Home Alone DOS review

Well, it’s that time of the year again (not that I’m complaining, mind you). 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 my personal favorite). 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:

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And just like most games based on movies, it’s easier to simply put the now iconic movie poster in 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 in 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 agent wouldn’t find funny). And now Kevin is the only line of defense 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 first 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 three objects with him (because he’s only eight).

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The beginning of the game.

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 located above Kevin, then you scroll through the inventory with F2 and finally you use F3 to put the objects in specific places for a trap. When you’re scrolling through the inventory, some yellow crosshairs appear on screen and when Kevin goes near any of these, the crosshairs might turn to an “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.

You can create some of the traps seen in the movie, like the blowtorch above the door, but you can also create new traps, like using toys on the floor to slow down the bandits. When the clock reaches 9 PM (or when you press N), the bandits arrive, whether you’re ready or not. In the second half, you run around the house armed with your BB gun (if you grabbed it in the first 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.

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Setting up a trap.

Luckily, the notepad located above the main screen informs us where in the house is each bandit 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 door of said room, then they can grab Kevin before you have any time to react. And the BB gun only counts as damage the first time is used against any of the bandits, but it can still be used throughout the second half to temporarily paralyse the bandits, 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 first 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 in 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).

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9 o’clock is here and Kevin’s ready to deal some punishment.

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 soundcard (or emulated sound) 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 first half.

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 first playthrough, but the time limit in the first 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.

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Ufff, right in the “pescis”.

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 gameplay mechanics. But unfortunately I haven’t played those.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this special Christmas review and just to say that this’ll 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.

Christmas Carnage review

Well, I bet you all know what time of the year it is. Happy Winter Solstice holidays for you all! What? I’m sure not all of my viewers celebrate Christmas like I do, but everybody deserves season greetings anyway. And talking about Christmas, I’ve decided to take a look at one of the weirdest Christmas-themed games I’ve ever played, Christmas Carnage!

Christmas Carnage (AKA Xmas Carnage) is a FPS made by German company Soft Enterprises and released in 1994 for DOS. Not to be confused with the freeware game with the same title, made by John Dondzila and released a year later.

Soft Enterprises made this game to showcase their new graphical engine,the VR-6 3D Engine, at the Computer 94 Fair at Cologne, Germany.

And it was released in a CD sleeve with this cover:

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Merry freaking Christmas, indeed.

I think everybody gets a good idea of what this game is about just by looking at the cover. And, as you’ll see, although the game doesn’t have this graphic quality, one can’t deny is kind of a cool looking image, albeit a gruesome one.

But it’s time to open this gift and boot it:

As you can see, the game is entirely in German. But since it’s an action game, you don’t actually need to read a lot of German to play it (unless you’re messing with the setup). And as one can also see, this is nothing more than a Doom clone (with some weird and gruesome concepts though). The story, as far as I can see, you’re playing as the Easter Bunny, who’s going through a Grinch phase, and decides to ruin Christmas. But Santa Claus isn’t going to let him, so he dispatches his elves, snowmen and angels (among others) to try and stop him. Yes, this is one the earlier games where you actually play as the bad guy.

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That’s one mean looking angel.

In order to survive, you start with an axe, but later on you can get better weapons, like pistols, M-16, grenades and a rocket launcher. The game is divided in five levels, which aren’t very big, but designed in such a way, that without the automap power-up (which I highly recommend getting at the beginning of the game), you’ll be easily lost.

This game is notoriously hard (even in the easiest setting) because of two factors: first,there’s quite a lack of health items throughout the levels and second, the majority of the enemies are literal bullet sponges. They can take a lot of punishment before going down. And the harder modes simply have more enemies for you to kill.

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Time to blast a cap at Frosty.

Graphically speaking, the VR-6 engine is superior to the Wolfenstein 3D engine, with lighting effects and the capability to view up and down. But it doesn’t measure up to Doom, which was released a year before. And while I do like the lighting effects (there are some levels with really good shadows), I hate the sprites of some of the later enemies.

Some of the MIDI themes aren’t bad, albeit grating after a while. And the sound effects are average at best. The animation isn’t bad either, but it could be better. I recommend playing it in a fast computer or in a fast-cycled Dosbox.

Like I said before, the gameplay is extremely hard and sometimes your hits don’t connect well with the enemies, for some reason. Especially at long distances. The level design, like I also said before, can be very labyrinthic and the later indoor levels look very similar between them, design-wise. But I must confess, there’s still a good variety of enemies and the game has a somewhat scary atmosphere for its holiday theme at how the lighting is employed.

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For those who hate Elf in a Shelf, this is your moment.

Apart from all this, it’s still your run-to-the-mill Doom clone, where you kill everyone on sight and collect keys to open doors. It’s not very good, but I’ve seen worse. I just wish it was easier to maintain the joke, because the harsh difficulty curtails the dark humour and fun this game might have brought. Still, if you’re looking for a weird Christmas experience and you’re a classic FPS fan who doesn’t mind the high difficulty, then you might want to give it a shot. You can even play it here, in your own browser.

Soft Enterprises then made one more game with this engine, The Hidden Below, which I might review for another day.

So, what’s your favourite Christmas game? Tell me below in the comments, in our Facebook page or on our Twitter feed.

Well, this is the last review of the year. I know that 2017 was a very busy year but I like to believe I wrote some great reviews here and there. I just hope that 2018 will be even better! So, have a great Christmas (even if you don’t celebrate it) with lot of presents, be it retro or modern, and a Happy New Year! Until then, watch out for the Easter Bunny and keep on playing! See you all in 2018!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

I know that 2016 has been (and continues to be) an awful year and that’s why we from Retro Freak Reviews, would like to wish from the bottom of our hearts a very happy Christmas (or any other Winter Holidays you might celebrate) and a prosperous and generous 2017!

Don’t let them get you, because you’re all great! Enjoy this Sierra Christmas eCard from 1988:

So, have a very retro 2017 and remember to keep on partying and playing!