Who asked for this?
Home Improvement was an American Sitcom back in the 90s remembered for launching the career of Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. The show followed Tim’s character, named well, Tim, as he experienced all the typical TV dad scenarios, only a lot more power tools were involved. His character was a car loving, sports fan, all American type of dad. So much to the point that he had a show which, just wouldn’t work in reality.
‘Tool Time’ was the fictional show set in Home Improvement, it had giant set pieces, a sizeable audience, and Pamela Anderson in a presenter of tools role. It was a strange show within a show type of scenario and realistically speaking, nobody would watch. Saying that shows like 16 and Pregnant and Duck Dynasty do exist and have a following. But even Tool Time feels like far cry from the likes of guilty pleasures such as Pawn Stars for example.
Regardless of just how silly the meta show was, or just how stereotypical the show itself was, Home Improvement was a hit with American audiences. As with most successful properties, there had to be a video game. Especially for properties from the 90s, if it even showed a hint of being a hit, the series was due a cartoon, video game, and more. So despite it making no sense whatsoever, we got Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.
A strange game that is just… eh. Why couldn’t we get a Father Ted RPG instead? Anyone? No? Okay.
Story wise the game is… well, it’s clear the team didn’t want to make it make sense. It’s like what your nan might decide a video game plot is if you had to ask ‘er to make one up. During an episode of Tool Time, Tim is ready to show off the latest line of power tools to his audience of power tool loving audience. GASP! The tools are gone, so Tim is tasked with searching the nearby studios for the tools, because someone clearly took the tools, spread them across all the studios on the lot and had a giggle afterwards.
It’s not going to break any records here, but it makes a bit of sense. But once you get into the game, it makes less sense. Because it isn’t a game about playing as Tim just grabbing some tools from the floors of lifeless studio lots or even an RPG where you have to question stagehands, actors and such about the whereabouts of the tools. No no. Power Tool Pursuit is a platformer where you play as Tim Taylor fighting ghosts, dinosaurs, aliens, and other head scratching enemies.
But why exactly?! Are there actors in all of these suits just trying to kill Tim for a laugh? Also, the levels do not look like a ‘studio’ set in the slightest. It’s just vague reasoning to justify throwing Tim Taylor into a platformer because platformers were the most vanilla type of game that people would enjoy, especially the non-game playing Home Improvement audience. They probably would have hated a management sim where you had to make sure Tool Time did well through a full broadcast year.
You get to explore four different studios with different themes, Jungle, Egypt, Space, and Haunted House. These have five levels each with a boss to face, making for about 20 levels in total. As mentioned, you’ll be fighting a slew of random monsters and enemies, all of which don’t make sense for Tim Taylor to be fighting in the place. A lot of these themes were quite popular back in the 1990s, like dinosuars for example. Jurrasic Park is hot? Gotta have some dinos!
Completing a level is pretty boring to be blunt. There are a bunch of crates filled with tools, and you have to collect each one until you get them all, thus completing the level. There is no mini map or HUD to let you know where to find these crates however, so if you stand still long enough, a magical arrow will show up to point you in the right direction. An exercise in patience as once you collect all the obvious crates, it’s a matter of stand still, wait for the arrow, repeat. Not very fun.
Health is a Sonic style system where you collect nuts and bolts, and if you get hit, those go away and spread across the screen. Platformers with this system that aren’t Sonic rarely do very well sadly, and Power Tool Pursuit is no different. If you end up dying with no nuts and bolts on your person, then Tim ends up suffering from middle age dad fatigue and his kids need to come out to cool him off so he is ready to get back in the fight.
How does Tim even fight these studios full of extras who have decided to become mass murders with their target on Tim the ‘Tool Man’ Taylor? Tools, duh. Popular power tools are at Tim’s arsenal, such as a nail gun, chainsaw, uh… flamethrower, and dynamite?! Jesus, Tim uses some unorthodox tools for sure. He can even find upgrades by collecting the same tool more than once, turning that nail gun into a SUPER nail gun with bigger deadly nails to shoot at people. Honestly, the game sounds kind of awesome when you describe it, but sadly it’s the gameplay that brings this silly arsenal and plot down to the ground.
Traversing the levels feels far too weighted and hard to control, the arc of Tim’s jump feels virtually uncontrollable and that isn’t very good for a platformer. They give you a grappling hook to help with mobility, but it does very little. Since the mechanics feel muddy and heavy, especially when combined with having to wait for the magic arrow to tell you where to go when you get lost. It’s just boring towards the end.
Hitboxes are pretty ridiculous, as the hard controls make fighting bog standard enemies a chore, you can tell that the dinosaur will be running straight at you from the top of the hill nearby, but jumping up to try and shoot your nail gun at them leads to this weird anvil tied to the legs effect that leaves you colliding with the dinosaur and you losing your nuts and bolts. The platforming is also rage inducing too, as the level design makes little sense.
Graphically, however, the game isn’t too bad. It’s hard to mess up SNES graphics if you have a good sprite artist, and while the colours are a bit muted, it’s not too bad to look at. The sound is in less of an accepting category, the theme song starts up when you boot the game, and… it sounds nothing like the show. It’s just grating to listen to and you have to wonder what level of quality control was involved with this one, it feels like not a whole lot.
Overall, Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit is an exercise in patience. A platformer that feels sluggish and just… head scratching. Everyone we’ve mentioned this game to either asks “What’s Home Improvement?” or says “They’d make anything back in the day.” It’s a shame this couldn’t be a segment on a hidden gem of a game, as the framework was there to make a surprisingly good platforming action game.
But alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, you get a game covered in rust, and could use a bit of a tune-up from a proper ‘Tool Man’.
If you do want to try Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit, then consider trying them out on our Android handhelds! We’ve got a wide selection for any budget if you want to play all your classic Retro games, just click here to check out our options and start gaming today!
Did you play the Home Improvement game? Let us know in the comments below if you liked it or not!