Review: Home Alone (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we try to stop the Wet Bandits in the Sega Genesis game Home Alone. We find out if this action game is worth a try.

This game was released in 1992. We are pretty familiar with this franchise in video game format. We previously reviewed the NES version. That game got a barely passable score here. We also reviewed the SNES version. That game really flunked out for us. Finally, we tried the Game Boy version. Surprisingly, that game got the best score so far and managed to be reasonable, but mediocre. So, we thought we’d try the Sega Genesis version to see if it’s any better.

Given how soon after this version was released, one of our questions going in was whether this will be the survival style game found in the NES version or more like the action style game like the SNES and Game Boy versions. To our surprise, although it takes elements of both, this game is actually its own unique game. As a result, there is really no practical means of pointing out differences between this and other versions.

In this version, you play Kevin. Your mission is to protect an entire neighbourhood against the criminals Harry and Marv. Before you begin the game, you are, interestingly enough, pushed into the options menu. The big question you get to answer is what difficulty you feel like taking on. There is only Beginner and Expert. If this is your first time play through, beginner is ideal because there is less of a learning curve.

When you start the game, you get to be Kevin on the sled. Apparently, Sled on flat ground is the fastest mode of transportation between houses when you use the charge. Just be aware that you only have a limited amount of this charge, so use it gradually and only when you are in a tight situation.

When you start, you’ll likely notice the ETA timer counting down. While most games have you trying to beat the clock, in this game, the ultimate goal is to run down the clock as much as possible. When the timer reaches zero, the cops arrive and arrest Harry and Marv assuming there are any houses left. How much time you have to run down depends on your difficulty. For beginner, you have to successfully drain 20 minutes from the clock. On expert, you have to burn a whole 30 minutes.

You start off in the front of your house. In total, there are 5 houses you have to defend. There are three houses on your street. One of them is located to the left of your house while the other is to the right. If you travel south, there are two other houses just across the frozen river.

What may not be so obvious are the item pickups. To find them, you have to blast through snowmen. While it may be tempting to believe this, you don’t actually have to use charge to bust open a snowman. Touching it is sufficient to break it apart and reveal the item underneath. There are three possible items you can find. You can find a tire, a weapon part, or ammo for your BB gun (only 1 of those are out here to my knowledge). Every item is worth points and will be useful for the other part of this game.

The other thing you can do is enter houses. To enter a house, bump into the door. You can either enter in them in your own time or follow Harry and Marv’s van. In the beginning of the game, entering them on your own is an ideal strategy. By the end of the game, following the van is a good strategy depending on what you have in your inventory.

Whenever you enter a house, you are given the opportunity to lay traps everywhere. This only happens if Harry and Marv aren’t in the house. Contrary to some of the other games out there, traps are only of minor significance in slowing down the criminals. They help, but they aren’t game changing by any means. The only significant roll they play is bumping up your score if you successfully defend the house. Since you have a small amount of time in the beginning of the game, you can lay out your traps early on and get this step out of the way first.

What traps you have really depends on the difficulty. If you pick beginner, you actually have fewer traps to work with. Expert grants you a few more traps, but likely only because you have much more time to burn in the game. If you enter a house with no criminals, you’ll be shown a blueprint of the house. You can select from a limited number of areas where to lay the traps. Some traps are specific to door jams while others need to be laid out in the open. Just keep in mind that you get one stash of traps for all the houses. There is no way to obtain any traps outside of starting a new game. So, carefully spreading out the traps can prove beneficial.

While Harry and Marv have their own items to loot, you yourself will, ironically, find yourself looting houses for useful items too. The collectible items can be found on high up shelves. Where they are is randomly generated, but they do show up in predictable locations. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can sometimes find a whole cache of items. Just because there is one item showing doesn’t mean there aren’t more that will be revealed after you claim one item. Keep collecting until that location is empty.

You may notice that some items are simply too high to reach. If you are like me, you’re probably scratching your head at these. As it turns out, if you use “A”, you’ll be able to lay down a tire to give you extra height. Jump on the tire and you’ll springboard yourself even higher to get the most out of reach items. Be warned that if you jump on the tire, it’ll use up that tire. All tires are single use, so use them when you feel it is necessary.

