Home Alone for the SNES

Home Alone was a great movie, but for some reason someone somewhere thought it would also make a great video game. We video game fans are always wary of games licensed from feature films, and Home Alone isn’t going to help change anyone’s mind on that. Many years ago I acquired a copy of this game for the Game Boy and wasn’t fond of it by any means. Usually any video game that has been ported to the Game Boy is much better on a home console, right? The answer is no, with a but. They are essentially identical, with the understanding of obvious hardware limitations, but for some reason the Super Nintendo version of this game makes me want to continue playing and do a little better each time.

The game varies slightly from the movie as this time Harry and Marv have brought additional burglars, who look more like mobsters, into the McCallister’s home. Kevin must run around collecting a certain number of items from around the house, ranging from valuable jewelry and bags of money to robot toys and RC cars, and drop them down the laundry chute into the basement. Sometimes these items are hidden from plain view and Kevin must uncover them, which really just means the item jumps out from where it was hidden and lands on the floor. If any of the intruders in Kevin’s house see the item on the floor there is a chance they will grab it and run off before Kevin can collect it himself. Once Kevin touches an item it will be automatically put in his collecting bag, which only holds so many items before needing to be unloaded down the laundry chute.

Once the required amount of items are safe and sound in the basement, you know after they were carelessly tossed down a laundry chute two floors, a key will appear outside of the basement door allowing Kevin to enter the most frustrating level in the game. The first basement level is frustrating because you must navigate the basement, which seems larger than the hallways of the actually house above, and avoid being hit by bats and rats. In the second basement level you need to avoid spiders, or perhaps more accurate tarantulas, and finish up with a giant tarantula boss at the end. If, and I do mean if, you manage to make it past all the creatures in the basement you will see the pile of items in front of a comically oversized vault. Perhaps if these items were so valuable they should have already been inside the basement vault, but what do I know?

To help Kevin defeat the burglars, for a short period of time, he can be armed with a water pistol, a slingshot, baseball and the famous BB rifle. There are also booby traps to unleash upon the burglars, as well as toys and thumbtacks strewn about the floor in the hallways. None of these weapons are really anything substantial as it only stuns the burglars for a short period of time and watching Marv shoot off screen after stepping on thumbtacks only lasts until you walk away and back to that section of the hall, where he will magically reappear. It should also be noted that Kevin will have the water pistol in the basement stage, but I can’t get it to work at all, meaning it seems weapons do not work on the basement stages.

Now let’s talk about health. Kevin is given a total of three hits before losing a life, of which he also has three. When you lose a life the image of Kevin using aftershave, that famous movie scene, appears and a very good quality clip of his famous scream plays. To counterbalance this Kevin can collect hidden slices of cheese pizza from around the house. Once he has collected eight slices of his beloved cheese pizza he will earn an extra life. Kevin can also find cookies to replenish one hit and aftershave to give him temporary invulnerability.

I honestly tried to give this game a fair shake on the Game Boy and I simply couldn’t, but for some reason playing the SNES version feels different. The game felt more like a collectathon and made me want to keep trying to get everything down the laundry chute. Once you know exactly where everything is located it’s very easy to navigate and get to the basement, but that’s where the real frustration starts. It can be done, but more often than not I’ll end up with Kevin screaming at me as I lose life after life. Is this game fun? Not really, but there is just a weird addiction to collect the items and try to do better each time. From what I’ve played each level seems to just be a slightly more difficult version of the first, with the exception of the basement levels. So far I’ve only managed to get to the second basement level, maybe after this post is put up I will have progressed further in the game. Maybe.

Posted December 20th, 2021

Driver Parallel Lines

Driver Parallel Lines is one of my absolute, all-time favorite games. I also feel it’s the most competent GTA clone ever made. Let’s be honest here, by this point the Driver series was chasing GTA and trying its hardest to grab a chunk of its success. With Driv3r being, well Driv3r, the series needed a refresh; it needed something that made it stand out, but not something so drastic that it felt like a completely different game. Driver Parallel Lines came along with an air or familiarity, but also one of renewal, which is where the era switch comes into play, but we’ll get into that in just a bit.

Driver Parallel Lines starts off in 1970s New York City, with the protagonist TK (The Kid) who just so happens to be a getaway driver, imagine that. TK works for criminals throughout New York City, digging himself deeper and deeper into the seamy underbelly of the day. Throughout the first half of the game TK will be introduced to all the major criminals that will setup the second half of the game. Meanwhile TK will acquire safe houses and take part in many different crimes, as well as be able to take part in various events such as races around the city. Eventually the criminals TK is working for decide he’s the perfect scapegoat to take the heat off of them, and decide to set him up.

TK is arrested and sent to prison for quite some time. Sadly there are no missions pertaining to TK’s prison life, which would have been pretty awesome. Maybe a few missions setting up what happens in the second half of the game, but nope. Solely through a cut scene TK is set up, imprisoned, and released many years later. When released TK has grown older and has revenge on his mind. The year is now 2006 and you’ll notice a whole new color to the world around you, as well as how things have changed in the city. TK now sets his sights on exacting his revenge on the people who pinned the blame on him and sent him away. Slowly but surely TK works his way through all those former associates and finally finds the main person. I imagine by now you already know what happens, so I’ll leave it there.

