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Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Keith Courage In Alpha Zones (TurboGrafx-16) review


"Firstly, the story: we are to help a young Keith defend his world from B.A.D. - Beastly Alien Dudes. Though you are no doubt thinking to yourself how powerful an acronym that is, there are those, such as myself, who find it corny, and indicative of how generic the game itself is despite its best efforts to prove otherwise. "



I really like Keith Courage in Alpha Zones. But only from afar.

You see when I think of the game, I think to myself, ''ah yes, that game was pretty nice.'' But sadly, upon replaying it, I realize that I am only fooling myself.

The game has some sentimental value to me, as I played it in the hospital for the week I was there on one occasion. I monopolized the Turbografx-16 system there, wresting control of the fledgling console from smaller children, and a wonderful relationship was born. Yes. Keith Courage was the only game the hospital’s meager funding would allow for (it was the system's pack-in cart, and a poor choice at that. NEC might have waited for Bonk's Adventure, but no!) - and so I grew to like it, despite its faults.

Firstly, the story: we are to help a young Keith defend his world from B.A.D. - Beastly Alien Dudes. Though you are no doubt thinking to yourself how powerful an acronym that is, there are those, such as myself, who find it corny, and indicative of how generic the game itself is despite its best efforts to prove otherwise.

This is a side-scrolling jump and hack and slash game, like Legendary Axe, for instance. There are seven worlds for you to travel, each featuring two parts: an Overworld, and - say it together now - an Underworld. The former looks like a cutesy game, with its bright colours and music speaking of Bonk and Alex Kidd. Keith has bright red, Rick Hunter hair, and walks in a slippery fashion, wielding an unchanging little blade. There are bizarre cutesy enemies in his path, as might be expected. They don’t offer any resistance to speak of - if Keith collides with them, his heart meter will decrease ever so slightly. Here's a sample: oddly hued moles patrol platforms, and silver and golden cats fall from the sky. A gold feline will yield better coin than the common gray variety, but we all knew that, didn’t we?

The coin collecting shows Keith Courage trying to do some role-playing, but in minimal portions, like Wonder Boy in Monsterland. You can use your easily earned cash to pay for healing (while the nurse may seem attractive, I’m not referring to the kind of healing Marvin crooned about), longer and more powerful swords (not to be used with the nurse), and Bolt Bombs. The Bolt Bombs are mostly useless as auxiliary weapons, despite the clever alliteration. The swords and bombs can only be used in the Underworld. Rather than the sword issue being decided by experience points, the game keeps the stronger blades out of our hands prematurely by making them cost a small fortune. Since you won’t start things off on the Forbes list, it will take the appropriate amount of time to equip yourself with the two-character-long light blade.

Guiding Keith through each of the various cheery levels unfailingly ends at a little temple thingy where he must bid farewell to the cuteness for that area, and is transported to the darkness by a rainbow, magically donning his Nova Suit en route. The suit is pretty cool, and so is entering the Underworld for the first time. Your laser sword will slash away at oddly formed beasts, flashing in the darkness that is such a direct contrast to mascot game-influenced syrup you’ve just left behind.

Unfortunately, it’s really with the Underworld where the games major flaws lie. There is no variety and no real fun to be had down there in the depths. Replacing the platform jumping elements from the Overworld, are tedious, entirely memory-based maze-like caverns that all look alike. The areas are mostly brown and bland, and dangerous one-hit-and-you're-finished-spikes are littered about carelessly. This is very unfortunate, as the back and forth idea is a good one, that was carried out with some amount of style if not substance.

The tedium and sameness factors, when grouped with average graphics and sound (they are only marginally above even 8-bit expectations), and a horribly banal ending sequence, knock this game down from 'very good' status, where it might have stood if only for more variety and polish.

But when I think of Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, I still think happy thoughts that last through the awe-inspiring opening and gradually, inevitably, turn sour with progress.

Rating: 4/10

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (December 04, 2003)

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