Home alone: The videogame: How it should have been

Well, that’s a little pedantic on my part, isn’t it? How it should have been? Wow dude, get over yourself. Anyways, let’s start:

In one of the latest Idlethumbs podcasts a conversation went through various random topics (they tend to do that… a lot) until it hit the subject of “How awesome a Home Alone videogame would be? So awesome, you know, with the traps and everything”. Then they went onto other completely different topics… but the idea got stuck in my head; the seed was planted.

The day afterwards I acquired a fever and spent the next 6 days in bed. It wasn’t the greatest experience of my life, I can assure you that, but I managed to grab a notebook I had laying around and proceeded to imagine how a Home Alone videogame would be and then made some quick notes about it so I wouldn’t forget.

This post is the result of that fever induced creativity exercise.

When the fever was gone I caught up with the rest of the internet and commented about this Home Alone idea to a friend of mine. He then proceeded to enlighten me: There already exists a Home Alone videogame! In fact, there are several of them for several different consoles!.

I loved this movie, but I can't stop from cringing when I look at this boxart. It ... just *cough* screams "for the love of god, don't buy me".
I love this movie, but I can't stop cringing when I look at this boxart. It just (*cough*) screams "for the love of god, don't buy me".

So… how good were these Home Alone videogames? I have no idea whatsoever. All I know about them comes from wikipedia and, sadly, the article doesn’t say much about the mechanics or differences between the different versions. Oh, and my friend said that the one he played when he was a kid sucked, which I kind of expected. You know, being movie game and all.

Now, the creative process fueled by fever gave me not one, but two somewhat different game designs for a Home Alone videogame. At the time I couldn’t decide which one I liked the most, but the more I thought about them the more I favored the second one. Still, the first idea has some potential behind it so I decided that it would be a waste to just erase it.

So… here they are:

The Tower Defense-y one: The game takes place inside and outside of a sideways cut of a whole house. Waves of different types of goons regularly storm the house from various entry points (mostly doors and windows). Every goon has two main characteristics: agility and conviction. The former determines how fast they move and the latter determines how much abuse they can take before they give up.

Now, there’s no avatar for the player here, so the goons in this game aren’t after Macaulay Culkin. They are after the goodies inside the house that the player places before each game begins along with the traps. Uh… what? Oh, right, I forgot to mention that part didn’t I? The player places traps and “valuables” around the house before each game starts. The valuables are the goal for the goons, the traps stop the them and the player looses once the goons have robbed the place clean.

Every trap triggers automatically and once triggered it will need a certain time to refresh and be able to stop another crook again. But some traps don’t stop some types of goons. For example, heating a doorknob doesn’t stop the tank because he doesn’t bother trying to open doors, he goes through them.

If a crook finds a valuable, they grab it and try to escape the house, but they can still trigger traps on the way out, so they may faint (due to low conviction, due to too many traps triggered) while carrying the valuable. What happens then? The valuable is dropped and now any other goon that sees it can pick it up.


The Direct Adaptation-y one: In this game, the player moves the avatar of Macaulay Culkin around a sideways cut of a house (the same view as the other design I described). A pair of goons wants to kidnap the kid, just like the movie! Am I good or what?

In this design, the two crooks have one main characteristic that can go down as they are hit by traps: Their wit. You see, in this game when a crook triggers a trap its wit decreases, making him more likely to trigger other, more obvious, traps. However, the wit of the crooks regenerates over time and most of the traps don’t refresh, they stay used. I say “most” because, for example, a very heavy weight that falls on the crooks can later, after a light push from the player, fall again because the floor was weakened.

The two crooks get inside the house by a randomly decided route (again, windows and doors mostly) and then go looking for the player. Upon sight, the goons go running at the player triggering traps or not, depending on their wit. If they don’t see the player, they’ll try to hear him. As a convenient abstraction, sound travels only 2 rooms horizontally and one floor vertically.

Since this time the player is in control of an actual avatar instead of an omnipotent house god, traps work differently. Setting them up remains the same, but triggering them is no longer automatic. This time around, Macaulay has to trigger certain traps by hand and that may mean being dangerously close to the crooks.

If the crooks don’t see or hear the player they’ll start to get frustrated, and after a certain threshold they start to trash the place. Depending on the mode the player is on, she may or may not want this to happen.

Uh? Oh, yeah, this game has different modes of play:

In the main mode, Macaulay calls the police just before the crooks are approaching the house. The goal is, naturally, to wait for the police to arrive and avoid damage  done to the house. That means that the player has to stay kind of close to the crooks but at the same time stay away from them enough to avoid kidnapping.

The secondary mode is based around trapping the crooks. So this time around you’ll want to lower their wits enough to trap them in one of the contraptions. Damage to the house doesn’t matter so much this time, though.

And the final mode is based around hiding without being noticed and  letting the crooks trash the place. And why exactly would the player want them to do that? Insurance, of course. The more damage, the more money gained. But be careful, because the crooks have an angry bar that fills the more the player taunts them and the more traps they trigger, but fades away with time.  If the angry bar hits rock bottom, they give up.


Oh my… how did this post get so long? A little bit more and I’d have to divide it into two parts and… nah, I would just start to detail the two designs a lot more and I’d end up with a 4 part game design series. How is that bad? Well, I have a metric ton of material to write about and I’m already itching to address each subject.


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