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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Game Boy) artwork

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Game Boy) review


"Lost in translation"


Move tie-in games are going the way of the dodo. You don't see many full-price titles based on Disney or Dreamworks animated features anymore, or even live-action children's fare similar to "Home Alone" or "Beethoven." A small part of me laments the passing of these games, but a bigger piece figures this category's death was long overdue. I know that sounds cold, but you have to remember I played a lot of these awful adaptations in my youth. I even owned a few, such as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York on Game Boy, a disaster that helped temper my cynicism towards licensed titles nearly as a whole.

You begin this train wreck in the halls of the Plaza Hotel, running away from an 8-bit Tim Curry. Your objective isn't clear at first, except that you need to keep away from him or instantly lose a life. Meanwhile, all manner of weird things attempt to thwart your progress: floating old women, animate springs, flying briefcases, possessed vacuum cleaners and various hotel staff all want Kevin McAllister dead. Sadly, your only apparent means of offense consists of severely limited weaponry, ranging from a gun that fires boxing gloves to a necklace that trips some human foes.

The dearth of weapons leads you to believe that you need to avoid damage rather than fight. However, your attempts to dodge enemies fall flat, mostly thanks to awkward mechanics. Kevin not only handles a bit sluggishly, but also possesses a floaty jump. Timing is the key to survival, but mastering that skill proves needlessly difficult when you can't easily gauge exactly when to move, stop or hop. For a while, you'll find your adversaries just barely clip you, scraping away one health point--or outright killing you, in some cases.

Once you survive the initial onslaught, you get to explore several other floors that all look identical, consisting of bland, soulless hallways that offer mostly empty rooms. Now and then, you might stumble upon pizza that grants you an extra life or a weapon. If you're unlucky, though, you could also find a maid attempting to assault you with pillows or a concierge with an instant-death grip. Regardless of what you find in the various rooms, this entire repetitive phase of the stage only serves to pad out its length. It offers nothing of value, and only demonstrates this game's all-around shallowness and lack of character.

After another anticlimactic romp through a kitchen, you eventually meet a boss: a chubby chef who tosses knives at you. Stock up all the weapons you want, but none of them even faze the portly cook. Nothing you try works against him: hopping on him, surviving for a fixed amount of time, setting your Game Boy on fire... You soon wonder if maybe the game is bugged, or you were missing something. So you turn to the manual, thumbing through it until you happen upon something you would've never guessed in a million years: Kevin possesses a main attack, but it's not assigned to the B button. As it turns out, you can press Down while walking to execute sliding maneuver that kills or inures some of your foes, the chef boss included.

Here's the kicker, though: only certain enemies can be eliminated with the slide. Springs, vicious dogs and levitating luggage succumb to its might, but vacuums and pretty much any person--except that one boss--shrug it off.

Inconsistency rears its ugly head time and again throughout this campaign. After leaving the hotel, you embark on a rather straightforward trip through Central Park, where you meet thugs who drop cherry bombs on you from the bushes. You avoid these hazards by hopping over the explosive, graciously passing by the men who lob them without sustaining damage. You also bump into some other criminals who try to thwack you with caveman-style clubs. However, if you jump into these guys to avoid a bludgeoning, they actually harm you and I'm not sure why. Thankfully, this level is mostly a basic obstacle course, and it shouldn't take you long to get its rhythm down. If anything, it's more tedious and contrived than outright broken.

Unfortunately, that little detour leads you to truly maddening stage where the game's inconsistency continues in hate-inducing fashion: the dilapidated building from the movie's climax. This level consists of three floors you need to explore, with a few locked doors that require lettered keys. Plaster bits also rain the from the ceiling arbitrarily, dashing any hope that you can avoid them by figuring out a pattern. Sometimes, they appear when you're in the middle of a jump and you can't evade them without falling to your death in one of the many pits featured in this dungeon.

The stage's design is worse than its hazards. As you mosey about, you eventually find some of the keys you think you need. Sadly, they only lead to dead ends, and two keys remain missing in action. You scour the premises for ages, hoping that maybe you missed a hidden door or a nook somewhere.

Now, are you ready for some grade A, soul-shattering bullshit? In order to grab the penultimate key, you must fall down one of the pits. There's no hint or indication that you can or need to do this, and there's no intuitive process whatsoever that tells you to do so. During my first playthrough nearly thirty years ago, I discovered this when I botched a jump.

After nabbing the key, it's all pretty much a downhill coast until you reach the final boss. You realize at that moment that all of the weapons you were gathering earlier were intended to help you with this fight. Thankfully, all is not lost if you're short on ammo. If you're totally unarmed, you can prompt the pigeon lady to drop a bag of seeds on the boss. However, she's not entirely reliable because she constantly moves side to side across the top of the battlefield, and doesn't always line up with your opponent. So your best bet is to replay the campaign and hoard weapons like mad.

Or better yet, break your fingers so you aren't tempted to put yourself through that mess again. Honestly, I have to commend developer Imagineering for their attempt at turning "Home Alone 2" into a video game, because they managed a nearly impossible feat. However, I won't deny that their version of Kevin's escapades is such a counterintuitive, inconsistent, boring fiasco that it's nearly unplayable. When you check out retro licensed games like this and realize there's a whole lineup of them out there, it's not hard to understand why movie tie-ins really aren't a thing these days, outside of free-to-play mobile apps.

1/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 09, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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