—a family game without the family—
Where do I even begin. For me, Home Alone is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, and as a child, I loved playing its MS-DOS counterpart. There is another Home Alone game that was originally for Sega Genesis, where you control Kevin riding on a sled, but the game I refer to in this review is the one where Kevin is plotting traps and trying to escape Harry and Marv. This game was originally released in 1991 and was developed and distributed by Manley Associates and Capstone Software respectively. The majority of the game is about setting traps before Kevin’s arch nemeses Harry and Marv break in, but of course, setting traps is only half the fun.
In Home Alone, you take control of Kevin McAllister, the youngest child of the McAllister family who is known for his troublemaking and is constantly picked on by his older siblings. Little do they know that in a time of great crisis-such as the pending threat of criminals breaking into their home-Kevin is extremely resourceful and overcomes his own fears to protect his family. The game kicks off at 8:00pm, giving you precisely one hour to stage traps around the rooms of the McAllister family home before Harry and Marv’s arrival. Movement in Home Alone is fairly simple, and allows you to move Kevin either left and right by using the left/right arrow keys, and make him jump. When I used to play this game many years ago, I noticed that the height of Kevin’s jump could be increased by pressing lots of keys on the keyboard, and I’m not sure whether that was a deliberate or accidental move on behalf of the developers, but I always thought it was pretty fantastic. Something else that is fantastic in Home Alone is the love and attention devoted to making top-notch background art, complete with shine on the floorboards. Each room has been faithfully crafted in the image of the McAllister home, and it never comes across as scenery that’s just been thrown together haphazardly.
As Kevin treks through various rooms like the kitchen, the basement, the master bedroom and Buzz’s room, he comes across objects that he can equip and use for traps. In this version of the game, the F1 key allows you to select an object, and F3 allows you to set it as a trap in the designated area which is represented by four yellow triangles converging together. Kevin can carry a maximum of three traps at a time, and you can toggle between them by using the F2 key. The idea is to set as many traps as possible in locations where Harry and Marv are likely to stumble upon them. This usually means things that can go on the floor, like the skateboard, Kevin’s micro toys, the banana, and so on. However, not all traps work on the floor and instead must be hung around on the walls, doors, from the ceiling and so on. Furthermore, a lot of them need to be activated when Harry and Marv actually break in, which you can do by equipping the bb gun (located in Kevin’s room) and shooting the object as the crims walk under the trap.
My personal strategy was always to set as many traps as I could, and then run up to the treehouse where I would hide and wait. The treehouse, which can be accessed via the window in the attic, is the only place that is safe or immune to Harry and Marv once they’ve entered the house, so Kevin can simply wait there until they’ve been knocked out by the minefields in each room, and then exit to the porch to finish up the job. One of the most nerve-wracking things about Home Alone apart from the time restriction on building enough traps is the actual break-in part itself. Actually seeing Harry and Marv on screen chasing you feels pretty terrifying, but perhaps more so is when the text colour of their location changes to red, and their animation speeds up to indicate that they’re really close by. The anticipation of being chased really adds something special to this game, and even having the knowledge that Kevin can momentarily stun Harry and Marv with his bb gun is not enough to erase the fear of being caught.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT:
Home Alone is a fantastic retro title that comes with a great soundtrack, and equally impressive gameplay. If you are a fan of the film franchise, enjoy retro titles, or want to experience a new Home Alone title you haven’t played before, this is the game for you.
- Faithful to the original Home Alone film
- Great attention to background, item, and character art
- Authentically creates feeling of being chased by Harry and Marv
- Easy, effective gameplay but not always easy to win
- A bit short
- Can lose replay value after you’ve beaten it a few times
If you’ve ever got the Home Alone blues, you can play the game right here:
(When the blue prompt screen comes up just press enter to proceed)