We'll get to the Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX review in just a second but first... Storytime. One of my earliest gaming memories is one time when I went to visit my older cousin and playing on his Master System II. I had an NES at home and really enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros., but I wanted to play this Alex Kidd game he had. I was awful at it, I remember being in tears because I kept getting repeatedly killed by a frog blowing bubbles at me and he wouldn’t help me. I’m happy to announce that I have now beaten that frog. I can move on with my life.
Some Kind Of Miracle
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a snazzy-looking remake of the 1986 original. It’s a side-scrolling platform game, where you play as the aforementioned Alex Kidd. It has been given a slap of new paint to make it look bright and breezy, the sound has been cranked all the way up to HiFi and it has been unleashed onto the world.
Weirdly, I want to start off by talking about the box. The inside sleeve of the physical release has the old graph paper look that used to be on all of the Master System games. It made me feel young, it took me to a place without mortgage payments and back pain. It’s a nice little nod to the history of the game and it’s a very cool first impression to make.
The game itself has been tweaked a bit. Some of the levels have been slightly modified as well as a few brand-new additions to the roster. But simply put, what we have here is a fairly simple Mario clone where the idea is to move to the right-hand side of the screen until you get to the end of the level. I’m going to take that back actually as the first level actually has you going down rather than to the right, but you get the picture.
There is a mix of platforming where you can punch your way through whatever beasties are in the way. You can grab powerups to give you flame punches and a couple of other abilities to make life easier. There are some water levels and also vehicles! You generally have to buy these from a shop at the beginning of the level and they’ll only take a single hit before exploding and leaving you on foot. But it does give you an alternative way to take on a level, sort of changing it into a speedy obstacle dodging affair.
There are now some collectables to grab too. Each one has a little bit of flavour text about how it links to the world of Alex Kidd. Other enhancements are a boss rush mode as well as an included emulated version of the original game. You can get your hands on these once you’ve completed the game once.
The graphics can be switched between the new look and the old style with a push of a button. This will also switch out the soundtrack to a more authentic chiptune sound. With regards to this new look, the game looks and sounds brilliant. The artwork is lovely and clear, and the music is well arranged while staying pretty faithful to the original, hummable tunes. Unfortunately, not everything has survived the 30-year passage of time so well.
The Bad Touch
This game can be incredibly frustrating to play. You die instantly if anything bad touches you. This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if the controls didn’t feel a bit floaty. This makes nailing a tricky jump near impossible and if you do it badly one too many times, you’re sent back the beginning of the level via the game over screen. Luckily, there are loads of checkpoints through the level which means you generally get one or two attempts at an obstacle before you get sent back to the beginning of the world.
Add to this the fact there are certain blocks that may randomly spawn a floating wizard thing that’ll chase you and kill you if it touches you and this game can be incredibly frustrating at times. Those vehicles I mentioned earlier need to be bought in most cases. But if you die all of your coins are lost. So it is very easy to lose all of your savings and miss out on a nice little upgrade.
You kind of get the feeling that the developers of this remake sort of knew this as the newly added levels are probably some of the easiest in this remake. They tend not to rely so much on perfectly timed jumps and have less of these instant death surprises. They aren’t easy by any means, but they feel fair.
Not Exactly Intuitive
Then there are some baffling mechanisms in the game too. Towards the end of the game, there is an underwater room filled with spikes. Throughout the game touching any spikes has killed you. But not in this room. For some reason, you’re allowed to swim up against them and you’ll be fine. Unless you try and dodge them then you’ll die as normal. This led to an incredibly frustrating time where I was stuck in a level which made the Turtles Dam level look easy until I missed a button press and realised, I would be fine if I just rubbed up along the spikes. So frustrating.
I should probably mention that this game does come with some player aids to make things a little easier. The modified hitboxes make things a little less punishing with regards to enemy collision detection. You can also turn on infinite lives, (this is actually how I played the last third of the game), and there is an alternate physics mode, but if anything, I found that one worse that the standard one.
A cynical me would think that this difficulty is there just to mask a short playtime. On a good run, these levels can be finished pretty quickly. I certainly felt the game stepped up its pace if I wasn’t being sent back to the beginning of the level every minute or so. I’m not against difficult games. I enjoy a souls-like. But those games feel hard but fair. This feels difficult because it is giving you bad controls to do your job.
Oh, and on the subject of arbitrary difficulty, let’s talk bosses. You fight these bosses not by punching them as you’d expect. No, you play rock paper scissors. If you happen to lose this best of 3 game, back to the beginning of the level for you. Honestly, I’d have to say that this game is the closest I’ve come to embedding a controller into the drywall.
I don’t like to read reviews before I sit down to try a game for review, I like to go in with as clean a slate as possible. But after having such a bad time playing this, I had to head off to the internet to see if it was just me. Apparently, it is. There are people pouring heaps of praise on this game as a masterpiece, but I just don’t see it.
With the infinite lives mode activated, the game is enjoyable and can be beaten in a few hours. Those hours will be filled with some lovely music and graphics but will be punctuated with a few frustrating moments. Without that mode on you will really have to love the gameplay to have a good time.
It seems there are people out there who loved the original and think this is an incredible remake. If that sounds like you, then you will probably have a good time with Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX. But for myself, I don’t really have those nostalgic memories to fall back on. For me, this feels like a nicely polished game that is held back by 30-year-old design decisions. Miracle World was nice enough for a visit, but I won’t be heading back any time soon to grab the last of those collectables.