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RELEASE DATE (NA): October 1992 GENRE: Action
// review by SoyBomb

Don't leave me home alone with this game.

10 years ago, I took a chance on Home Alone 2: Lost in New York for the NES, a game that I had remembered with bucketfuls of spite from my childhood as a rental experience gone awry. My review said it was, among other things, a "skunky burden". But, in the spirit of the holidays, in the spirit of celebrating the tenth anniversary of Random.access, and in the spirit of torturing myself to the brink of delusion, it's time to revisit this tale of violence, humour, and terrible parenting abilities. (There's a REASON why you don't have twelve kids, Mr. and Mrs. McCallister: you lose them in the cracks and crevices of society!) I pulled out Home Alone 2 from the archives and popped it in. In ten years, I must have matured somewhat in my gaming and critical thinking skills because, while this game is hardly a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt, it's not quite the sack of regurgitated chili I once knew. But it IS still a terrible game.

Before you even get to play, the credits roll. Someone must have known kids (and adults) wouldn't be completing this mess anytime soon, so they figured they might as well put the ending first. Of depressing note is that the game was dedicated in memory to Tom Heidt, an additional programmer and designer for the game. It's sad that he passed away during development; it's possibly more sad that this was his greatest legacy. The story, told with dialogue, shows the concierge (played by Tim Curry in the film; portrayed here by a baked potato) notifying other hotels in the area that the bright-eyed blond hero Kevin McCallister is on the loose with fake credit cards. We then switch over to the Sticky Bandits, Harry and Marv, who are talking to some guy named Lefty Looie on the phone. I don't remember him from the movie. They're getting some help on making sure Kevin meets an early demise. It doesn't matter; I spent most of my time trying to figure out the graffiti on the side of the phone. Who do the initials "HJ" and "RR" belong to? There's nobody in the credits with those initials. Did someone slip in initials of their spouses to commemorate their love? If I saw my initials in this game, I'd be filing divorce papers.

And then we're shoved straight into the first scene in the hotel and ohhhhh my, are we in a treat today! Immediately, a bell hop is chasing Kevin from behind, ready to throttle him without any regard for the law. You can't just go up and perform a chokehold! The best part is that Kevin doesn't even try to resist much when he's caught; he pretty much dangles there and accepts it. Now that's zen. Instead, you need to head to the right and avoid all the obstacles, and believe me: they are plentiful. Everything wants a piece of Kevin. Suitcases that move on their own, renegade self-aware vacuum cleaners, large chubby men in pixelated zoot suits, parasol-totin' elderly women... And don't get me started on the gift shop owners and anyone at the reception desk — they are packing bombs and have no qualms with tossing out their entire supply. Stranger still, they sometimes toss keys... and THOSE hurt you! It makes me wonder just where that key is getting lodged to cause damage!

But have no fear, for Kevin is no spring chicken. He knows how to deal with trouble. He can just use a slide move to glide under flying obstacles or even take out baddies entirely. I can't believe he just slides on his knees for survival. Why does he even do this? I know Kevin slid a couple of times in the movie (indeed, once in the hotel), but now it's one of his primary attacks? Really? They sure are selective on what they pull from the actual canon. That ten-second sliding scene in the hotel? Use that throughout the entire game. That part in the movie where there were ZERO crazy briefcases or bomb-chucking disgruntled employees? Let's NOT use that.

Oh, but that's not all in Kevin's arsenal. He can find a few diamond necklaces just stuck to the wallpaper and can subsequently toss those on the ground to trip a malicious passerby. It's about as useful as a gorgonzola on a hot summer day. Enemies can just walk over that stuff if they so desire. Perhaps the greatest weapon is...a gun! Kevin can get a rifle in the gift shop of the hotel and find extra bullets throughout the game. Remember when Kevin was armed and dangerous in the film? You bet — he could've just shot the bandits to death instead of setting their scalps on fire or dousing them with blue paint.

This may be a frighteningly unsafe hotel, but at least you can backflip into the elderly.

When I was in my youth, I could never get past the main floor in the hotel, but thanks to some ingenuity, I now know that you have to press the elevator button at the end of the hallway... aaaaaand wait. And wait. Just like in a real hotel, because they were clearly developing Hotel Simulator '92 and then tacked on the rest of the game in about an hour's time. While we wait, why not dodge a non-stop barrage of flying suitcases coming from the stairwell? Hopefully that couple in there stops arguing and flinging valises so I can, you know, not be murdered by travelware.

Once upstairs, you have to go floor by floor from 11 to 16. There's nothing dire to seek out in these areas except extra items, which can be useful. The maids here seem to have a strong disdain for Kevin as well; they keep throwing pillows as a means of self-defense while they clean...while standing on the bed. Having stayed at a variety of hotels, I can assure you that those pillows are probably hard enough to at least put the boy in intensive care. But Floor 14 is notable as it possesses the ONE item that makes this game go from terrible to extremely awesome with no in-between. If you find the hidden bell, Kevin can do a CRAZY flip every time he jumps, which can knock out most minor enemies! He couldn't do this in the movie, but he can definitely show off his gymnastic skills here. When you have this skill, you feel more powerful than 16 Superman...impersonators... When I found this for the first time, I think I even did a backflip off the couch.

