On September 17th 1991, the ABC Network debuted a family sitcom entitled Home Improvement, which was about a cocky know-it-all accident-prone handyman named Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor, who lives in suburban Detroit, Michigan with his wife, Jill, and their three sons, Brad, Randy, and Mark. Tim also hosts a DIY television show called Tool Time (sponsored by the Binford Tool company) with his friend Al Borland, where they would show the audience both at home and in the studio how to use power tools, with Tim doing it the wrong way because of his “More power!” mantra, and Al doing it the right way. Also, whenever Tim’s in a bit of a pickle, he is always given advice by his next door neighbour, Wilson, who always does a good job of hiding his face. The show ran for eight seasons from September 1991 to May 1999.
Of course, when you think about it, the title of the show is not only about how to redecorate your home, but it’s also about Tim trying to fix his family life.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, brings me to today’s video-game review, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit, published by Absolute Entertainment and developed by Imagineering Inc., released in November 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
This game is one of the most hated ever, at least according to YouTube. The common criticism is that the difficulty and lack of instructions make the game terrible.
So if that’s the case, I should end this review and give this title a shitty grade, maybe even 2 Power Tools out of 10, right?
I don’t think so! This is one of the most underrated SNES games ever, and I’m here to tell you why, 20 years after its release.
On a very special edition of Tool Time, Tim and Al prepare to unveil the Binford-Taylor Turbo-Powered Tool Line, named after Tim. But when Tim goes to retrieve the tools, he discovers that they’ve gone missing, and there’s a note asking for Tim to search the other studios for the missing tools. Pretty simple story, huh? No hidden meaning, just a handyman getting his tools back.
First thing’s first, let’s talk about the gameplay. As Tim Taylor, you fight your way through four different studios (Jungle, Egypt, Haunted House, and Space), each with five levels and a boss to fight. That makes a total of 20 levels to beat. The enemies you fight in this game are dinosaurs, ghosts, scorpions, UFOs, and other such enemies, one of many things people give out about this title. Seriously, the reason why there’s dinosaurs in Power Tool Pursuit is because dinosaurs were the biggest thing in the 1990’s thanks to Jurassic Park.
The goal of each level is to find a number of crates under a time limit. Once you collect them all, you get to move on to the next level. If you stand still for long enough, the game will tell you the general direction of the closest crate. If you’re lost and have plenty of time to kill, it seems like this may be the best way to get your bearings.
Tim’s health in this game is represented by collecting nuts and bolts in the same way Sonic the Hedgehog collects rings. Just like the Blue Blur, if you get hit, you lose all your nuts and bolts, and if you get hit again with no nuts and bolts, you lose a life, and Tim’s kids come out to cool him down, so make sure you have plenty of nuts and bolts with you at all times.
Now, what exactly does Tim have to defend himself with against these enemies? POWER TOOLS! You can use a nail gun, a flamethrower, a lightning gun, a chainsaw, or dynamite to fight off the many beasts that await you. You can also upgrade your weapons by collecting them again. For example, if you collect the nail gun two more times after acquiring it, you’ll be able to shoot kunai-sized nails at your enemies.
Also, you have a grappling hook (which can help you swing across huge pits as well as allow you to reach higher places), a sledgehammer (which can break through weak walls), and a jackhammer (which can find secret holes).
Along the way, you can collect different power-ups such as a hard-hat which makes you invincible for a short while, a clock which adds more an extra minute to your timer, and an icon spelled “Power Up” which allows you to jump higher, and also makes you immune to large spike/fire/slime/whatever-filled pits. If you take damage though, you lose the Power Up instead of nuts and bolts (but you still have a split second to jump up and grab it again after you lose it).
Another big gripe people make about Power Tool Pursuit is that instead of an instruction manual, you just get a Binford slip that says “Real men don’t need instructions!”
Personally, I think the game’s lack of an instruction manual and only a Binford slip telling you that “real men don’t need instructions” is a rather nice nod to the Tool Time portion of the show when Tim would go forth with a project without proper instructions, as well as wave off any warnings from Al, only to screw up the project with a wacky accident.
