Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX review: vibrant, unkind, wonderful

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is a reminder that not every game needs to be for everybody. That’s not me saying it’s bad, just that it is a remake of a certain kind of platformer that is inherently tougher and not necessarily kind to the player. It is a product of its time. However, there are folks (such as I) who not only enjoy retro games with that design philosophy but appreciate what they were trying to do. Alex Kidd eventually faded into the background, giving way to more inviting games in both structure and character design which, again, is OK and frankly quite normal. That being said, Miracle World DX builds upon the framework of the original Master System game in a way that not only honors its source material, but also adds a few things to make it palatable for the masses.

The game stars an affable little boy named, obviously, Alex Kidd, who must save the kingdom he lives in from a banal villain, and so on and so forth. Miracle World DX has a quirky and fun aesthetic that adds a ton of personality to an otherwise pedestrian but serviceable plot. Like most platformers, the point of the game isn’t to follow its sweeping storyline, it’s to test your skills at maneuvering within the world and bopping a few cutesy enemies along the way. Mr. Kidd doesn’t hop on his enemies as is commonplace in the genre; he primarily punches them with a cartoonish fist. Adjusting to his small melee hitbox takes some getting used to, but it becomes second nature eventually. Which is good, because the game can be punishingly tough, as young Kidd doesn’t have a life bar. You’ll see his angelic ghost rise to the top of the screen all too often.

While that fact might irk some, I’m of the mindset that replaying the game and improving your skills is what experiencing Miracle World DX is all about. Most of you probably read that and translated it in your mind as ‘git gud’, but this relentless replaying is less about worthless chest thumping and more the self-satisfaction of knowing you’re getting better. However, it can be frustrating for those who don’t think that way, and the developers have thrown in an easy accessibility feature to work around this problem – the option for infinite lives. It sounds simple because it is – but it’s also ingenious. After playing for a bit and realizing I needed to see the entirety of the game in order to write this review, I myself turned it on so I could do so. I felt no shame, because the game is still the same, I just had a tool that helped me push through to the end. Ironically, I started the game again, removing the feature this time, so I could go back and master it the old fashioned way.

It’s worth noting that the audio/visual upgrade that is part and parcel with Miracle World being ‘DX‘ is phenomenal. Everything is lush and colorful and beautifully animated. Not all pixel art games can pull off what this does, and I appreciate it very much. In case you need a reminder, you can push a button and see the bones of the old game, which I guarantee will blow your mind. It’s not the first time a game has done this, but it still never ceases to amaze. The original game is endearing in its own way, but the vibrancy of the new coat of paint makes it memorable.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is not a game for everybody, but it potentially could be. It’s important to go in knowing its roots as a rock-hard, old-school platformer from Sega’s 8-bit days, but your view of it doesn’t need to be dependent on that fact. It feels like one of those releases that helps bridge the gap between current-day platformers and classic ones. As someone who grew up on this kind of stuff, its second nature; to those just starting, it can be a stepping stone to a different style of platformer. The amount of variety in play styles in platformers is underappreciated: here’s hoping Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX reminds people of this fact.

Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX was developed by Jankenteam and published by Merge Games, and it’s available on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX was provided by Evolve PR. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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