All the way through the game I felt this was the best Driver so far. They had really stepped up their game in building not only a living, breathing city, but making the character control well and making the game fun to play. There were a ton of cars to not only steal, but you can store them and customize them as well. The car storage system is something that I have mixed feelings about. For example, you’ll find a car and take it back to one of the storage garages and from then on it’s always there. You’re only allowed to have one version, but you can storage every single vehicle in the game and customize it. Where things get odd is when you era shift and take a 2006 era car back into the 1970s. I understand there really is no reason to restrict the player from doing so, but it just feels odd.

And that, dear reader, is the most amazing aspect of this game. The fact that you can shift from the 1970s to 2006 instantly, anytime you want. TK changes to the era appropriate version whichever you’re in, but again you can take any of the cars out of your garage and drive them around whichever era you desire. The 1970s NYC has many landmarks of the era, including The World Trade Center. This game being released only five years after the events of September 11th this was one thing that I found to be fascinating within the game. If you time shift to 2006 the area is under construction, much like the real thing. The time shift feature gives the player the ability to see how things changed in the city between the two eras, and that’s something that I feel this game did perfectly and is quite unique.

I love this game so much that I bought the collector’s edition as well as purchased the slightly improved version for the Nintendo Wii. While I can say the Wii version does look slightly better, it’s the Wii controls that really let this game down for that version. I love the ability to modify the cars as well as the on the fly ability to adjust the height of any vehicle I own. Since very few Lowrider games have been made, GTA San Andreas and the official Lowrider video game being the only two I can think of, the ability to slam a customized car to the ground and drive along was pretty awesome back when I originally played the game.

The Driver series took a turn back toward its roots for the next console installment, but the PSP got Driver 76, the Nintendo DS received C.O.P. The Recruit, which is clearly using assets from Parallel Lines, and the Nintendo 3DS got Driver Renegade 3D, again using assets from Parallel Lines. So while the consoles moved backwards to bring back Tanner as the protagonist, portable consoles continued to use the assets from Parallel Lines to create their own branch of the Driver series. I own and enjoy both Driver 76 and C.O.P. The Recruit, but I think most of that comes from the familiarity of the surroundings in the game. For some reason there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love for Driver Parallel Lines, but I will admit it. I truly love this game and I like the portable versions of the game using it as a platform of their own.

Posted December 13th, 2021

Peripheral Vision: NES Advantage

When I was a kid I remember having my first encounter with a turbo NES controller and wanting one of my own immediately. At this point we didn’t have Gamestop or FuncoLand yet, but we did have a local chain of used video game stores, whose name I’ve forgotten over the years. One sunny Saturday morning, while my mother grocery shopped at the adjacent grocery store, I walked into the gaming store and took a look around. After browsing the games I walked up to the counter and asked if they had any turbo controllers for the NES. What the employee plunked down on the counter was the most amazing controller I had ever seen.

It was an NES Advantage, and my tiny little, childhood mind was about to explode. The controller was almost as big as the NES console itself, and the employee explained how it all worked. Not only does the NES Advantage have turbo, but you can choose to engage it for A or B, or both, and dial in the exact amount of turbo you need. Right away my child’s mind was alight with all the fun this controller and I were about to have. It has adjustable turbo, slow motion, you can select player 1 or 2, and it has a joystick. The best part though was that it can be placed anywhere and used like a real arcade joystick. I was sold, and I bought it immediately!

At that time I owned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, and I remember how much better that game was with an NES Advantage. I also owned almost every WWF game on the NES, and again the Advantage seemed to make those games more fun. The NES Advantage also helped me play Gyromite without every having R.O.B., but I might write about that in another piece soon. I loved my NES Advantage, but as things changed I became more a fan of the Sony Playstation. I tried to trade in my NES and Sega Genesis, which is a [horror] story in and of itself, thus the NES Advantage was gone. For years I used the NES Max and a third-part turbo controller I had bought a year or so after buying the Advantage, but it wasn’t the same.

After being screwed over by a horrible trade in scam at FuncoLand, my NES collection was significantly smaller. At that point I packed away my NES collection and turned to emulation to scratch the itch for the NES days in my life. I never really thought much about the Advantage or felt the need to buy another one. That all changed in 2010, when I decided to start seriously collecting for the NES. I turned to online auctions and found one for a very reasonable buy it now price and made the purchase. After a few weeks of waiting the seller contacted me and said they had forgotten to ship it, and as an apology they packed in a second Advantage and shipped them both immediately. When they arrived they were both in good shape, except one of them has a weird issue where it presses buttons without me actually pressing the button. Either way, I was playing my NES games like I did in the good old days.

As time has passed I found myself wanting to use the NES Advantage less, because of its size. I found a third-party turbo controller and stuck with that for all of my turbo needs on the NES. Although I still retain those memories of using my NES Advantage to beat TMNT II the Arcade Game on Thanksgiving as a little kid, now I just prefer something a little simpler when I need a turbo NES controller. These days I prefer to have them around for the nostalgia and collection factor, more so than functional usage. I even own a Camerica Supersonic, but since it’s wireless and I don’t own the receiver I’ll never be able to use it. The NES Advantage was such an amazing controller, so much so the Ghostbusters used it to control the Statue of Liberty, and to be perfectly honest I’m kind of sad I outgrew it.

Posted December 6th, 2021