, there might’ve been some tears too. Every consecutive minute that the game takes away from your precious life introduces a new reason why this game was never meant to be.

Most part of the game takes place in the different wings of the huge McCallister household. Uh... was the house built this straightforward in the movie? Nope. Was it this big? Hell no, sir. Actually it was quite cramped. Was there an “electronics wing” that looks like a hardware store and there are a gazillion alarm clocks found everywhere? I don’t remember seeing that one, no. Did the McCallisters have a tendency to store pizza in wardrobes? This game raises a lot of questions, like what the hell that gang is all about. In the movie, Harry and Marv were a couple of delinquents with no friends. Now, suddenly, they’re some sort of crime bosses who run their own gang filled with regular mobsters, a pimp daddy that throws ping-pong balls at Kevin, and a dude that uses his hat as a weapon like Oddjob. This guy actually looks a lot more like Joe Pesci than the actual Harry sprite; which reminds me, Harry only appears two times during the whole game, whereas Marv is one resilient bastard, who pops up from behind just about every corner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the movie Marv was the stupid one, and therefore definitely the weaker link of the duo – a mere sidekick, but a damn funny one. Again, only in the movie.

There’s one thing in common between all the human enemies: their A.I., on the scale of 1 to 10, is something like minus 1. They always respawn to give you hell at the worst possible moments, but they always fall for the same generic tricks. Marv is always easily dealt with by the thumbtacks or toys spread across the floor. You don’t have to do anything but run from him, and he just zombies right behind you, eventually triggering the traps. Harry also just simply follows you around and you can usually use some sort of higher ground to jump over and distract him that way to get what you came for. The regular mobsters move in slightly different patterns all the way, giving off clues on how to deal with them, for example with a conveniently placed banana peel. In addition, you can use different weapons on enemies: a water gun (which really is good for absolutely nothing), a slingshot, a baseball and the classic BB gun. The last one works on most enemies, but just like in the case of every other weapon in the game, you need to shoot it like a million times before actually disposing of the target, and it isn’t very smart since they always respawn. On top of all, you can’t use any weapons in the basement against animals and ghosts, you just have to dodge their generic plunges towards you.

What a mess.
So, ready for your mission already? OK. In stage one, you’ll have to make your way through the “treasure wing” and collect a set amount of valuables from anywhere you can think of... yeah, even laundry. What kind of a dork stores jewelry in dirty laundry? Oh well, let’s not go over all of this again. When your inventory is full or you just happen to come across a chute that leads to the basement, you can load off the items and continue searching for more. It’s fun, for a while. When you realize you can’t do much besides jump, since shooting enemies especially in the beginning of the game is not worth the effort, you’ll start to get bored quicker than you can let out an “AAAAAHHHHH!!!” in the genuine Kevin McCallister way. If you don’t know the genuine K-Mac way, just lose a life and you’ll know at least a poorly digitized version of it. This version of the scream is even worse than the real thing, and the pixelated portrait, topped off with the irritating “OH NO!” sign twists the knife – that one screen describes the game pretty good, though. When you’ve finally gotten all of the valuables you need, a key magically appears in front of the locked basement door. Any idea what to do? Just grab that key and enter the first basement sequence. This one doesn’t have a boss. Just make your way to the humongous safe door while dodging enemies, slam it shut and you’re home free. Beating a stage triggers an ugly still portrait of Kevin revelling in victory until he realizes... *gulp*... that there’s more to do. Seriously, we’ve only hacked through one stage, and we already wish it was all over. Especially when we realize that whatever we’re supposed to do next, we’re playing the same stage with a few minor changes, over and over again.

