Retro Review: “Home Alone” (SNES, Jolly Jinglings Special)
Welcome back to Jolly Jinglings, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things festive and frosty!
The original Home Alone film hit theaters during the holiday season of 1990, making this year the anniversary of its release. We’ve already marked the occasion by reviewing the Home Alone video game for the original NES, but why not see how the Super Nintendo version stacks up?
The SNES version Home Alone was published by TH*Q in 1991, and it is definitely not just a suped-up version of the NES game. This time, the young Kevin McCallister must progress through four side-scrolling stages, tracking down his family’s household valuables before invading bandits can steal them. Once you find them, you can send them down the laundry chute so that you can lock them up in a massive safe in the basement. You can only carry a limited amount of jewels, electronics, and rare pets at a time, so you’ll need to trek back and forth to the laundry chute multiple times. You don’t lose them when you die, which is nice.
It’s not all running and collecting though. The “Wet Bandits” Harry and Marv are constantly hounding you, and unlike the Home Alone film, they brought along a whole gang of thieves to help them burglarize your family home. These additional enemies are extremely generic looking, sporting 1930s-inspired gangster duds. Most of them act as drones who wander back and forth, but some also throw projectiles at Kevin, including their hats. Derp.
Fortunately, Kevin isn’t defenseless. Not only can you take multiple hits (which can be replenished when you find a cookie), but Kevin is also armed with a water gun, complete with infinite ammo (Hey, it’s just as effective as throwing a hat, don’t you think?). Kevin can also find more powerful weapons such as a slingshot, baseballs, and a BB gun.
Dispatching Marv & Harry is a different story. You can temporarily stun them with your weapons, but you can only dispatch them by luring them to traps scattered throughout the house, including thumb tacks, toy cars, and falling paint cans. I say that, though I’m not 100% certain that you can defeat Harry at all, as I never managed to successfully trick him into hitting a trap.
Once you have tossed a certain number of valuables down the laundry chute, Kevin must make his way to the basement to seal them safely away. These basement portions are remarkably off-brand with the Home Alone license, as Kevin must avoid bats, ghosts, and giant spiders, all culminating in a boss battle against giant monster creatures. Each boss battle is similar… you have to knock a loose stone onto boss 5 times, all without the benefit of your weapons. If that sounds slightly bizarre at best (and like it kind of sucks at worst), you’d be right. These basement sequences seem really out of place, and with the boss battles being so unimaginatively similar, more thought should have been put into making them more interesting and in-tune with the Home Alone brand.
Other than the mundane basement segments, the rest of Home Alone is rather fun. I found hunting around the cabinets and shelves for hidden valuables to be far more fun than it might sound, and the stages aren’t so large that it becomes taxing to retrace your steps to find that last missing VCR or candlestick.
Kevin’s animations are very basic, but he controls well enough, and the little platforming you have to do isn’t too difficult as a result. Some of the platforms themselves aren’t always obvious, though, as Kevin can jump along the tops of oversized teddy bears, toy soldiers, and hanging picture frames. Sure, they don’t look hardy enough to support human weight, but Kevin is a pretty shrimpy kid.
Other than some of these platforms mentioned above (i.e. teddy bears and toy soldiers), there’s not many other visual flourishes that establish Home Alone as a very Christmas-y game. There are some cinematic interludes which show off digitized moments from the film and the title screen features the main Home Alone theme, but the rest of the soundtrack is made up of original compositions and a couple of Nutcracker tunes for good measure.
Overall, I’d say that Home Alone on Super NES is a better overall game than the NES version, though it doesn’t match the license quite as well. The additional gangsters scattered around the house and the basement stages are really out of place, and given that most of the action involves shooting or throwing projectiles rather than setting traps, Home Alone on SNES feels more like a rudimentary action game than its 8-bit counterpart. I would have preferred a bit more Christmastime flare, too,
Home Alone was one of the first games I ever played on the Super NES. A friend of my brother brought his console to our house along with a copy of Home Alone, showing it off as one of the reasons why the Super Nintendo was so awesome. It did look great back then, and it still looks decent and remains completely playable now. I wouldn’t enthusiastically recommend Home Alone on SNES to everyone – it’s a short, early Super Nintendo game that combines both unique and oddball ideas, but quite a bit of it is still fun, and worth checking out if you’re so inclined.
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