There is nothing I hate more than putting a game down and thinking “God, I’m glad that’s over”. Despite the long name, Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX is a hard one to say much about. As a games reviewer, I’ll find a way, of course, but aside from one thing (which we’ll get to), there is very little to make this revamped game stand out.
I feel it is important to note that if you are an Alex Kidd In Miracle World devotee due to pure nostalgia, this review won’t have much for you – you’ll love the game, and that’s that. For anyone else… There is very little here to get excited about.
The game takes you back to a time which some will refer to as a golden age of gaming, and some will refer to as “a bit crap in retrospect”. I’m in the latter camp. Although I think some beautiful and exciting IPs arrived during the ‘80s, modern expectations just can’t be ignored. Looking back fondly on an old game from your childhood is one thing, but considering it genuinely better with old, janky, laggy controls is another. I have, for example, about seven different re-releases and versions of Myst, each time hoping that the remake removes or upgrades some of the more outdated elements.
Luckily, there are enough remakes released every year that revive these brilliant titles and breathe new life into them. One thing I will say, Alex Kidd In Miracle World included, is that this is often a labour of love. Even when characters lose a little of their charm in an updated version (I’m looking at you, Monkey Island), you can usually tell that the painstaking process of dragging a classic IP into the 21st Century was a dedicated craft.
Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX does as many of the best remakes do, and provides an option to switch between the classic graphics and the newly reimagined ones. This is Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX’s main achievement. The one thing that makes it stand out: the graphics.
This remake is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and charming re-imaginings of a franchise in a long time. Having relatively little to go on from the original, aside from maybe box art – the team have done an incredible job rendering a warm, rounded, friendly world that oozes character and yet stays faithful to its origins.
But that is largely the extent of it. Aside from two changes in the options menu (one to choose the appearance of food-based powerups, and one to give the character infinite lives) there is very little in the way of quality-of-life updates to bring the game up to modern standards.
Playing Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX is exhausting, frustrating, and unfulfilling. Unless you mastered the original (and still have the reflexes you did back then), the game presents you with a dodgy array of technical oversights that remove most of the joy from playing. What really lets the game down, is the knowledge that these things could have been addressed, and a whole new generation of fans could have been inducted.
Many of the issues with the original were a product of its time. You expected difficulties and endless death scenes and the rage that came with it – an awful lot of games were that way, and we didn’t know any better – but now we have accessibility options, pixel-perfect hitboxes, and an array of tactile improvements to gaming in general. Unfortunately, the remake of Alex Kidd In Miracle World has been too faithful to its time period and continues to infuriate and hamper progress.
The hitboxes are a real problem. They are borderline nonsensical, in that they occasionallyappear almost random, varying from inside the enemy to an arbitrary distance from them. Hitting an enemy frequently requires you to basically be inside their hitbox, limiting the accessibility and fun from the start. This is not a skill level issue, as levels and enemies appear to differ in this regard, so you can never feel truly prepared.
The combat – when it isn’t an admittedly charming game of Rock, Paper, Scissors – is therefore pretty painful. The almost imperceptible distance between being in punching range and getting yourself killed is frustrating enough, but the lack of lives, hearts or hit point strikes me as something most modern gamers will take issue with. As soon as you put a foot wrong, Alex will be on his way to Heaven with his little white wings.
I realise this is a feature in the old games, but that doesn’t excuse the clumsiness with which it is handled. Any modern Mario game also limits your hit points per level, but it feels much more manageable and reliable. After a few levels in Mario you begin to slip into a comfortable rhythm. Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX does not manage this in the slightest, even with ‘unlimited lives’ enabled.
This is due in part to the dodgy hitboxes, but also down to Alex’s incredibly slippery feet. We’re not talking early Rayman-style overshooting, but a real lack of attention to where the player intends to end up. It isn’t a charming and reliable float, but an irritating reason for multiple deaths and something that really could have done with a rethink in this remake.
The main issues then are consistency and the difficulty curve – two issues that plagued video games in the ‘80s. I can’t see kids enjoying this, or adults who are new to the franchise. Nostalgists with their fan-hats on may or may not enjoy it for the visuals and irritating controls, but I dare not speak for them.
It seems a shame that a game with a relatively small following in the West should receive a remake that has seemingly no intention to attract new players. There is nothing new here, nothing that makes the game more than what it is now – an outdated product of its time with a heap of potential.