The second stage requires you to find all of Kevin’s toys before the gang can get to them. Once again, I have to point out that Marv is in actuality the only one obsessed with toys, I don’t think a whole gang of burglars – again, WHAT FUCKING GANG? – would waste its time to get its hands on a little kid’s toy stash. This stage has a boss fight against Buzz’s tarantula from the movie... that in the game is, like, twice Kevin’s size. Since Kevin can’t use weapons in the basement (because he’s scared – or, because the developers were on dope?), he has to rely on a constantly respawning loose brick on the basement wall, which has to be jumped at and dropped on the head of the stupid spider, that walks on an obvious track right under the brick. You’re probably thinking to yourself: well, that was generic... but it was the first boss fight, there are surely better ones to come. Ah, no. They’re all the same. Just replace the spider with a huge rat, and finally, a ghost. Remember the ghost in the movie? It ruled! Oh crap... I must’ve confused Home Alone with Ghostbusters again, sorry. The possessed oven, which of course was only in Kevin’s own imagination in the movie is gone, but they put a freakin’ ghost in? What game were they really working on?

This is starting to look like a novel, so I’ll keep the rest short since the game is very short, thank the Lord. In stage three, you’re in the electronics wing, in which you have to collect a bunch of TV’s, radios and alarm clocks. The maximum amount of items you can carry in this stage is ten, whereas in the first stage it was six. Now, as far as the laws of physical strength go, especially those applying to a kid, I would dare think that TV’s, especially TV’s built in the early 90’s, outweigh necklaces. It’s just a thought. Anyway, the game has become so God damn boring at this point, that I’m really struggling to come up with something fresh to say. The final stage requires you to rescue the family’s pets, and it’s surprisingly easy... until you come across traps and enemies that are quite strictly impossible to avoid without getting hurt, especially since trick jumping in this game is far from practical. But that’s not all, oh no. The final pet is a wall climbing lizard that, to my understanding, is impossible to catch if you miss it once. I really hope I’m wrong – I’m not going to waste any more of my time with this game, not even to see if this is a fact or not. It really is THAT dull. And bad. Like I said in the prologue, the very best part of the game is its end, unless you’re easily depressed by the fact that you could’ve spent the last hour having great sex or even watching paint dry rather than playing this game.

I just have to mention one more thing. If you happen to lose all your lives, which is surprisingly possible since jumping over obstacles and enemies isn’t really Kevin’s forté, you’ll see a still image of Harry and Marv – this time, without their “gang” – gawking at Kevin, who’s hanging by a hook on a door. Now this scene certainly IS in the movie. If you think of the movie when you see this “cutscene”, you probably feel quite safe because about 20 seconds later in the flick, old man Marley sneaks up on Harry and Marv and beats the shit out of them with his shovel, rescuing Kevin in the process. So with that in mind, you haven’t really lost, so be happy. You’ll need something to keep you going!

The game is easy, but so boring and lacking in dynamics that it’s sort of challenging. What’s most difficult about it is that there’s only one chance to continue. Upon continuing you still have to do the stage you’re in all over again. It’s not as bad as starting the whole game all over again, but it’s still bad, considering the circumstances. The game lasts for about an hour, yet that hour will be one of the longest ones in your life.

Home Alone is a simple action game... without any action. A horrid movie license from all possible standpoints, but not quite as bad as you might think. It’s sort of fun, even if it’s for just about two minutes. THQ were kind enough to make this game so that Ocean Software wouldn’t be alone with their bad movie licenses – none of which are this bad, however. What good sports. And, they sealed the deal with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York! Yay! I can’t wait! Seriously, would someone please pull out a gun and shoot me in the temple before I go on with the crazy idea to clash through the sequel?

Graphics : 5.5
Sound : 4.0
Playability : 4.4
Challenge : 3.0
Overall : 4.1


GameRankings: 51.25% (GB), 60.00% (SNES)

All versions of the game released since 1992 are dedicated to the memory of THQ programmer Tom Heidt, who passed away that year.

This version of the game was directly ported to the Game Boy. All of the other versions (including the NES version) are quite different, and developed by different companies. The NES version was developed by Bethesda Softworks, who later became known for their work on the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises.

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