Released way back in the late 80’s for the Sega Master System, will a fresh coat of paint from Merge Games revitalise this age-old, 2D platformer?
Or is it simply a mask to hide critical design flaws from a bygone era of gaming?
Let’s answer these questions in today’s review of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX!
Bridging The Gap With Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
As a whole, Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is roughly a 2-3 hour experience… Well, maybe 5 if you’re anything like me. Though that’s because the original developers, Sega wanted players to persevere and continuously improve upon their Alex Kidd, platforming skills. Since games back then couldn’t hold as much data as they can today. And the fact that early developers would often struggle to strike a balanced level of difficulty.
Enter 2021’s Director’s Cut version, which actually keeps the same hard as nails approach. But adds an ‘infinite lives’ option and a few extra stages, bosses and tweaks to help tide over a broad community of players. While it isn’t a major overhaul by any means, these inclusions will help keep veterans on their toes and allow first-timers the chance to steadily progress through the game, without getting constantly spanked back to the start.
For you all retro gamers out there, Miracle World DX also allows the player to seamlessly switch between the original and HD graphics on the fly. And once you’ve reached the credits, a ‘Classic Mode’ option will be unlocked, allowing the player to revisit the untouched, original version. Additionally, a ‘Boss Rush Mode’ is available, where you can fight all the game’s big bads back-to-back in vintage, rock paper scissors.
Rock Paper Scissors?
Wait, what? Rock paper scissors? Isn’t this a video game?… Well, yes. Just hear me out. Funnily enough, a majority of the bosses need to be defeated in a best of three, rock paper scissors match first, before their real fight begins. I do like this minigame concept in theory, as it is quite unique. However, on your first attempt, it’s impossible to know which option to pick, which can often lead to a frustrating, inevitable death.
And if you’re playing without ‘infinite lives’ ticked, losing a match is like getting kicked in the teeth. Thankfully, the rock paper scissors event will be skipped on a retry if Alex dies on the actual boss fight. Plus, your opponent will always make the same decisions if Alex loses in a best of three. Because if they didn’t – hoooo boy!
The Questionable Design Choices of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
Luckily, Alex controls relatively well throughout the game. His jumps feel precise and have just the right amount of weight to them. Although he does slide a little too much. Doesn’t help that most of the enemies need to be right up in Alex’s grill to land a punch. And since he can only take one hit per life, you’ll stumble into some really stupid deaths…
As a result, some parts of the game feel unnecessarily difficult because of that sliding movement. So to help alleviate this issue, Alex can find or purchase items such as a helicopter, motorcycle, projectile attack, shield and other things to ease through sections which are causing a bit too much grief.
That being said, if the game wasn’t hard enough already; certain item blocks can summon this grim reaper of sorts, that relentlessly goes after Alex. The only method of escape is to outrun it off the screen, but this is easier said than done. Most of the time, it’ll appear in the most inconvenient locations and you’ll virtually end up trapping yourself for a mere chance at an item. I did not care for this mechanic, at all.
Good Gameplay Meets Uneven Difficulty
On a more positive note, not only do the HD remakes of these stages look absolutely stunning, but most of them are super fun to play and really challenge your platforming prowess. I especially loved blitzing through these levels in a vehicle and those parts where you’d have to break boxes and carve out a path for Alex to progress. But at the same time, a few sections feel very cheap and will occasionally punish you for no particular reason.
An infamous scene towards the end of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX has you swimming through the tiniest of gaps, in a room littered with insta-death spikes. But what makes this area so difficult is that Alex continuously rises up when swimming. So if you tilt the control stick a centimetre off its axis, you’re dead. Oh, you thought you were clear of that spike? Nope, dead! Oh, you thought you could pass through the gap on the right? Nope, even more dead! Dead times 50! That’s how many attempts it took me to pass that one section!
When did this suddenly turn into Kaizo Mario? Somebody tell me!
The Big Bads & Story of Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX
Anyway, the bosses themselves aren’t half bad, even if they’re not the strongest compared to today’s standards. Though like I mentioned earlier, Alex does have to get precariously close to these guys and you will be tempted to throw your controller into oblivion if he takes a hit. Then again, once you’ve discovered an easy strategy to cheese them, they’ll go down pretty quickly.
But hold on, why are we fighting these creepy, hand-shaped, monster-looking guys in the first place? Well basically, Alex’s brother and his fiancée have been kidnapped. Plus, this evil sorcerer guy has turned almost everyone into stone. So you can probably guess what’s going to happen next. I’m assuming that the other bosses are shaped like hands because of the rock paper scissors thing?
Regardless, there’s not much of a story happening here to be honest, but Miracle World doesn’t really need it. In case you are hungry for more Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX lore, the remake team have also added in some NPCs to chat with, but it’s more just for world-building at the end of the day.
Is Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX worth a shot? Well, if you’re looking for a challenge or a big platformer fan, then buckle up. For everyone else though, it’s a lot harder to sell. The entire experience is only around 3-4 hours long and there isn’t too much replayability, outside of a few collectables, ‘Boss Rush’ and ‘Classic Mode’. The platforming is pretty good, but we’ve definitely seen other titles take this formula to a whole new level. However, if you are searching for that retro feel with striking HD graphics, remastered music and a couple tweaks to the formula, then Miracle World might just be what you’re looking for.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX has its rough patches, though it’s still a fun 2D platformer for all ages to enjoy. Incorporating several distinct elements for a fresh experience; the faithfully remastered soundtrack, stunning visuals and retro feel will certainly turn a few heads.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Merge Games. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.