Review by King Broccoli

"Good game......and I'm not kidding. BAHAHA!"

Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a quirky little platforming game that is a lot of fun. You take the role of Alex Kidd and have to go through the usual motions of playing through a number of levels, beating a few sub-bosses and finally defeating the evil warlord emperor guy waiting for you at the end. In a very weird move the focus of the game has been placed on janken (better known as roshambo or paper-rock-scissors), with constant bouts of this deciding how easy your trip through this title is going to be. It’s all a bit strange but it’s been crafted marvelously and the result is a very fun little game.

GAMEPLAY
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle takes you through a number of different levels. There’s the simple little villages with friendly slow-moving vehicles trying to kill you, there’s underwater levels with lumbering octopi desperate to rub you out, you may even encounter some Egyptian levels before you reach the castle at the end. These stages are crafted well, nicely placed jumps and enemies ensure that you’re going have to exercise some skill to prevail without needing a complete mastery of the game. At the end of every few levels you’ll run into a sub-boss, rather than the age-old method of brute force, you’re going to have top beat these guys in a game of janken. Winning the game sends you to the next level whilst failure results in the loss of a life. This whole set-up can often feel at times as if it’s designed to reward luck rather than skill, and takes some fun right out of the game.

As Alex Kidd you have a few generic moves at your disposal. You can jump, you can punch and you can do a jumping kick. This limited repertoire is enough to account for the simpler enemies, but as you move on and your foes become more complex you’re going to need a little bit more firepower. By collecting money from the foes you’ve vanquished you can move into a little room and have a game of janken with a monkey of some kind. The only thing on stake here is a nifty piece of gadgetry, and if you win you can tuck it away just in case a rainy day happens to spring up. Some of the items you can win are – a bracelet that lets you shoot, a one-man helicopter that shoots missiles, a cape that lets you fly, and an amulet that lets you read the mind of your janken opponent. Some of these levels cannot be finished without one of these hi-tech gizmos so you’re going to have to get your chance boots on.

There are no hit-points in this game; if something touches Alex then he is going to die. In the later levels, where there are enemies swarming all over the place and rocks hailing down from the sky this can be a little bit of a pain. For the most part the enemies are harmless, they move slowly and usually to set paths, it is only by sheer weight of numbers that they get an advantage. A big problem with the game is the length of Alex’s limbs, his punches and kicks are only slight extensions of his body and when the lightest of touches form an enemy spells death you’re left praying for some sweet timing. Luckily you can actually use the environment as a weapon, punching a block will send it flying across the screen, catching anything in its path. You’ll spend a lot of time just trying to avoid your enemies and protect the limited amount of lives that you have been granted.

Despite these few problems the gameplay of Alex Kidd is generally fun. Playing with all your little trinkets and searching for secret passages in the levels (and there are a few) are always good ways to spend your time and make it hard to put the controller down. Your games may end a little bit quicker than you’d like for a start, but this is all part of the learning curve. Highly enjoyable.

GRAPHICS
The graphics themselves have a bit of quirkiness about them, but they certainly look okay. The backgrounds are nice and detailed and always a pleasure to look at. Little one-percenters like waves on the top of the water and bubbles in the underwater levels make this game one of the most graphically pleasing in my very limited Genesis collection. The most important is that the graphics are bright and clear, many other games have a habit of looking washed out and grainy, but Alex Kidd is a winner in this regard as well. Apart from the annoying Mario Bros. 2 type of scrolling up and down (watching that screen move is painful) there’s little to find fault with in the scenery. It’s all very picturesque and you won’t mind moving around these vibrant playing fields.

The characters aren’t too shabby either. Alex Kidd is nicely drawn, from the curly foppish hair right down to those ears that stick right out. The other characters have close to this amount of detail in them, and each has an animated kind of charm about them. Their animations are very cute; some of the characters walk about sideways in a very crablike manner whilst the others have that adorable little fast-moving leg thing going. They don’t appear to be stilted or blocky and complement the characters looks rather nicely. The characters and scenery interact seamlessly and they create a visual package that is friendly to watch and not at all dull. Top-notch graphics.

SOUND
Dropping a little in quality from the previous sections but still not faring too badly is the sound. Background music changes from level to level, and only a few of the tunes included are likely to cause cringing. They’re a jolly collection of songs; mostly upbeat but not so perky that you can’t stand how cute they are. The variety isn’t too bad, with the more daunting and trickier levels having melodies that are more somber but by no means less appealing. There could be less repetition, but they’re certainly not likely to prompt quick turning downs of the volume.

There’s a good amount of sound effects, but unfortunately quite a few of them are irritating. The game has its fair share of nice sounds, but the more average ones easily counterbalance them. You’ll fear dying just for the sound effect that accompanies your failure. These sound effects tend to stand out from the music too much and annoy us with their presence, so the whole audio package goes down somewhere around the average mark.

LIFESPAN
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a pretty good stayer. If you can get to grips with the fundamentals of the game and become a janken champion then you’ll stick with the game. The easy deaths and poor fighting can turn away many, but sticking with the game can be rewarding in the long run. As games can end quickly you’ll find yourself turning to this cartridge as a nice little time-waster. It has enough staying power to outlast a lot of the competition, but many months down the track (after the rewarding period) you might just not want anything to do with this game ever again.

FUN FACTOR
Not too much and not too little, there is enough fun here to satisfy most people. Flying around in the mini-helicopter and bouncing around on the pogo-stick you can win is fun enough, but in the later levels this enjoyment can quickly turn to frustration as you see your paltry amount of lives rapidly obliterated by one measly rock. The earlier levels are joyful, so if you just play really badly and never make it past stage 4 you’ll be on cloud nine.

CHALLENGE
Probably a little bit too hard for most peoples liking, Alex Kidd provides the best challenge for those that know their way around the world of the Enchanted Castle and can play a bit. If you’re not willing to put in some good hours with the game you’ll never get anywhere, but it really is worth it if you don’t want to be run over by that very first red car every single game. The challenge could have been evened out with some actual hit points, but as it stands you’re going to have a torrid time before finishing the game.

THE FINAL PARAGRAPH
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is best described as a long-term investment. It’s hard to extract any short-term gratification from it. All your spoils are going to come weeks and months down the track. If you can put up with some rocky beginnings then you’ll have a glorious relationship coming up, but many people lack this kind of tenacity. By all means try the game if you can find it, Alex and his little games of janken are quite a fine novelty (you can just have repeated games of it in practice mode if you want) and going further there is some fine platforming gameplay. It’s essentially a good game, and these problems shouldn’t stop you Genesis fans out there giving it a shot. Well above average.
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GOOD POINTS
- The janken aspect is a very interesting one
- Some great level designs, especially when played in tandem with the gizmos
- The graphics are good too

NOT SO GOOD POINTS
- Some aspects of the audio irritate
- Rather too easy to die, physical attacks are very much useless
- Not enough lives by far
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GRAPHICS – 9/10
SOUND – 6/10
GAMEPLAY – 8/10
LIFESPAN – 7/10
FUN FACTOR – 7/10
CHALLENGE – 6/10
OVERALL – 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/03/01, Updated 10/03/01


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