Before Sonic came along and propelled them into the big time, the world identified a big eared lad by the name of Alex Kidd as Sega’s answer to Mario. Alex Kidd in Miracle World was a worthy alternative to Super Mario Bros in the mid 80s and when bundled with the Sega Master System in Europe it helped shift units like hotcakes. There is no denying that Sega’s big eared protagonist had something special about him.
This game is the second in the series (excluding Japan) and is based on an arcade game which was known for its unrelenting difficulty level. The Master System port is a much more sedate affair however; there is not really any challenge to speak of whatsoever. Unfortunately the innovative multi-scrolling level designs, block smashing and vehicle riding of Miracle World have been lost in favour of standard left-to-right scrolling levels, which don’t feel as interactive anymore.
The goal of the game is to make it to the end of each stage by traversing a hostile terrain and collect a zodiac symbol. Sadly Alex’s famed BIG punch has been lost in this outing; he has no alternative to leap over a series of bizarre foes such as a naked punk rocker that farts skulls out of his bottom and a dog who literally barks BOW-WOW at you. It seems like a backwards step to emasculate Alex Kidd in this way, he should be dishing out the pain, not hopping about like a pansy! You can pick up a power-up so you can shoot at enemies, but the game design is spaced out for you to jump over everything without too much trouble, so why bother?
Unlike the arcade game, Alex no longer has the traditional 3 lives – now you are essentially playing against the timer. A collision with an enemy or falling off the screen will reduce the time, or warp you back a few screens. The result is a game which is insulting easy to complete in a couple of hours with no real effort whatsoever. There are only six levels which loop a second time with a higher difficulty level in order to make twelve levels in total before you get to see the final ending.
The graphics are bright and colourful, but lack the charm of Miracle World’s more detailed sprite work. The backgrounds and enemies are so weird and wonderful that this isn’t really a concern. The music is the usual jolly 3-channel ditty which goes with the territory with Master System games and there is even some rough sounding 80s digitised speech thrown in here for good measure which would have impressed at the time.
Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars was a missed opportunity by Sega to build up the reputation of the Alex Kidd series. It completely dismisses all the elements which made the original so much fun to play and opts for a lazy Wonder Boy style platform jump-a-thon but without any sense of challenge or fun. Things don’t get much better when Alex visits High Tech World in his next Master System outing either. It’s not difficult to see why eventually Sega would look elsewhere for a mascot worthy of representing their brand. Oh Alex, you’ve made a fool of yourself!