“The formula could be compared to Pac-Man: Control of an iconic protagonist in a closed setting, pursued by multiple enemies who must be evaded by skillful navigation, or through the timely use of items scattered throughout the area, all in pursuit of a high score.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I think Home Alone is one of the most underrated, underappreciated video games of the NES console library.
I think Home Alone is often misunderstood.
I think some retro gaming hipsters like to think that all movie license titles make for hideous old-school games, without actually giving them a shot.
Now, yes, some of those movie license Nintendo games are definitively terrible. For example, I present Total Recall.
But, in my mind, both Home Alone and Jaws share a soft spot (also in my heart as well, I guess, as far as figurative feelings represented by anatomical analogies go). Seriously, Jaws is one of my all-time favorite (even if I do not think it is among the best) games, mostly for sentimentality (which you can read more about in my extended Reflections piece on the subject), but it truly does some unique things.
If you think of Jaws as a “crappy movie game,” then, okay, you have your boundaries pretty well-defined. But if you think of Jaws as a vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up with overworld exploration and light RPG elements, you begin to realize that your assumptions may be getting in the way of your appreciation for a game you might find fun. When you consider its insanely unique jellyfish-bombing minigame, the anxiety of a relentlessly pursuing boss, the coolness factor of the submarine power-up, and other factors, you begin to see a true treat of a game beneath the surface of generalizations that most would give it. Sure, not everyone will appreciate it, even after giving it a fair shot, but for reviewers and players and collectors alike, I have to say: Give the game a shot. Whatever the game is, just play it yourself and see what you think, without any outside expectations.
It is not a movie game, but along the line of license titles you may have assumed were terrible but might actually enjoy, is my favorite LJN game: Punisher. There is nothing quite like it on the NES, and it is good for some mindless blast-’em-up fun.
Okay, I will get off the soapbox.
Back to Home Alone.
Yes, in the review I compare it to Pac-Man. Yes, I say it may represent a prototypical survival horror game (actually, that reminds me, one last soapbox point about underappreciated movie license games, though one that maybe did not meet its potential for greatness: Jurassic Park).
There is just no other NES game like Home Alone. While it is absolutely correct that uniqueness alone does not make a game good, I would say that its distinctiveness lends it a quality of intrigue and curiosity. Those seeking an old-school challenge will realize that Home Alone not only presents a high-score counter, but also the retro mechanic of a time limit in a way that I actually enjoy rather than despise. There is never a time to rest or relax in this game, yet it is not too fast-paced. It simply demands your concentration and determination.
This is definitely one of those quirky NES games I will defend, even if most people disagree with me. I urge you to try it for yourself, and see what you think. I would love to hear about it; and, even if we do not agree, I bet it can end up with good discussion. I love the NES and its library for games like these, that I can pull out and enjoy for a quick little session, even if it not quite the masterpiece that others obviously are. A hidden gem in my book, for sure.
Oh, two things I failed to mention in the full review: 1) The baked beans are awful. Use them only if they are all you have, since they literally only incapacitate for a couple seconds. 2) I like the pause mechanic for this game, in the sense that pressing any button exits it. This allows the player to, for example, use Right on the directional pad to exit the pause screen, and thus immediately begin moving in that direction as well. How many NES games can claim that simple capability?
One last thought: Yes, the same Bethesda behind Skyrim was responsible for this game, and for Where’s Waldo?
Read The Full Review For: My exploration of why this game is not as horrible as you may have heard, but also an analysis of some of its mechanical faults.
NES Gameplay Tips for Home Alone: There are two basic types of areas in this game: “The Loop,” the looping path formed by going around in a circle by using the stairways and rope to the treehouse and down to the basement without sidetracking into any rooms whatsoever; and the dead ends, the room that you can travel into but will not continue on The Loop. Your basic strategy, with room for your own improvised tactics, is to stick to The Loop until you need to reload items, then traverse into dead ends, possibly also delaying Marv and Harry in them. Beware the stairs, as not only does Kevin travel his slowest on them, but dropping traps on them does not always work. However, my biggest gameplay tip that I offer you is this: When you drop traps, they last until tripped, even if they go far off-screen. In other words, if you already have three traps in your inventory, and are about to walk onto another one, go ahead and drop a trap and pick up the new one; not only will your inventory be full, but you now have a live trap in your wake, which will trip up the first crook to come across it. Other than that, good luck, and be careful not to rely on the “hiding place” mechanic.