Home Alone

Home Alone
Home Alone

Another movie game.  Turn off brain.  Check.  Set expectations low.  Check.  Let grey matter ooze out of ear.

Mlllaaaaargggggghhhh…

It’s funny because you figure with all the failures in the dawn of gaming, they would stop making this sort of shit.  But that’s the rub: they’re failures in terms of anything remotely related to a gaming quality metric, but, somehow, they still sell.  Video games (and other media and pop culture to a similar extent) are somewhat unique in that respect: they sell almost entirely based upon their marketing appeal.  The game itself is separate from the marketing.

Get used to seeing this screen a lot.  It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".
Get used to seeing this screen a lot. It would be so much funnier if someone appended "es".

The experience of playing Home Alone is based pretty much entirely on the nostalgia of the film.  That’s it. The developers make a point of trying to tie it in to the good-guys-bad-guys silliness of the movie, which was amusing as a kid, granted, but fails here when your worst enemies are in fact bats and rats, and the kind developers somehow decided that when there are bats or rats, you CAN’T USE YOUR SLINGSHOT CAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE!

Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?
Fucking bats, and rats. Why can't I shoot you with my slingshot?!? WHY?!?

The game is full of the usual poorly designed, half-assed side scroller theme.  There are a thousand games like this, and the only thing that sets this one apart is the “collect the valuables” aspect, where instead of mindlessly moving sideways, you have to think enough to go back and forth to the drop spot.  Once you’ve amassed enough valuables, you have to get past the nigh interminable array of bats and rats to seal the valuables in the vault.  I don’t remember any bats and rats in the movie, and with this number, the house would be condemned!

If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales.  It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
If you want to gather loot, go play the original Duck Tales. It was fun while presenting an interesting challenge.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.
Same concept, better level design, better controls with two buttons, and a lot more fun.

Verdict: Home Alone is exactly what you expect: A poorly thought out movie-based game with awkward controls, frustrating gameplay, dismal music, terrible graphics, and laugh-out-loud design choices.  If you really want to be nostalgic about the movie, watch it with silly subtitles or commentaries and heckle it.  You’ll have more fun.

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The Flintstones

The Flintstones
The Flintstones

Not much to say here. The Flintstones is the standard formula of a movie franchise turned into a mindless platform game. It gets partial credit for not entirely sucking, but suffers from the usual flaws. The music is annoying and repetitive. The level design is frustrating. There’s no point to the game. No plot. No depth. Its selling point is entirely the franchise. That’s it. That’s all.

Srsly?  US and British English, in a video game?  Nice logo whorage too.
Srsly? US and British English, in a video game? Nice logo whorage too.

The most amusing parts of the game are things like the language selection at the beginning. You can pick between British and US English as separate options. That amuses me greatly. You can disable the music and sound effects because they are that annoying. There’s even a two-player mode, so that you can share the frustration with a friend. Another amusing part is watching Fred huff and puff just standing still. We get it. He’s out of shape. But it doesn’t even kick in after running a bit. He’s sweating lard just standing there!

Is that a bone in your mouth, or are you just happy to see me?
Is that a bone in your mouth, or are you just happy to see me?

The game makes some casual attempt at using the SNES’ background graphics, but it is all so pointless. There’s no reason to play this game. Why would you want to? No matter how nostalgic you are about the Flintstones, this game isn’t fun. Even if you spend the time to make it pretty far, one little whap, or one little slip up, and you go all the way back to the beginning of the stage. Why? What’s the point?

Ok, you have decent backgrounds.  So you put a bit of time into this franchise rape.  Fine.  Actually, that's kinda sad, really.
Ok, you have decent backgrounds. So you put a bit of time into this franchise rape. Fine. Actually, that's kinda sad, really.

Verdict: The Flintstones leaves me with the usual emptiness of franchise plat form games. There is no point to it at all. It seems like an exercise in frustration to try to salvage what nostalgia you might have left about the classic show. You can enjoy the same nostalgia by just watching Fred sleep, or shove a piece of meat in his mouth when you stop moving. Just turn off the music and sound effects and watch him stand there for a bit. Same effect, less frustration.