While in houses, you’ll see that you have an ammunition meter. If you don’t have any other weapons, this will be you BB gun. Even that, however, has limited ammunition. So, use it when necessary.

After a while, you’ll likely see a “loot” meter appear. This means that Harry and Marv are already hitting a house. While you do have a window of opportunity to stop them, the time is far from unlimited. If that meter fills up, then Harry and Marv have finished looting the house they are in. A message will appear telling you that they have looted the house and the house in question is now flooded. The house in question will no longer be accessible.

If you are in a house and additionally see a yellow “pain” meter, it means that you happen to be in the house Harry and Marv are currently looting. This is good news because you now have the chance to defend that house in question. The traps you laid out earlier will slow them down. Most traps will cause the two criminals pain. Every time you cause the criminals pain, you gradually fill up the meter. If you fill the meter entirely before they loot the house, then you’ll successfully chase them off and get a bunch of bonus points for a successful defence.

Just know that if the criminals finish looting the house before you cause them enough pain, the meter will reset as soon as you (and them) enter a new house.

A problem here is what happens when you get caught by them. If you get caught, the criminal in question will pick you up. You’ll then be transported to the nearest “hook” on the wall. To break free of the hook, mash the directional buttons quickly. This is the only time you actually get a setback, so it is actually impossible to really die without having the criminals successfully loot every house.

The criminals may more or less ignore you, but if you manage to shoot them with something, then they will give chase. A problem, however, is that the BB gun you use only temporarily (VERY temporarily) stuns them. It doesn’t cause any pain. As you’ll no doubt notice, the traps are nowhere near sufficient to cause significant enough pain to them. This is where the items come into play.

At this point, the game veers way far away from what Home Alone is known for and becomes much more like some sort of MacGyver-like. With the items you collect, you can forge your own weapons to fight the criminals with. To start forging your own weapons, you need to pause while inside a house. This will take you to a weapons menu.

On the left hand side of the screen are all the items you have obtained that are used for weapons parts. Red titled items are used as “platforms”. Yellow titled items are used as “operators”. Finally, blue titled items are “ammo”. If you are on the beginner setting, then the game will auto-generate the weapons for you. On expert, however, you have to sort out the correct combinations on your own by selecting the item and bringing it into one of the three boxes below. From there, after you pick an item for each box, you select the wrench icon to see if it forges a new weapon.

If it works, the item will appear on the demonstration section of the screen. If it doesn’t, the game will just give you a buzzing sound. There are plenty of item combinations, but a whole lot more incorrect combinations, so trial and error becomes a big part of this game on the harder setting. Luckily, going into this menu pauses the game, so you could have a criminal breathing down your neck. Doesn’t matter because once you hit pause, you can spend 5 minutes sorting out what your new weapon will be. Go back and the criminal will still be giving chase.

If the ammo bar is flashing, it means that you are out of ammo. If, however, you have more than one of a certain kind of ammo, the game automatically reloads your weapon when you run out of your first ammo item. So, the game is convenient that way. While you may be temped to believe this, there are actually no dud items in this game. Every item can be used in a weapon in some way.

One final option that can get overlooked, yet is hugely important, is the hammer icon. If you run out of ammo in one weapon, that doesn’t mean it just sits there uselessly collecting dust. Instead, you can select the weapon without ammo and use the hammer icon. This breaks the weapon back apart. Obviously, you won’t get the ammo item back. However, you will restore your platform and operator items. This frees up the parts for use in other weapons. This is great if you have a whole pile of ammo items and nothing to match them up with. In fact, once you know about this feature in the game, the difficulty does drop by quite a bit.

Another factor you have to contend with is the house enemy. This enemy is neutral and will go after everyone in the house. The good news in this is that if it strikes one of the robbers, it knocks them out for a brief period of time like a weapon. It also adds to the pain meter. The bad news is that if the enemy gets you, then Kevin gets knocked out for a period of time, leaving the robbers to continue looting the house. Generally speaking, these enemies are more blessing than a curse, but you do have to be mindful of them. Stairs are generally a safe haven from them.

If you fill up that pain meter, Kevin will use a pun as a taunt on the criminals. What that pun is depends on what weapon you happen to have selected at the time. One of the biggest pitfalls is that this victory screen also uses two shots uselessly. The good news is that if you have one shot left, you can save that one additional shot for the next confrontation.

