Change The Channel – Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit!

In our Change The Channel series, we explore the history of video games that are based on TV shows, one game at a time. This week, Shaun Eddleston takes a look at 1994’s Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit for the Super Nintendo…

Regardless of subjectivity, it is difficult to argue against the fact that the consoles of the 16-bit era were home to some of the greatest video games ever made. Nintendo and Sega repeatedly provided us with legendary titles such as Super Mario World (read our Top 5 Levels here!), Sonic The Hedgehog, and The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening; a track record that still continues to this day.

It’s also tough to disagree with the notion that some of the most bizarre, crappy games arrived during this period of time too, especially those that were based on TV shows.

There’s one TV show adaptation that comes to mind when thinking of these terrible games, and that’s 1994’s Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! for the Super Nintendo; considered by many to be one of the worst games to ever be released on the console.

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For those who aren’t familiar with the show, Home Improvement follows the daily trials and tribulations of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor (played by Tim Allen), a television show host raising three mischievous boys with help from his loyal co-host, his loving wife, and his eccentric next door neighbour.

While the sitcom was massively popular in the US during its 204-episode run (even snagging some awards in the process!), the premise of the show doesn’t sound like it would make for an entertaining video game, but surely enough, developers Imagineering and publishers Absolute Entertainment made an attempt, and saw the release of the game in November 1994.

Let’s set the scene; Tim’s show is going pretty well, but just as he is about to unveil the new Binford ultra power tool line named after him, the “Binford-Taylor Turbo Power Tool Line”, he discovers that they are missing, with a mysterious ultimatum note left by the thief challenging him to find the power tools. So, armed with a selection of tooltime weapons, it’s up to Tim to explore the other film sets in the studio to recover the missing tools.

Again, not the most exciting of plots, but when you realise that the other sets include enemies such as dinosaurs, acid-spewing mummies, ghosts and even robots, that’s where things start to get slightly interesting. Instead of the dull search for stolen hardware that the game’s plot seemingly resigns you to, you end up fighting against creatures more suited to a Castlevania or Pitfall game.

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The game is set over four worlds, consisting of four smaller levels and a respective boss. Players must find 5 crates in each level to progress on to the next stage. Nice and simple, just how a TV sitcom-based video game should be.

The variety of weapons that Tim can utilise is nothing to be scoffed at either. Ranging from nail guns, blowtorches, jackhammers, hammers, electric rail guns, and more, there’s a multitude of assault methods to try out. Each of these weapons has their own unique function too, like busting through walls and pinpointing smaller, harder to reach enemies.

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The difficulty is one of the aspects that drags the game way down. While the levels look pretty decent in terms of design, there’s a high probability that you’ll get lost in them. Enemies are also a major pain in the backside too, as some of them will take an obscene amount of hits to take down, while retaining the ability to kill you in an instant. There’s infinite continues in the game, and you’ll certainly need them.

The game also relies heavily on trial and error when it comes to the controls. I’m not saying that the game should hold your hand all the way through the game, but at least displaying the game’s controls near the beginning would make this a more enjoyable experience. There is a manual packaged with the game, but it doesn’t really provide much in the way of information…

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Yeah, I know. 1994’s answer to “Git Gud“.

The sound and music in Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! is the other major gripe that I had. The sound effects are so basic that it is at times tough to figure out which character its coming from, and the music is so one-dimensional, they might as well not have even bother including it in the first place.

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So, after looking at the game again in a bit more detail, does Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! live up to its title as one of the worst SNES games ever? Not quite.

Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely not a good game, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than die-hard superfans of the show (are there any now since the show ended nearly 20 years ago?), but it isn’t really the steaming pile of crap that we’ve all been lead to believe either. It’s incredibly difficult, the sound is absolutely rubbish and the story is just as boring as you’d expect, but the graphics aren’t too bad, the weapons are interesting and the level design looks ok too, even if it is quite easy to get lost in them.

There’s far worse games to worry about in this particular area of gaming history, and there’s no doubt that I’ll be discussing many of them in the near future.

Have you played Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit? Do you agree with our thoughts about the game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!

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