Dragon – The Bruce Lee Story

Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story
Dragon - The Bruce Lee Story

Kiyaaa! Bruce Lee’s kung fu is the story of legends, but a game, based on a movie, based on a legend… That’s a stretch, even for the awesomeness of Bruce Lee.  The game has a rough story mode, which consists basically of a few pixelated frames of the highlights of the movie, followed by a fight.  The game is basically a poorly written 2 (optionally 3) player fighter.  If it weren’t contemporary to Super Street Fighter II, it would almost be forgivable, but by 1994, the fighter genre had evolved far past the button mashing and awkward movement of this game.

Come! Let us dance!
Come! Let us dance!

To be fair, it’s not horrible.  The music is probably the best part.  The made an effort to put good tracks to the fights.  The punch and kick sound effects are the usual brutal, rough sounds, but they fit alright.  In the end, what makes the game unenjoyable is really that there is little to now way to refine your skill, and study and practice combos, and interesting special moves and techniques.  The game is just too banal.  The only point of mild interest is the support for a 3rd player.  You could have a bit of a 3 player fighter extravaganza going on for a bit, and the mayhem could be somewhat interesting.  Maybe.  It is something that was not often seen in that era and helped justify the expensive SNES multi-tap purchase. The game deserves credit for that much.

Lots of button mashing, not too many interesting moves.  Meh.  Could have been better. Could have been worse.
Lots of button mashing, not too many interesting moves. Meh. Could have been better. Could have been worse.

The idea of walking through a movie in a game was still reasonably new in 1994, so it’s a reasonable attempt.  Certainly, we must be careful to not overpraise the Street Fighter franchise, seeing what they did with Street Fighter The Movie The Game.  I shudder to think of it.

Verdict: Dragon – The Bruce Lee Story is a fairly pedestrian fighting game that doesn’t offer enough variety or staying power to keep you coming back for more.  It doesn’t completely rape the movie franchise, and a decent effort was made for things like music, but on the whole, it’s just not enough to gain any real note in the history books.

Demolition Man

Demolition Man
Demolition Man

Ah, nostalgia. It’s interesting reviewing games that were released to support a movie back in the 90s and analyze them not only from the perspective of a movie-induced game, but from a nostalgic perspective that recognizes that a decade and a half has passed since.

On the scale of movie games, Demolition Man does a surprisingly decent job for its era. It takes the approach of trying to pull the player through the movie in Stalone’s shoes. What amused me the most was its ability to generate a small adrenaline burst, even when you’re just looking at a bunch of pixelated masses.

Your standard side-scrolling neo-apocalypse scenario.  Nothing special.  Move along.
Your standard side-scrolling neo-apocalypse scenario. Nothing special. Move along.

It features two game modes. The first is largely a Flashback-style side scroller, where you just shoot anything that moves and proceed to the right as efficiently as possible. Its main weakness is that the controls are somewhat awkward, and that there are the usual screen-edge repopping of bad guys. The rest is pretty well balanced. It’s somewhat fun to barrel through these stages in a sonic-like manner, and just shoot incessantly.

That brings me to my second praise: the game recognizes that having infinite ammo can actually be a tonne of fun. You basically never stop shooting in the game. Not only does that make the game more fun, but it also lets you get the Stalone Rambo thing going, and have extra fun channeling him. It’s stupid, but in this era, that was something, and it’s still somewhat entertaining. It amused me enough to make me bother to deal with the awkward controls and complete a few stages.

I can see baddies around walls! I'm that awesome!
I can see baddies around walls! I'm that awesome!

The second game mode is an Ikari Warriors-like top view working through labs. They make it work reasonably well. The controls are unfortunately a bit unresponsive, and enemy repopping is a perpetual pain. If the controls responded better to flick reflexes, it would be fine. As is, the frustration comes from the game not responding to your movements quickly enough. I’m reminded of the lag while playing the original NES Turtles, with the accompanying screen-refresh choppiness. It’s somewhat forgivable. Somewhat.

