Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (SEGA Genesis Classics) Review

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.

Sound: 2/5

Gameplay: 1/5

Story: 1/5

Graphics: 2/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 7/25, or 28/100

Miles and Kilo Review

Nothing is stronger than the bond of a boy and his dog. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly what I did when I picked up Miles & Kilo. An 8-bit 2D platformer featuring a boy and an adorable puppy, what’s not to love? I had so much fun with every well-timed jump, slide, and thrown fruit during my time with this game. Miles and Kilo prove that this genre is far from dead.

Miles & Kilo follows the story of a young man and a lovable dog as they become stranded on a mysterious archipelago. Due to the nefarious meddling of a ghastly specter, Miles’ plane crashes and a group of misfit monsters steal the parts to keep the duo landlocked. The protagonists are forced to give chase to these monsters so they can rebuild their plane and escape the dreaded island. With a plot that is easy to follow and a few quick-witted jokes, Miles & Kilo makes for an enjoyable experience that is fun for any age. It appeals to older gamers who like to reminisce about platformers of the late 80’s and 90’s, and younger gamers who will fall in love with the protagonists and fast paced action that is on display here.

The gameplay is a throwback to a simpler time. There are two buttons, jump and action. Jumping can be done at a variety of heights depending on how long the button is held for and is the key to getting through some of the trickier platforming sequences. The action button does anything from sliding under blocks, to throwing fruit or somersaulting into enemies. Although the control scheme is simple, mastering these techniques is essential for the later levels and can prove to be difficult. The protagonists will travel across beaches, over mountains, and even through a volcano, jumping on enemies and landing just right onto certain platforms.

There are a variety of enemies as every bird, frog, and spider on this island is after you. There are enough enemies to keep the game fresh throughout the entirety of the playthrough. The game strikes a great balance between levels chalked full of obstacles while not being too long or overcrowded. The levels are all about 30 seconds long and can be completed in a constant forward motion. Be warned though, there are no checkpoints, so if you die, you’re back to square one at the beginning of each level. I personally did not miss a checkpoint system, and with the levels being so brief, I think the game benefits from their exclusion. You are forced to memorize how to navigate the world and learn from your mistakes. While this does not exempt you from frustration, there is a great sense of relief when you finally complete a section you have been stuck on for a long time. It is that relief that makes each minute of this 2-hour long adventure worth it.

The music and graphics are what is expected from a late 80’s inspired platformer. The game features 8-bit sprites that look surprisingly good from afar. It is hard to objectively critique these aesthetic choices in 2019, because graphically this game can’t hold a candle to contemporary releases, but the developers were never aiming to compete in that respect, and that’s okay. Instead, this game has a very retro look and feel that plays at the nostalgic heart strings of any 80’s or 90’s kid. Even the music is reminiscent of old 8-bit adventures. While no melody is particularly memorable, they do evoke deeply buried memories of the somewhat catchy, somewhat annoying video game tunes of old. From both visual and audio standpoints, Miles & Kilo accomplishes what it sets out to do by throwing the gamer back in time. Why do I get the sudden urge to blow in a cartridge and hang video game cover art pin-ups along my bedroom walls?

Miles & Kilo, while only filling a couple of hours, has a shocking amount of replay value. There is a feature that ramps up the difficulty by constantly motioning the player forward which is perfect to enable on a second run. In addition to this, there are ranks dished out at the end of every level, encouraging gamers to go back and perfect the run. These perfectionist motivators are never over-imposing, and the consistent replays are actually a blast to engage in. Upon completion of the game for the first time, a time-attack mode is unlocked, exploring further ways to engage gamers to put in some overtime hours.

Ultimately, what this game boils down to is a lof of fun in an old-school package. I highly recommend it for every fan of 2D platformers or any gamer reminiscent of an age gone by. With a cute protagonist like Kilo, your local SPCA is praying you adopt this one, if for nothing else than to give this game a good home.

Sound: 3/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 3/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100

Monster Hunter: World Review

I never knew that a repetitive game could also have a ton of depth. It almost seems contradictory that so many layers can coexist with what would otherwise be mundane. Yet Monster Hunter: World strikes a balance between meaningful gameplay and looping advancement that never feels boring. There is no wonder that many gamers hold this game in high regard, it is simply a masterpiece.

I have invested over 120 hours into this game and have still only scratched the surface. MHW follows the story of a hunter accompanied by a cat and handler, as they track down the most powerful of monsters to gain intel on how and why they behave the way they do. The main quest line will take about 70 hours to complete if you do not get distracted by the plethora of side quests and captivating gameplay that ultimately makes you want to grind out the same monsters/locations until everything has been perfected. The most notable monsters are the Elder Dragons, the reason why the fifth fleet is even in the New World at all. The Research Commission orders your fleet (the fifth) to follow an Elder Dragon across the ocean in a ritual that happens about every decade or so, called the Elder Crossing. You are tasked with finding out why this phenomenon occurs and to better understand the monsters that inhabit the New World. You do this by tracking and slaying, or capturing a variety of creatures, big and small. The story plays out nicely, but almost seems like an afterthought as it takes a back seat to the enchanting gameplay.