Next up, another complaint about Power Tool Pursuit: the controls. They’re not broken or anything, but they could’ve been better due to the button layout. For example, to use your main weapon, you press A to shoot straight, while holding L or R to fire diagonally, and to use the jackhammer, you hold Down and press X.
It’s true that the controls are a little slippery, but they’re not impossible to get the hang of once you practice.
Anyway, here are the controls in case you wanted to know:
A = Fire
B = Jump
L or R: Diagonal Fire
Y = Run
X = Grappling Hook
Left or Right + X = Sledgehammer
Down + X = Jackhammer
However, if you’re playing this on a emulator, there is a patch which gives you the following:
1.Timer decreases at half speed
2.Four lives per continue instead of 3
4.More sensible control scheme:
Y = Fire
B = Jump
X or A = Diagonal Fire
L = Run
R = Grappling Hook
Left or Right + R = Sledgehammer
Down + R = Jackhammer
You can find the patch here (you’ll need to download Lunar IPS to patch the rom).
Well, I can’t complain about the graphics, as Tim’s sprite looks pretty good, and the enemies look pretty cartoonish. The level designs also look OK.
I will admit, the music and sound effects could’ve been better, although we do get a nice 16-bit rendition of the Home Improvement theme song.
The biggest gripe everyone has with Power Tool Pursuit is its difficulty, and I agree with most of it. Well, here are five tips I can offer:
1.You need to play this game as slowly and methodically as possible. As a result, most of these levels take up about five or ten minutes to beat, and that’s if you’re being very careful. If you’re not being careful and just rush in like a fool, you’re gonna get butchered right away!
2.The best weapons to use are the flamethrower and the lightning gun, since they both have good hitboxes and can attack through walls and ceilings, which is very useful in a game where many enemies take a lot of hits to kill, have long invincibility times after being hit, and have access to ranged attacks. The nail gun is also a good weapon to use since it fires constantly, the nails arc in mid-air allowing them to kill enemies in awkward locations, and it’s great at clearing out pests. The only downside is that the nail gun can’t fire through walls like all the other weapons, but that’s a small price to pay for convenience. As for the bad weapons, try to avoid the chainsaw because its hitbox is kind of weird, and stay as far away from the dynamite as you can since its attack range is pathetically small and the weapon itself is awkward to use.
3.Be super careful around bottomless pits. Always check below you before making any downward jumps near the bottom of a level.
4.The spike/fire/slime-filled pits are not too bad, because it’s often easier to just jump in the pit and sprint across while you pick up some of your dropped bolts on the way than it is to try to jump/grapple over them one platform at a time.
5.The end level bosses are an absolute joke if you have the right weapon to fight them with.
Depending on your tastes due to the lack of saving your game and a password feature, Power Tool Pursuit is a “beat it once, trade it in, game over” deal for some gamers, but for others, it does make you wanna come back for more due to the novelty.
So, is Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit really as bad as everyone says? No, I’ve played worse. Don’t get me wrong, Power Tool Pursuit is not great, but it’s not that bad either, and it’s playable!
Besides, it’s much better than the following crappy SNES titles:
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Wheel of Fortune
James Bond Jr.
Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally
Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool
Chester Cheetah: Wild Wild Quest
Harley’s Humongous Adventure
Bubsy in: Claws Encounter of the Furred Kind
The Wizard of Oz
Last Action Hero
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Dennis the Menace
Barbie: Super Model
Barbie: Vacation Adventure
Lester the Unlikely
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Eye of the Beholder
Rex Ronan: Experimental Surgeon
Snow White in Happily Ever After
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Volume 1
3 Ninjas Kick Back
Rise of the Robots
Rap Jam Volume 1
Bottom line, to quote FFL2and3Rocks, yes, Tim Allen fighting dinosaurs, giant scorpions, and ghosts is stupid, but if you can look past that, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit is a pretty fun SNES game if you like a challenge. It’s not Super Ghouls & Ghosts hard, but it’s still difficult. In all fairness, I’ll give Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit 6.5 Power Tools out of 10.
Now, I know I’m going to take a lot of heat for this, and why am I showing mercy to Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit? Because if I bashed it to shreds, I’d be just like everybody else! And I’m not, I’m better than that!
And on that bombshell, I will bid you farewell until next time, so take it easy.