In your face! No, in YOUR face!  Booya, brutha!
In your face! No, in YOUR face! Booya, brutha!

The game features some traditional trash talking between Stalone and Snipes. And the music gives you a bit of a beat. It’s entertaining if you’ve just seen the movie, reliving some of the post-apocalyptic visions of the 90s.

And your punishment is to BURN, while I take over the world! *Insert Wesley Snipes insane/evil laughter*
And your punishment is to BURN, while I take over the world! *Insert Wesley Snipes insane/evil laughter*

Verdict: Demolition Man managed to not wholly suck. That’s saying a lot for games that came out to support movies and were released in the 90s. You could pick it up and play for a few stages and have a good time. It won’t sustain you for more than that, but for a couple of bucks at a garage sale, picking it up could be worth the nostalgia.

Cool World

Cool World
Cool World

Remember the iconic 80s movie?  I do, but only vaguely, as memory is strange after 20 years.  Clearly one has to watch the movie right before playing this game, because no explanation is given whatsoever.  You just fall into the game, and go.

Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!111one1111juan
Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!111one1111juan

The game is a sort of sidescroller exploration game.  You can pick up and carry items, but only one at a time.  Makes for limited puzzles, but does make you pick up everything that you can get your hands on in an obsessive kind of way.  I could have spent a lot of time exploring this game years ago.

The colours would kill an epileptic, but the surreal feel is well done, if a little choppy.
The colours would kill an epileptic, but the surreal feel is well done, if a little choppy.

The game is somewhat frustrating to figure out at first.  You have to collect nickels, but it’s not clear how.  If you go too close to one, this guy walks up to you, and asks you for a nickel.  Since you don’t have any, you can’t give him any, so he just kills you.  Repeat 3 times, game over.  Not too fun.

Expect to see this screen a lot
Expect to see this screen a lot.

Eventually, you find a punching glove.  With it, you can fight back.  Sorta.  Except it’s all insta-death.  Progress is slow and frustrating, with a lot of backtracking

This guy will annoy the piss out of you every time you stand still for more than like 5 seconds.  You hve to jump like a meerkat with a bladder condition to stay out of their reach.
These guys will annoy the piss out of you every time you stand still for more than like 5 seconds. You have to jump like a meerkat with a bladder condition to stay out of their reach.

I like the idea of trying to capture the oddness of the movie in the game, but it really requires a lot of patience to figure things out.  I hate using guides, but the alternative of spending many hours learning the game is not as appealing as it would have been a decade ago.

The game does at least feature infinite continues.  In that manner, lives are sorta unimportant.  You continue exactly where you last left off, with the items you had.  So, one has to wonder why they bother with “lives” at all.  Just push the character back for a few seconds or something and it has the same effect.  Games of this era thought they had to meet a formula with “score” and “lives” in order to be taken seriously.  The driving scene echoes the usual “must have some sort of auto-side scrolling obstacle course” feel for games of this era.  Same deal.

Why does every sidescroller need some sort of retarded car/motion scene where there are pits everywhere and it's more fun to figure out how many ways to die than face the frustration of actually making it through the scene?  This isn't creative.  You can make a good game without this shit.
Why does every sidescroller need some sort of retarded car/motion scene where there are pits everywhere and it's more fun to figure out how many ways to die than face the frustration of actually making it through the scene? This isn't creative. You can make a good game without this shit.

Games don’t all need this to be good.It’s nice that modern games can do this sort of creative thing, while pushing the boundaries of conventional play modes.  Overall, it’s a lot more suiting, and satisfying.

Verdict: Cool World was an early experiment at a slightly different game style.  Its primary failure is trying to incorporate the “necessary” game components like lives, score, side scrolling crap, to grow up to be a “real game”.  It would have been much more interesting if the game had really broken the mold in the SNES era.  It could have been as epic as Flashback, and rocked socks everywhere.