Does anyone have a coffee table I can have? I broke mine doing a backflip.

Kevin will make his way to the kitchen, where he'll meet up with a chef with severe anger issues. He only wants Kevin dead, although hopping around probably isn't the most efficient way to deal with underage cookery trespassers. Granted, he has his own problems: every time he gets hurt, he loses a piece of clothing. Calling all health inspectors, calling all health inspectors!

Remember when both of these incidents actually happened? ...that's right, you DON'T because you CAN'T.

Once the hotel is taken care of, Kevin gets caught by the Wet Bandits as another cutscene ensues. They yak a bit about how they're going to deal with Kevin and rob Duncan's Toy Store before some lady punches Marv in the face. Kevin takes off and heads for the streets of New York, which, despite being the middle of winter, are filled with lush green leafy trees. Also, it's New York: trees don't grow there! Rats are scooting happily about instead of being frozen to the road. I think the designers either forgot to watch the rest of the movie, or they just had a few too many extra art assets left over from a park scene. Muggers with bats and clubs peek out from the shrubberies to give Kevin a beating; these may be the cronies of Lefty Looie! The game goes on from there, dropping Kevin in an underground sewer area where birds drop brown twiglets from above. (Why are there birds in a sewer? Why is this a game?) To progress, you have to actually climb light posts... but only certain ones. How would you know to do this if the first ones you see can't be climbed?

The last area of the game takes place in an abandoned old house. You don't really see the transition of him entering the house, but we'll just assume that's creative license. Or lazy programming. The house is been dilapidated; there are holes everywhere, and new wallpaper is definitely high on the to-do list. On each floor, Kevin has to locate a key to open a door to the next floor. While searching, Kevin will likely encounter one or both of the Sticky Bandits and must use some brainpower to deal with them. Luckily, whenever they are seen, there's always some item nearby to handle them. In your first encounter, there's a rather conveniently placed ten-ton anvil just hanging from the sky. Why not drop it on someone's head? THAT doesn't qualify as a felony! The legendary hanging paint can also makes an appearance, but instead of smacking Marv in the face with it, you just spill the paint on the floor, causing Marv to slip and then fall off-screen in a completely non-dramatic fashion.

The strangest part of this game comes at the very end. After escaping the house, Kevin is chased to the town Christmas tree (which for some reason has a creepy face, by the way), where he must climb it to the very top for the final battle against Harry and Marv. When one of the Bandits is on-screen, you have to call for help by pressing the Up button while avoiding the guy hopping around frantically. That creepy pigeon lady from the movie will appear in the foliage and drop something on the bandit if he's directly below her. Three successful hits will cause a pigeon to swoop in and knock the bandit off the tree. Do that for both, and the game is won. ...Wait, when and how did the pigeon lady get up there? WHY does this game EXIST?!

And you get to see the best and the worst rendering of John Heard you'll see all year.

You'll be quite pleased and relieved when the game is over. Although what I've described doesn't sound completely without merit, the gameplay certainly is. Kevin has a hit box the size of Kansas (the band, not the state — that would be outrageous), and it's very doubtful that you'll survive without taking a few hits. Or a few dozen. Or more. Or even more than that. Sure, there are pizza slices hanging everywhere to rejuvenate your health, or at least the ones pizza rats don't steal in New York, but they're not plentiful. Also, sometimes your attacks won't work on enemies. Plus, with limited ammo in the game, it's a matter of frugality; there's little room to waste your goods. Trying to dodge enemies is out of the question, too, because there's even less room for error. Those goofballs hiding in the bushes in the park are the worst; they just love the taste of beatings in the morning. There are also issues where you never know what you can jump onto; in the hotel alone, there are planters that you CAN jump on, and others you can't. Why not have a little consistency?

Sadly, the game doesn't look fantastic. The cutscene photos look... well, burnt, to say the least. I realize it's difficult to get digitized images to look even half-decent, but c'mon, guys — you knew that these looked ridiculous the moment they were created. The game world itself is somewhat detailed but still reeks of bland generic backgrounds. I suppose there's only so much you can do with buildings. I mentioned in my decade-old review that Kevin looks like someone has dropped an omelette on his head, and that sentiment still holds true. I get that he's a blonde, but why does it look like he's stretching a blond wig over black hair? Just keep clicking those skin-coloured pixels instead of leaving them dark! The soundtrack, while repetitive enough, pulls mainly from the movie, using several of its popular songs and remixing them to fit the game while adding a few new, unmemorable ones to loosen up the mix.

Ultimately, I recommend skipping Home Alone 2 for the NES. It feels hastily designed, probably after watching just a highlight trailer for the movie before hopping on their computer to type out game code, and it's difficult for all the wrong reasons. Still, if you know what you're doing, the game is pretty short. You can cover it in perhaps an hour or so. Does it live up to the negative recollections of my childhood? Not so much, but it's still a stinker in the library. But at least I can finally put this beast to rest.

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