There’s something so fundamentally fun about wielding weapons bigger than one can imaginably carry and slaying monsters that make those weapons look like butter knives. There’s immediate satisfaction with every broken part, mount, or trap targeted at a larger-than-life Kaiju. It all boils down to a pleasurable and addictive experience that literally has no end. It is not unheard of for some gamers to put over 1000 hours into this game, and that is because of the core gameplay mechanics. The game relies on a loop that has the player dropping into a world, hunting a creature to carve parts, returning to the forge to create weapons and armor from those parts, and rinsing and repeating. With every monster you slay you come one step closer to that elusive gear that can help you slay a different, more powerful monster. It all culminates in an unforgettable joy and satisfaction that I have never experienced in a game before. Grinding with immediate, noticeable rewards is almost unheard of in the video game industry. It just works so well and is one reason I can make the bold statement that MHW is perhaps my favorite game of all time. That’s right Ms. Pac Man, sit down.

When I say this game has depth, I’m really talking about the player statistics, skills, weapon classes, and weapon and armor variety. There seems to be no end to the variables that go into the strength of your character. Leveling is not as simple as most RPGs where you are given a level that determines your stats. Instead, all your strengths and weaknesses come from the equipment you choose to carry, making skill variety much more robust. You can adjust your skillset and statistics to combat specific monsters or fight at a disadvantage in the coolest armor like a fashionista. The choice is yours. And choice is what this game amounts to. You choose the quests among an extensive list of quest-types: assigned, optional, investigations, events, and SOS flares. There is a great deal of possibilities in this game, and it is up to the gamer to realize his path. You can choose to play solo, with up to 3 other friends, or with up to 3 other strangers; but this game is best experienced with friends. The one downfall to this feature is that you can only join friends’ quests that you have already watched the cutscene for, and only if your friend has also viewed the cinematic, resulting in a system where players must join quests in progress. This is but a minor gripe I experienced with the game, and for the most part is easily looked past. And what you look at past this is ravishing.

This game is a diamond among coals from a visual standpoint. Monsters and ecosystems are lively, almost looking better than real life. My jaw dropped when I first visited the Ancient Forest, and it stayed there as I unlocked more and more ecosystems to explore. The attention to detail is what truly enriches the experience. Every jagged cut in a coral wall, waterfall in a shallow river, and moss-covered tree have some of the most detailed surfaces I’ve seen from contemporary games. The monsters themselves look vividly real with each rigid, rough dip in their skin, cracking away as they are pummeled into oblivion. The one downfall I notice in graphics is how poorly weapons and armor interact with each other, with swords protruding through capes and fur. This is rather disappointing but is only seen in contrast to the beauty of the rest of the game. Truly, it is nitpicking at its finest.

The music includes some epic, awe-inspiring rhythms that fit perfectly with the heated monster battles you are sure to have. Opposing these beats are lighter, more campy tunes that reflect light-hearted tasks such as the chef preparing an unruly amount of food for you before a hunt. These songs are never misplaced, and the soundtrack has a nice balance of serious songs and playful songs alike. The battle music serves to pump you up during a fight, while the campy tunes allow you to relax and decompress when those fights are over.

This game had me consistently coming back for more, and much can be said about the addictive quality of it all. In terms of replay value, I don’t see why anyone would want to restart the story, as the further you are in the game the more depth there is. Again, the story seems to be put on the backburner and there is not enough incentive to trudge through it again. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, because the game is limitless, with enough content to sustain any gamer for over 100 hours. While it does not cater to people that want to repeat the story, I was hard pressed to find boredom with the one save file I did make. It is for this reason I will score that aspect of the game relatively high. Not because there’s value in replaying it, but because there’s a ton of value in continuing to play it.

Ultimately, Monster Hunter: World does a lot right, and should Capcom release another in the future, I will be very much inclined to throw my money at it. As hard as I try to remain critical of this game, I had so much fun with it that I’m finding it difficult to highlight its downfalls. This game is for anyone that likes never-ending RPGs with a lot of depth and not much explanation. MHW forces you to figure things out on your own, and that is brilliant; there is no hand holding. If you haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for?