When you reach the end of the match, you’ll be assessed based on how many houses you’ve saved. The more houses you defend, the better your ranking. You’ll also get bigger multiplier bonuses at the end of the game because saved houses are worth a lot of points. From there, the game ends and you’ll have your score attached to the top of the intro screen. This is regardless of difficulty, so if you are after a really high score, pick the expert difficulty because you’ll get a better chance to score bigger.

I personally haven’t had very good luck enjoying these games. After playing a few versions of this game, I was expecting this one to be like the others. I was definitely surprised to find that this is almost a completely different game. Yes, it operates on somewhat similar principles as the other games, but that is by the natural fact that this is also based off of a movie.

One thing I wasn’t all that impressed by is the learning curve. After you select your difficulty and go, the game pretty much just plunks you down in the middle of the map with a few stats and expects you to figure it out on your own. There’s really no method for you to figure out what you need to do outside of trial and error. Yes, it is possible to figure out this game on the first go, but you basically blow your first round trying to understand what is happening and what you precisely need to do.

Having said that, once you do figure this game out, it actually becomes a relatively straight forward game. You learn that you can break apart weapons and repurpose them to use other kinds of ammo you have in your inventory. You learn that items in the snowmen respawn after you visit and defend a house. Getting the top ranking becomes less daunting and more of an inevitability. Ultimately, the learning curve problem goes away after the first trial round.

One thing I do recommend is playing this game on beginner first. This gives you a better chance at learning the weapon building system. This is simply because it auto-generates the weapon for you and you get a feel how different weapons operate. Some weapons are a simple shot. Other’s are more like a mortar weapon. Both can be used effectively and mastering other elements in this game are more easily accomplished without having to worry about mixing and matching parts.

The weapon system itself is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it does change up the game and adds variety. Without having to build weapons, there would really be no puzzle element to this game. When you successfully find the right combo, it can be exciting as well. It’s a curse in that building weapons to shoot the criminals was never part of the movie franchise outside of the BB gun. It also has the aforementioned learning curve involved. So, I would say you can make a case both directions on whether or not this was a great element in the game or not.

A positive element in this game is the fact that the difficulty curve is actually well thought out. The game isn’t impossibly hard by any means. At the same time, the game can challenge players should they choose to go for a perfect run. It permits players to form their own strategies and pushes them. Additionally, it doesn’t scare off any potential new players either. This is what I personally like seeing in a game.

Another thing that is good about the game is the replay value. This game has the 20 to 30 minute time limit. So, you know how long the game is going to last. It’s not long enough that you have to devote an entire day to a single run. At the same time, the game permits you to learn bits and pieces as you go along. This allows players to not mind the idea of going back and playing it again with their new found discoveries. Getting a balance like that is tough, but this game manages to nail this pretty well.

Generally speaking, I am pleasantly surprised by how well this game turned out. I wasn’t a big fan of the initial learning curve, but once I got past that, the game becomes more than playable. The weapon system is both a blessing and a curse depending on your preferences. The replay value is quite good and the complexity of this game is about right. Beginner mode allows players to figure out the specifics while removing the tougher thinking elements. Expert mode, meanwhile, allows players to challenge the full complexity of the game. This gets a thumbs up from me. The length also works well enough that you can play this game over and over again while not having to devote excessive time to a single run. An overall pretty solid play.

Graphics are alright. For a game of its time, it wasn’t the greatest thing every nor is it horrible. The sprites are nicely animated and the settings are decent enough. As a result, I don’t have a whole lot to complain about here.

The audio is OK. It does do a good job at incorporating the Christmas music employed in the movie into the game. On the other hand, the sound effects are pretty average. So, an alright effort overall.

Overall, this game is probably the best Home Alone game I’ve played to date. The building of weapons might deviate a little bit from what you would expect in a game like this and the initial learning curve leaves a fair bit to be desired. Still, the replay value is good and the game allows you to learn once you get over that initial bump. The graphics are decent enough and the audio is also pretty decent. An overall solid game.

Furthest point in game:
Beginner: 53,950 (Resourceful Kid)
Expert: 87,800 (Neighbourhood Watchdog)

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 76%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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