Review by Genjuro Kibagami

Reviewed: 04/13/07

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

If you grew up in America during the 90’s, there’s a good chance you remember the popular yet wholly unfunny sitcom Home Improvement. The show centered on the now washed up comedian Tim Allen as Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, host of the show Tool Time. Much of the comedy involved Tim playing with his tools in a strictly heterosexual manner by unnecessarily powering up objects like his lawnmower or dishwasher and then said objects breaking, exploding, or otherwise causing injury. Tim also grunted “RARARARA” and “AURAWU?” a lot as running gags. For good measure, there were healthy doses of sitcom cliches ranging from Tim’s wife Jill getting angry at her “cave man” husband to fat jokes.

This was translated into an action platformer. With dinosaurs.

It’s a momentous occasion on Tool Time when corporate sponsor Binford Tools launches a line of Binford-Taylor tools with “MORE POWER.” But as luck would have it some dastardly fiend has stolen all the tools and haphazardly placed them throughout four sets at the television studio. It’s now up to Tim to locate every missing crate of tools because apparently Binford didn’t mass produce these things, insure them, or have any intentions of making any others.

You’ll control Tim as he searches for the crates among four stages (and a 5th containing only a pathetically dumb boss) per each set. Each stage is a massive labyrinth housing six or more crates. Home Improvement does have some cool ideas. Tim always comes equipped with a grappling hook to reach high off ledges and swing to and fro Bionic Commando style, a sledgehammer to smash through cracked walls, and a jackhammer to tunnel under frail platforms.

Unfortunately the level design and mechanics are lamer than an entire season’s worth of the show’s “Al always wears flannel” jokes. You’re given a strict time limit to fumble around each maze trying to find a damned path to a crate. Standing still will cause Tim to flex his muscles while an arrow will point in the direction of a crate, which seems helpful but it’s not. Most of the convoluted paths require you to take lengthy trips, usually in the opposite direction of the arrow, all around the level just to find one hovel containing a crate meaning following the arrow will usually lead you astray. To make matters worse platforms tend to be ridiculously tiny leaving little landing room. In addition, platforms are usually spread out in such poor fashion that you have little room for error among when you exactly jump off a ledge. The game’s camera is also far too erratic. A midair turn will cause the screen to jerk sharply and you won’t be able to see where the hell you’re landing.

Home Improvement is difficult – not the satisfying Ninja Gaiden kind of difficult but the “my lord, this turd has far too many design flaws” way. One memorable experience with the game had me by a small crevice inches away from a crate. Normally this obstacle would be no problem except I had grabbed a power up that allowed Tim to jump twice as high. When I leapt, I ended up hitting the ceiling and instantly fell to my doom. Picking up a power up screwed me over.

Speaking of power ups, Tim has quite a few weapons at his disposal. Throughout each level you’ll come across such realistic tools as a nail gun, a blow torch, and an enchanted chainsaw that shoots waves of electricity. You’ll definitely need them as you face off against fire breathing t-rexes and egg dropping pterodactyls on the Prehistoric set, giant scorpions that squirt milky white goo and poisonous snakes on the Temple of Tools set, and ethereal ghosts and sword-wielding animate suits of armor on the Monster House set. I don’t know what’s on the fourth set. I stopped midway through set three in fear of asphyxiating on my own vomit. Regardless I’m sure they were all like the previous enemies: far too annoying to kill. No matter what tool you’ll wield, enemies seem to take the same astronomical requisite hits to kill. It doesn’t help that after receiving damage foes will flicker and become invincible for 5-10 seconds forcing you to beat a hasty retreat. And the tool man doesn’t take damage well without his far too rare temporary invincibility granting golden hard hat. Home Improvement borrows from Sonic the Hedgehog by axing a health meter in favor of having you collect nuts and bolts to stay alive. Get hit and you’ll drop everything, but unlike Sonic’s rings, Tim’s nuts vanish far too quickly making a stockpile of 30 dwindle to 2 in a flash.

Oh but wait! There’s more! While dying will refill the timer and transport Tim to the last crate he snatched up, losing all three of your lives kicks you back to the start of the entire set. So for five stages filled to the brim of frustrating hazards, you can only die a scant three times. What’s worse is there’s no password system thus requiring you to play through the whole game in one sitting.

I never did make it to the shocking conclusion of who stole the Binford-Taylor tools (it was probably that creepy neighbor Wilson - it’s written all over his face), but I’m not too upset about that. I had no intention to keep stomaching a game that rivals Bebe’s Kids for worst SNES game. I mean, Bebe’s Kids may have been a sloppy, ugly, broken, short and boring brawler, but Home Improvement is a sloppy, ugly, broken, tedious, long and frustratingly difficult action platformer. But hey maybe I just wasn’t manly enough for the tool man. After all, this is the game that went out of its way to not package an instruction manual but instead a note reading, “Real men don’t need instructions.”

Rating:   0.5 - Unplayable

Would you recommend this Review? Yes No

Got Your Own Opinion?

Submit a review and let your voice be heard.