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 4/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 4/5

Total: 23/25, or 92/100

RiME Review

What I would give to lay on the beach and listen to the sound of the crashing waves. In RiME you find yourself doing just that as you wake up on an unknown island. While the protagonist’s situation appears to be that of a shipwreck, the experience of playing this game is more akin to a vacation. It is a breath of fresh air amidst hordes of triple A titles with very little depth and symbolism. RiME is both deep and symbolic.

Although the island is inhabited by wildlife and curious architecture that makes me wonder how it all came to be, the sense of being alone and cut off from the outside world in this beautiful landscape really resonates with me. For the most part, you are in solitude, only briefly interrupted by a fox that guides the way and a mysterious silhouette garbed in red. And this game is shrouded in mystery. Progressing in the game reveals little tidbits of a scattered story, the meaning of which only becomes apparent in the final moments. The end evokes so much emotion and a well-deserved catharsis as I became invested in the story over the course of 6 hours. While trying not to spoil anything, even if you find yourself confused by the cut-scenes, stick with it because when everything finally becomes clear, the experience is a powerful one.

RiME is touted as an open world, third person puzzle game, however it is far from meeting the criteria of open world. In fact, it is quite linear with no real incentive to stray from the path that advances the story. There are a few collectibles to hunt for, but I never felt the urge to go out and find them. It didn’t bring much replay value to the table as once I wrapped my head around the overarching story, I was satisfied with leaving it at that. Sure, the game is artfully beautiful, and the environments come to life with the colorful, cell-shaded graphics comparable to the Windwaker, but the worlds are unfortunately very much empty with nothing to truly take in. Devoid of any real life, the lands featured in the game are, on the surface expansive, while deep down being hollow.

The audio in this game is even more stunning than the graphics, which says a lot. Orchestral melodies and musical scores all serve to evoke an emotional reaction. There is not one tune that is misplaced or unwelcome. The music intensifies as something is solved or there’s further development in the story. “Powerful” is the best word I can use to describe it. There is no other way it can be explained without having experienced it first-hand and I implore you to give this game a shot if for nothing else than the sound.

It seems the developers may have taken on a headache inducing project. What brought me out of the experience most was the constant drops in frame rates, which was most obvious in the first world you explore. Perhaps it is worse here, or I just got used to the plummeting FPS, but either way it was very distracting, and a shame because the way the game performs doesn’t do the gameplay and story justice.

The first hour of the game can be enough to put anybody off. It’s slow and there’s no real investment at that time, but if you manage to plow through the mundane puzzles featured in the beginning, the novelty of everything that comes after is sure to be captivating. The developer’s use of shadows and object displacement leads to very satisfying puzzle solving. The game is very easy on the other hand. I may have been stumped a couple times, but in my experience, figuring things out only takes a couple minutes for the more difficult puzzles. There are some climbing mechanics used here as well, reminiscent of games developed by Team Ico, which I am sure is where RiME draws most of its inspiration from. The climbing sequences are fun, but never take much thought in completing, as the path is almost always clear.

The controls predominantly work well. It is only in these climbing mechanics that the controls become a nightmare. Which way should I direct the stick when transitioning from one side of a block to another? I would constantly try everything to direct the protagonist toward where I had to go, only to find that I moved back in the direction I came from. It is the controls that make climbing a little annoying at times. As you progress further into the late stages of the game, climbing becomes more and more prevalent, leading to frustration with a game that is for the most part enjoyable.

I am hesitant to proclaim a video game to be art, however if there is any title worthy of that name it is RiME. It’s a game you really need to play through in its entirety to appreciate. While no game is without flaws, RiME’s shortcomings are easily looked past. I highly recommend this game.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 19/25, or 76/100

Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review

Fast approaching footsteps are the sounds of death. Never have I had so much anxiety while playing a video game. REmake 2 is everything I have ever wanted from a Resident Evil game and it does so much right in terms of survival horror. Indeed, Capcom seems to have left the blockbuster action out of their newer RE releases, favoring pure horror as the series originally intended. They do it so brilliantly as well, leaving me to wonder why they abandoned this formula since the release of Resident Evil 4. However, it is very apparent that the developers are trying to appeal to both old and new fans alike, resulting in somewhat of an identity crisis.

There are two characters to choose from at the onset. Leon, the male protagonist is a rookie cop heading to Raccoon City after not hearing from the RPD in a while. Claire, the female protagonist is a college student travelling to Raccoon City to find her brother, Chris Redfield, from the first Resident Evil game. After meeting at a gas station where Leon saves Claire from the undead, the two are surrounded by zombies and they narrowly escape into the city together. They are eventually separated from each other and agree to meet at the police station that they assume to be safe. When they get there, they enter the survival horror as they realize there is no safe haven in this city.

