Home Alone (NES) Review

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Review by The Every Gamer (December 2016)

Score: F+ (2.5/5)

   Home Alone, that movie (well the first two) that you watch every Christmas that would be pointless and uninteresting to watch if it didn’t have Christmas spirit and two blokes getting hurt. Funny enough, I watched Home Alone for the first time…last year, I was certainly late to the party, but I enjoyed it a lot. Then I watched Home Alone II…it was OK, then Home Alone 3…it sucked, then Home Alone 4…gave up on the series, I’m definitely not watching the fifth film, and not even Malcolm McDowell can change my mind. But Home Alone has become the must-watch movie for Christmas and I may go and watch the first one again this year…and only the first one…and because I’m British, a nice view of The Snowman if your family wants to be depressed (it truly isn’t a British Christmas without The Snowman).

   Anyway, for those who don’t know anything about this movie, it’s about a young boy named Kevin, with a big family who are off on a vacation for Christmas. Things get hectic, but everyone manages to get to the airport on time…only to realise they left Kevin home alone. At first, he enjoys his time alone, all by himself, but eventually misses his family and the family decides to return home eventually. But not all is well as two burglars, Marv and Harry, are robbing the entire neighbourhood and Kevin decides to protect his home, using various traps, AND HILARITY ENSUES! That’s the gist of it, it’s mostly waiting for the third act to see the true comedy, the essence of Home Alone. The movie overall is good, it has that Christmas spirit I’m looking for (by the way, I may be using Christmas because the UK still uses that word, and how merry it is).

   But with a successful film comes merchandise…well mostly games, so I’ll take a look at the NES port of Home Alone, developed by Bethesda Softworks and published by THQ and released in 1991 in the US only. The game near enough follows the third act of the plot. And yes, this is my second NES review of a game that was developed by Bethesda Software on this site, but at least this title lasts more than five minutes.

  So the basis of the game is pretty much going around your house as the main protagonist of the movie, Kevin, who is running around, picking up and setting traps for Harry and Marv, who are after him…instead of the stuff in his house…I would make a dark joke, but I’m rather jolly and don’t want to ruin the mood. You’ll also be able to drop chandeliers by pressing down and A…and I didn’t know about that until right now as I’m writing this, reading the FAQ to figure out what the heck I’m doing. You can also hide under things to avoid getting caught by Harry and Marv.

   The main objective is to avoid getting caught and you have 20 minutes to survive. Yeah, the game lasts 20 minutes, that’s $40-50 for the NES cart down the bin after getting good at it. I know Where’s Waldo (Wally) on the NES was much shorter than this game but…come on Bethesda. On the bright side, they would go on to make much longer games.

   Now some people say this is another of the NES’ list of bad games. Well…let’s see…the game is pretty much a stealth game, from hiding to setting up traps and there are different traps, each having different strengths…strength being how long a burglar will be knocked out, and when you know which one is the most effective, you might get lucky enough to survive…emphasis on “might”. This is a fairly remarkable title since it is a movie based game developed by Bethesda, but….

   This game relies on you to strategize, but there are some things that give you an unfair disadvantage, like the enemies being a bit too fast compared to Kevin, especially when going up and down the stairs. You can only hold a few traps at a time which is enough to at least survive for a while. You have a map that shows your position and where the traps are placed…but not the enemies, meaning that they can sometimes come out of nowhere and end the game prematurely. All of this makes the game frustrating, but not entirely impossible. I mean you could have added markers for the enemies, you may say it may have made the game too easy, but if Metal Gear 2 could make it work, Home Alone could, even if the environment is smaller than the land of Zanzibar.

   One other thing to talk about is that the game has no lives, you get caught, and it’s Game Over. Here’s something you may not have noticed, Home Alone had two versions based on revisions. The first release shows Kevin doing his trademark shock-face with a speech bubble spouting “Oh No!” after being caught. In the second version, Kevin was removed, but “Oh No!” is intact but with a different text design. There hasn’t been a statement on why this was changed; I assume that considering the objective of running away from the burglars who are chasing you, the fate of Kevin in the game is left to the imagination of the gamer, (I guess kids probably wouldn’t have those dark thoughts) but just in case, I assumed the publisher decided to change it to avoid any controversies, just in case.

   The graphics are decent, but for 1991, it could have been better. At least the level design remains faithful to the movie, despite being minimal in terms of where you go. The music is also minimal and it can get annoying over time, I think there are about three songs in the game with the main music constantly looping.

   Overall, Home Alone is a flawed game and I wouldn’t call it a truly bad game, it just has a lot of things going against it. I wasn’t angry when I played the game, just indifferent and disappointed that it could have been so much more. Had it not been rushed (I can tell), it may have been a decent game at best. But the fact that the game takes 20 minutes to finish with no replay value when you eventually finish it would leave anyone with a sour taste. I’d recommend you give it a try, maybe once, because I will commend the game for being intense, you never know what’s going to happen, but it seems a bit of luck and strategy is needed if you really want to finish it.

You can get Home Alone on the NES.

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