Home Alone

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Due to the holidays, this is running a bit late – sorry for that!

Home Alone (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) is a platformer released for most common platforms of the time to tie into the film of the same name. From my limited research, it seems that most versions were the same game ported to different platforms with the exception of the NES version which was totally different. Gameplay is fairly simple: you can jump and move side to side, you can attack using your water pistol (which only stuns enemies for a brief period of time), and your goal is to gather as many family valuables as possible and shove them down the laundry chute. Once the right amount of valuables are in the basement, you’re given a key and can go into the basement for a boss fight and end the level. This sounds like a fine idea for a game, but unfortunately the execution is not what you’d hope for. For starters, controls are not tight enough for a platformer – running is always a crap shoot on when you will stop and start relative to pressing the button, so doing it precisely is  almost impossible. Kevin is also very fragile – take 3 hits and you’re dead. And while you can temporarily disable enemies, they can still damage you if you touch them in their stunned state. Lose all of your lives and you’re booted back to the beginning of the first level – this game is ruthless. All this adds up to an experience that is frustrating and unpleasant. Full disclosure: I played the SNES version of this game extensively as a kid, and only made it past the first level once.

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Visually, this looks fine on the Game Boy – certainly nothing to write home about, but it looks good enough. The opening and game over screens have some large detailed sprites of Harry and Marv, but otherwise there isn’t anything graphically that stands out as interesting.

Sound effects are fitting and I dare say good for the Game Boy – I don’t know if it’s the work of the developers or the sound chip but either way the effects are good. Music on the other hand is a fairly good rendition of the Home Alone theme, but that’s all there is – 30 seconds of the theme. Repeating constantly. Repetitive doesn’t begin to describe the monotony. If I had been a kid in 1991 who got this and a Game Boy for Christmas, I think I’d end up playing it with the sound off.

Verdict: Back on the shelf. Not great gameplay combined with frustrating childhood memories means this is done as far as I’m concerned.

Images courtesy of Game FAQs and  Giant Bomb

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Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

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This week is a first for the blog – our first portable title. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Giant Bomb|Wikipedia) was released in late 1992 for the Game Boy. The first Mario Land was a bit disappointing – it released early in the consoles life cycle and feels like the developers attempted to port the home console Mario experience directly to the Game Boy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work well at all. Sprites were very small, jumping physics were floaty and didn’t feel right, and even the music was bad. All of these issues were thankfully fixed for Mario Land 2.

The game begins with you selecting a save game, and if you start a new save you are plopped right into the first set of stages titled “Mario Zone”. According to Giant Bomb’s wiki each zone, of which there are six total, has around four or five stages. I played the entire Mario Zone and the first level of Tree Zone. The levels themselves are fairly large, but only take a couple of minutes to finish, which is one of the main reasons I love Mario platformers in general. The game saves automatically for you when you complete a stage, perfect for a portable. Gameplay is typical for Mario – you run and jump, collect coins and powerups, and reach the end of the stage to finish it.Outside of each zone is a world map where you can freely move to different zones and tackle the levels in any order. I think this is a great touch and something that is sorely missing in Super Mario 3. There are some bonus stages on the open world map that you can go to in between regular stages.

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This is a great looking Game Boy game – period. The sprites are large and detailed for the resolution it’s running at and for the most part it runs well. I say for the most part because I did run into several instances of slowdown when multiple moving objects were on screen at the same time – not unexpected but a bit disappointing none the less. This is a Game Boy title, so it’s only got four shades of grey to work with, but I think the artists did a great job with the tools they had.

Sound was great – I expected no less from a Nintendo developed Game Boy title. Music was, well, fantastic and fit the game perfectly. Sound effects were also excellent and never annoyed me or stood out as an poor fit.

The epitome of what makes Mario great is on full display here – the controls are tight and feel perfect; the powerups are simple, intuitive, and meaningful; stages have a theme and are different enough from each other to be interesting; and it’s all wrapped in a package that looks and sounds great.

Verdict: Play again! This was a big surprise after playing the original, and since it seems that it won’t take too long to beat I may play all the way through later this year.

Images courtesy of Giant Bomb