Both Claire and Leon’s stories play out similarly, with minor differences in supporting characters. There are four variations of the story between first and second runs of the game. 1st run Claire and 1st run Leon have identical puzzles to solve, and minor changes in explorable locations and characters, which didn’t motivate me to play both. Once the story is completed initially with either Leon or Claire, a 2nd run variation of the story opens for the opposite character, changing the starting location and items. Even here there is no drastic distinctions in puzzles, with minor tweaks here and there. Again, there was no incentive for me to replay the game with the opposite character.

What I had imagined the second run to be was a story that intertwined with the first run, so I was sorely disappointed when I found out there is very little impact the first run has on the second. I was forced to face the same bosses, I had to put out the burning helicopter, and I needed to replace the gears in the clocktower… again. There was so much potential for unique and intertwining storylines that wasn’t met, and it felt almost lazily put together. The interaction between Claire and Leon left me wanting for more as well. There are only a couple of occasions the two protagonists meet, and the meetings never hold much significance.

The difficulty of the game should be addressed. On standard difficulty the game is seemingly well balanced, although most zombies are bullet sponges, leaving zombie deaths to be a result of some obscure RNG. Even if you land every shot in the head it takes a while for an enemy to stay down. And that is just the basic zombies. All other virus mutations take an unruly amount of ammo to defeat, making avoidance the best course of action.

Increased enemy health does not make a game more difficult, it just makes it more annoying. Stealth has become a factor as well, featuring some enemies that use more than just sight to triangulate your position. At times this makes trekking through some hallways unbearably slow as you tip toe to avoid making excessive noise. There is also a new level of difficulty that comes with the Tyrant being able to follow your movement throughout the entire police station, only losing you when you dash into a safe room. This slows progression a little while you wait for the Tyrant to leave the area so you can get to where you need to be.

These are all valid criticisms of the game, however there is a lot of good to be said about REmake 2. As Capcom has done in earlier installments, the puzzle solving is entertaining while not being overly difficult, empowering the player with a sense of progression after each solution. Add the footsteps of an approaching Tyrant and you have the feeling of urgency to your problem solving. And herein lies the true beauty of this remake. A creepy museum-turned-police station leads to a very spooky atmosphere, comparable to being trapped in the Spencer Mansion in RE1.

If you prefer horror games to give you power over your enemies, this is not the game for you. For the most part you’re alone in a giant building teeming with zombies. Being severely outnumbered and lacking the resources to kill everything in sight makes this game feel like you are struggling to survive. An unkillable enemy that follows the sounds of your footsteps serves to compound the horror in this game. There were moments when I first encountered the Tyrant that I had to stop playing because the anxiety accompanying the monster’s approach was too much for me to handle. Even after beating the game once, the anxiety was still present during my second playthrough which I didn’t think possible for someone who has overcome the challenge already. After a while though, when the stress subsides, the Tyrant becomes more of an annoyance than anything. Experience is what separates the cowering gamer from the action hero.

Gamers who are not seasoned in OTS shooters may find this game to be too difficult, even on standard. The gunplay largely relies on skill, but fear not, for there is an assisted mode that will help you aim and recover health automatically. Should this be too easy for veterans of Resident Evil games and third person shooters, a hardcore mode exists that greatly increases damage taken while also reintroducing a finite amount of ink ribbons required to save your progress. There is a little something for everyone in this horrifying experience.

The visuals in REmake 2 are absolutely stunning and are worth a mention. The realistic facial expressions, blood filled hallways and detailed background objects do not leave me wanting. This game is beautiful. Shadows cast by objects and people in different angles of light add an eerie sense of realism. The flashlight that you are graced with reacts perfectly to different situations. The light shimmers and reflects off water in hallways, adding to the realism. Everything about the lighting and graphics immersed me in the experience. Campy dialogue that has become standard in the series has been replaced by a more serious tone. While both Leon and Claire work their way to becoming “masters of unlocking” as they open one door after another in the station, there are no Barry Burtonisms in this game. The dialogue serves a more mature audience. The game is littered with profanity, which may put some people off; however, I found where Capcom has taken the characters is a step in the right direction. I imagine how I would react in this survival situation and I conclude that the profanity and blasphemy serve to add realism to the game. However, this game will not win favors with people who have “virgin ears” and may acutally take them out of the experience, so be warned.

All in all, Resident Evil 2 (2019) was a load of fun and is worth a try for any fan of the series or survival horror in general. I may even be so bold to say it is my favorite RE entry to date.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 2/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 1/5

Total: 18/25, or 72/100

XGR Launches Now

Thanks for joining me! This is THE place to read video game reviews. Tired of the big business 1% game reviewers being out of touch with what makes a game great, or not so great? This blog is geared toward giving extensive video game reviews so you can form an opinion of your own, while not revealing any spoilers. I will strive to post each week, but I cannot guarantee a steady schedule as my life does tend to get busy. I will post as often as I can!