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Home Alone (NES) artwork

Home Alone (NES) review

""Kevin's home alone, and he's only 8-bit!""

Home Alone asset

I've played scores of retro licensed games, especially those based on cartoons and family-friendly intellectual property. I've also noticed while plowing through piles of these titles that many developers love to translate such source material to generic sidescrollers of the platformer variety. There was one game that I expected to be a classic example of such a phenomenon: Home Alone on NES. To my surprise, the developers at Bethesda actually decided to stray from the stale formula with this title, delivering a game that mocks its source material about as well as an NES title can.

You guide young Kevin McAllister as he eludes the infamous Wet Bandits, who have invaded his house. Since Kevin is only eight years old, he can't exactly clock the burglars and walk triumphantly into the sunset. Instead, he has a more mischievous scheme in store for them. As it turns out, Kevin has phoned the authorities, who will arrive at his place in twenty minutes. In the interim, he'll have to entertain the crooks by setting clever traps and taunting them as they bungle throughout his home.

Unfortunately, you won't have the opportunity to torch an 8-bit Joe Pesci as he enters through the back door, or to smash Daniel Stern's pixelated mug with a paint can. Setting up traps in Home Alone is more banal than that. Scattered throughout Kevin's house are various household items, represented by tiny squares with icons inside of them. Each icon represents a trap used in the movie, from Christmas ornaments to Buzz's pet spider. Utilizing these traps requires you to nab one with the 'A' button and drop it on the floor with 'B', then hope that one of the crooks "trips" on it. Each object varies in terms of effect and durability. Some items, like the soup cans, only stymie the goons for a few seconds, but can be used frequently. In contrast, the chandeliers can incapacitate a foe for a great chunk of time but disappear after a single use.

I wish I could say there was more to the game, but that's honestly it. You wander around a three-story house and occasionally drop a trap for twenty straight minutes whilst you avoid getting caught. Colliding with either bandit even once ends the game, leaving you to start from square one.

Home Alone screenshotHome Alone screenshot

If you think about it, the entire game is based around wasting time. I've found that there are two great methods for achieving this end. For one, you can circle the map's perimeter, dropping deadly implements as needed. That essentially reduces the game to repeatedly running a tight circuit for twenty minutes, while infrequently engaging in "combat." The other option involves hiding in a corner and praying the bandits never show up. This may not sound like an effective strategy, but the results can be surprising. For instance, I actually once shaved off a couple of minutes by waiting in the tree house with powerful traps on either side of me. Unfortunately, enacting this strategy is tantamount to discovering a location that can allow you to stop playing the game for a brief period.

In either of the above cases, the game is repetitive and dull, since neither strategy adds depth or variety to the experience. You simply commit to the same monotonous task for twenty straight minutes. All the while, the game's only high-pitched, overly lighthearted musical theme drones on in an endless loop, threatening to drive you insane.

As if the previously listed flaws weren't enough to demean this game's value, there are also a few technical issues. For instance, the game is quite picky about where you place Kevin when interacting with the environment. Sometimes, attempting to ascend a staircase is a difficult task that could cost you the game, because Kevin will fail to rise up the first step if he isn't positioned properly. I can't count the number of times I've gotten caught because of this one hang-up. Also, I often find myself unable to lower the chandeliers no matter where I place Kevin. Oddly enough, when I try again later, I'll position Kevin in the same precise location that I did earlier. Lo and behold, the chandeliers will magically drop. I don't understand what’s different between the two attempts, but it seems like the game plays by its own rules.

Home Alone screenshotHome Alone screenshot

I've never beaten Home Alone. You'd think it wouldn't be that difficult to finish, since its campaign only lasts twenty minutes. Unfortunately, I almost always find myself either pincered by the Wet Bandits or killed by a technical error. Heck, there was even an occasion when one of the crooks walked through a trap I had just placed and caught me. I don't feel like the game is impossible, though, at least not in terms of difficulty. If I set my mind to it, I have no doubt that I would be able to finish it eventually. If anything impedes my victory, it's the fact that the game fails to hold my interest long enough for that to happen. Honestly, I can dream up a plethora of better ways to pass twenty minutes than playing this game.

It's funny when you think about it. The object of the game is to waste time, and as it turns out, the game itself is a waste of time. Fancy that...

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Freelance review by Joseph Shaffer (June 20, 2013)

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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