Well, it’s that time of the year again. Yuletide, Hanukkah (although that ended past December 10th, I think), Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, St. Nicholas Day, or more commonly known as Christmas, the Winter Solstice celebration is one of the most celebrated holidays of the year. And here in Retro Freak Reviews, we decided to review a game based on a movie whose plot just happened to occur during Christmas (which makes it a Christmas-themed game in my book). I’m talking about Home Alone for DOS.
Home Alone (based on the movie of the same title) is an action game developed by Manley & Associates and published by Capstone Software. It was released in 1991 for the Commodore Amiga and DOS.
But as always, let’s first look at the cover:
And just like most games based on movies, it’s easier to simply put the now-iconic movie poster on the box cover, although I do like the little detail “…comes to your computer” added to the sub-title.
But it’s time to boot this wet bandit:
And as you can see, the subtitle “A Family Comedy Without the Family” also appears on the title screen. Then we have a small recap of the game’s story using still images: the McCallister family travels to Florida for Christmas but due to all the rush to catch the flight, they end up forgetting and leaving 8-year-old Kevin behind (which I’m sure any Child Protection agency wouldn’t find funny). And now Kevin is the only line of defence against Harry and Marv, the Wet Bandits, who want to rob Kevin’s house.
The game starts during the movie’s final act, where Kevin must prepare all the traps and then face the bandits by himself. In the 1st half of the game, Kevin has one hour to prepare the traps (around 20 minutes in real-time). To accomplish this, you need to explore the entire house, including the entrance and the basement for any objects that can be used for traps. You’ll know which objects you can grab because they’ll start blinking every time Kevin walks by. However, Kevin can only carry up to 3 objects with him (he’s only 8, after all).
To grab objects you simple press F1 (if you’re playing with a keyboard, that is), although sometimes you need to jump to grab objects out of Kevin’s reach, then you scroll through the inventory with F2 and finally, you use F3 to select an object. When scrolling through the inventory, some yellow crosshairs appear on the screen and when Kevin goes near any of these, the crosshairs might turn to a “here” sign with an arrow (if you select the correct object) and then you can press F3 to use the object to create a trap.
Most of the traps you can create were taken directly from the movie, like the blowtorch above the door. When the clock reaches 9 PM (or when you press N), the bandits arrive, whether you’re ready or not.
In the 2nd half of the game, you run around the house armed with your BB gun (if you grabbed during the 1st half) thwarting the bandits as they fall for all the traps you’ve planted before. Both Harry and Marv need to reach 50 points of damage each to win the game, but if each of them grabs Kevin, then it’s game over and back to the start.
Luckily, the notepad located above the main screen informs us where in the house each bandit is located, although there’s no map available. But at least Kevin’s house isn’t too big and can be easily memorised. But when entering a room, if Harry or Marv are right at the entrance of the said room, then they can grab Kevin before you have any time to react.
And the BB gun only counts as damage the 1st time is used against any of the bandits, but it can still be used to temporarily paralyse them, enabling Kevin to run past them. However, you still need to be careful when encountering your own traps, as Kevin can trigger them (although he doesn’t suffer any damage), nullifying the trap. So I suggest jumping over any traps laying around the floor to avoid them.
The game is quite easy to get into but hard to win as the time limit during the 1st half might not be enough to prepare all the traps you need. If that’s the case, you might as well restart the game. And after winning or losing the game, you can enter your initials on the scoreboard. The score is determined by the number of damage each bandit suffered and the time it took to stop them (if you’ve managed to do so).
The graphics look nice and colourful with somewhat big sprites. The animation, however, could be better. The music isn’t bad, although I recommend playing the game with a Roland MT 32 sound card (or emulated as such) over the PC Speaker, as the latter sounds horrible. The sound effects are also pretty average, but they get the job done.
The keyboard controls are somewhat responsive, however. I’ve only encountered a slight delay when using the BB gun and jumping. Also, the control scheme is a bit weird, since it uses the F1, F2 and F3 to manage the inventory during the 1st half of the game.
So in conclusion, Home Alone for DOS isn’t a bad game and it has its positives, like how easy it is to understand the controls and the gameplay during a 1st playthrough, but the time limit in the 1st half and the lack of a map make the game unnecessarily hard. If you’re a fan of the movies or enjoyed the console versions, then you might want to give it a shot. And if you want to play the game on your own browser, then go here.
I’ve played the Amiga version a little, but from what I’ve seen and experienced, it’s just like the DOS version. The console games, however, were made by different companies and therefore are considered different games, although the majority share the same premise and some of the gameplay mechanics.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this special Christmas review and just to say that this will be the last review of the year. I might write a special message before the year ends, however. Until then, keep on playing and have a Happy Christmas, Saturnalia, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or simply Happy Winter Holidays!