"A lot of the things wrong with America seem to be Macaulay Culkin's fault in some way. Thanks to The Pagemaster, kids are turned off from reading books. Ted Danson, a respectable actor even when paired with Kirstie ''Ugly-As-Sin Ice Queen'' Alley on Cheers, never fully recovered from the repeated blows to the groin and spleen that came together to form Getting Even With Dad. Macaulay Culkin was also the first child star I remember watching - almost voyeuristically, it seems - as he slid freely a..."
A lot of the things wrong with America seem to be Macaulay Culkin's fault in some way. Thanks to The Pagemaster, kids are turned off from reading books. Ted Danson, a respectable actor even when paired with Kirstie ''Ugly-As-Sin Ice Queen'' Alley on Cheers, never fully recovered from the repeated blows to the groin and spleen that came together to form Getting Even With Dad. Macaulay Culkin was also the first child star I remember watching - almost voyeuristically, it seems - as he slid freely along his downward spiral into the world of drugs, the faded glory that only child stars know, and marrying someone ridiculously stupid enough to fall for him. And, of course, as per the easy mutability from the big screen to the game scene, both Home Alone movies spawned video games that are often rightly insulted to an endless degree.
However much we may make fun of this series of movies and games in which a child is left to his own mischievous devices after being left behind on the family vacation (twice!), one product of it seems to be mystically shielded from retribution. The other games on the other consoles all have basically the same theme (i.e. to take your time in setting up a series of traps that will hopefully induce laughter in the player as Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern stoop to the low points of their respective careers by blatantly running into them). Here, Kevin McCallister is being relentlessly hounded by Harry and Marv, the Wet Bandits. There is no time in Home Alone 2, as there was in the movie of the same name, to make up a blueprint and taunt the bumbling burglars until they run headfirst into every snare you set up. This Home Alone port is gracefully short thanks to its reasonably fast pace and has enough going for it to be, at times, highly entertaining, which is more than can be said for any other port of Home Alone or game made by Capstone.
The game begins with a typical street chase, with the Wet Bandits already in hot pursuit and Kevin trying as hard as he can to escape the wrath of the two heartless and brainless nitwits. As he runs, Kevin can pick up objects to throw at the criminals to at least temporarily stave off their never-ending quest to grab you and bite all of your fingers off. Getting through even a single level requires the ability to move with the arrow keys, press Spacebar to pick up flashing objects and you pass them by, and press Enter to dispense your inventory (and later, the tricky feat of jumping), all with perfect fluidity - never stopping.
Already, by demanding that you get your priorities straight by knowing when to throw the various street scraps, toiletries, and spare tools you'll pick up along the way, Home Alone 2 is an intense side-scrolling ride. To get Harry off your back, you might toss a garbage can lid right at his noggin, only to have Marv bring up the rear and slip on a bottle of mustard you threw down not a moment too soon. You do not have to rely entirely on your ability to lay a trap on the spur of the moment, either; since the larcenous thieves basically retrace your movements, you can easily lure them into caroming into natural obstacles like trees, stroller-pushing mothers, spilled ice buckets, haywire fire extinguishers, and scaffoldings that you can tip over yourself to achieve something like what would make you laugh at a silent movie.
All of the locales are taken straight from the movie: aside from the obvious inclusion of the streets of New York, you will make tracks through the hotel Kevin committed credit card fraud in, the toy store that he so cleverly foiled the robbery of, and his aunt and uncle's abandoned brownstone. As such, each also has its own set of unique obstacles. The streets are full of hot dog stands and pedestrians who are more than willing to beat your scruffy antagonists in the groin with various purses and body parts. Objects in the hotel and the toy store can be knocked down, broken, and tipped over, adding more ways to keep the enemy at bay. Though the game is short, you may find yourself playing over and over again just to see the dimwitted duo trip up in this unexpectedly funny game.
The controls are the main bother with the game, as it can take a long time to get used to the way they work. It can be hard enough to acclimate oneself to the aspects of running, grabbing items, and throwing them at the bad guys without the additional trouble of futzing with certain obstacles (Kevin can be tripped up by some things, like cars and stray dogs, just as the Wet Bandits can). The game rarely calls for required jumping, but some important and potentially helpful traps must be activated with the spacebar while jumping, which calls for a dexterous swipe at the Insert key, of all keys. Having to switch back and forth like this is a pain, and will be the main reason most novices to the game (e.g. people who have played the game for less than three minutes), because you'll rarely be at a loss for stuff to toss down or set off. Once you become accustomed to having to do several things at once, the game is not too difficult save for the added trouble of jumping in a few areas that demand it of you in the brownstone.
Graphically, the game succeeds better on the action level than in the stills that you get to see between irregular intervals. The pictures you get to see are for the most part taken from the movie, as when Catherine O'Hara is seen hugging Macaulay Culkin and then promptly disinfects herself. Unfortunately, they have that pixel-ish look that makes you immediately think it took many hours of painstaking zoom-in work in Windows Paint to accomplish the look exhibited here. The colors in the game are quite vibrant by early PC standards, with bright hues gleefully splattered all over every object. While there is very little use of any shadow or color effect that might be considered ooh- and aah-worthy, the character models actually look quite nice, appearing dressed and of proper height as they are in the movie. The animation is the source of most of the laughter derived from the game, as you'll learn for yourself when you just can't stifle that snicker after seeing one of them get his chin relocated to his forehead by a swing set.
But perhaps what is most astounding is that Home Alone 2 for the PC was somehow not pulled into the vortex of absolute suckitude that all the others were. It is relatively easy to find and barely requires any installation, which is good considering it's really a cheap thrill and nothing else. If you haven't had a corker of a side-scrolling romp on your comp in a while, this will send fresh blood flowing through the old fingers again. Even if you wish to keep yourself distanced from the highly dysfunctional McCallister family and consider Macaulay Culkin to be taboo in at least six major religions, this is the one you should play if you have to play at least one Home Alone game. It is nothing extraordinary, but unlike the movie bearing its name, it is at times comical and has a great possibility of throwing you for a loop if you're expecting a grossly abysmal product. I don't know how it did it, and probably never will, but it did. While I'd probably be telling you what you wanted to hear if I said it sucked, I'd be lying, and my reviewing conscience just won't let me do that.
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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