When it comes to mascots, Alex Kidd may not be the most memorable. This anthropomorphic monkey-man was SEGA’s frontrunning character before Sonic the Hedgehog was a thing. He was in direct competition with Nintendo’s Mario, and it is quite evident why SEGA ended up dropping him after his SEGA Genesis debut. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle is a real stinker.
The game follows the adventures of Alex Kidd, the son of an absent king. When he is tipped off that his father is still alive somewhere on the planet Paperock, Alex sets out to find him and bring him home. In order to do so, he must best the planet’s inhabitants at the game of rock, paper, scissors. There is no further explanation as to why this luck-based game is so important and how any of this makes sense. The story is laughable and holds no real significance to the gameplay, other than explaining why the protagonist engages in dull games of chance throughout each level. Acknowledging that the game is very old, I can look past how awful it all is, but then I remember the imaginative plot to Super Mario Bros (for its time) and I find Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle has no excuse to be as terrible as it is.
Alex Kidd claims to be a 2D platformer, but there is a clear deviation from what is to be expected in the genre. Most platformers involve jumping from one platform to another while avoiding enemies and obstacles. In that respect, this game is nothing like the games it competes with. Sure, there are enemies you must jump over, punch, or kick out of the way, but these are not central elements of the game. Instead, gameplay revolves around a series of rock, paper, scissors matches where Alex competes for a special item that will aid him in his adventure. The items you receive for winning seem to break the game and do not make things any more fun. After winning a motorcycle, you can choose to continue through the level normally, or you can activate it and fly through the whole stage with not much thought or skill. And skill does not seem to be a requirement here at all. Not only does it not take skill to zoom through the level with a game-breaking item, but the rock, paper, scissors matches themselves are games of chance. The game seemingly allows you to skip these matches and carry on in the level using the abilities you were given at the onset. That is, until you get to the first boss which is nothing more than a match of rock, paper, scissors. The “boss fights”, if you can call them that, raise the stakes of these games of chance by forcing the player to forfeit a life should you fail. It all culminates in a miserable experience that left me regretting having played it to begin with.
The game controls atrociously as well. It seems that Alex is constantly running on a sheet of ice, sliding any which way with every sharp turn on the directional pad. The whole feel of the game is just off, and it pulled me out of the experience. Alex floats through the air with every jump, creating some very frustrating mishaps when attacking enemies. This is a huge problem since the player is only afforded one hit and then it’s back to the beginning of the level or last checkpoint. With the consequences of getting hit so high, it is imperative that controls are tight and responsive. That is simply not the case with Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle. This game operates under a two-button system that typically works for games like this. For some reason it just does not work here unfortunately. The jump button doubles as an attack as soon as the button is released, which I find only works under perfect conditions. The punch button is just as infuriating. Alex needs to be at the perfect distance to reach the enemy. When timed poorly, it means certain death. The game relies heavily on repeat attempts to get to the end while struggling with the controls.
Ultimately, this game isn’t very good at all. The whole time I was playing it I was longing to be in control of a speedy, little blue hedgehog. It is apparent why this mascot died with the Genesis. On the bright side, in Alex Kidd’s death, Sonic was born. This game just sucks in comparison.
Replay Value: 1/5
Total: 7/25, or 28/100