Alex Kidd: High-Tech World (Sega Master System) review
"Alex’s friend approaches him with an invitation to go to a new arcade. The prospect becomes more and more dubious as the fool friend not only informs us that he doesn’t know where the arcade is, but that the map he had of its location has been torn into eight pieces, all of which are lost in Alex’s castle (he’s a prince, you know). “High Tech World” is ostensibly the name Sega has given to the far off arcade, and so the game doesn’t actually occur in a world of robots and other futuristic coolness. So yes, the title is quite misleading. But don’t fret about that; there are far worse things to worry about as the game progresses. "
Hey! These Sega games are great!
What did poor Alex do to deserve this kind of treatment? It’s bad enough his ears liken him to an ape. But for programmers to take Sega’s hero and mascot, the adventurer supreme from Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and handle him so irreverently… it’s just not right. While in Miracle World, he established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the cutesy platform game world, exercising not only his deft platformer skills through leaping and punching, but also his Janken (or Paper-Rock-Scissors) techniques in a fairly long, clearly challenging contest for the ages.
Our big-eared boy enjoyed a heartwarming, if overly simple second outing as he sought out the Lost Stars; a short step down, but a step down nonetheless. And now this. Sega was all over the place with their flagship franchise. After this third game, this abomination, they went on to release an inane BMX Trial game featuring Master Kidd, before redeeming themselves by cleverly injecting a dose of Alex into another of their signature worlds, the world of Shinobi, only to ruin things again on the Genesis, with a foray into The Enchanted Castle. Rather than treat the series with the respect that Nintendo gives their Super Mario Brothers, in retrospect it seems as if Sega used Alex Kidd’s world as a testing ground for random ideas, perhaps suggested half-jokingly by the developers’ kids.
In any case, the worst adventure begins here. Alex’s friend approaches him with an invitation to go to a new arcade. The prospect becomes more and more dubious as the fool friend not only informs us that he doesn’t know where the arcade is, but that the map he had of its location has been torn into eight pieces, all of which are lost in Alex’s castle (he’s a prince, you know). “High Tech World” is ostensibly the name Sega has given to the far off arcade, and so the game doesn’t actually occur in a world of robots and other futuristic coolness. So yes, the title is quite misleading. But don’t fret about that; there are far worse things to worry about as the game progresses.
The castle represents an attempt to infuse RPGish elements into the quest, to start things off; a game within a game, so to speak. Finding the eight map fragments entails some really ridiculous actions on Alex’s part. Puzzles include entering an empty room over a dozen times to somehow lure the occupants out of hiding, as well as guessing the first names of girl servants by collecting clues on pinned up papers. But how does Alex not know their names? You mean to say that the snobby little bastard can’t tell just six of his helpers apart?
Ah, but how clever is this game? As you venture from room to room (they all look the same: horrible) looking for clues, you’ll find papers posted up: “Kate is the fattest. Cindy is the third from the left.” And so on. No, I only wish I was kidding. Silly tests such as this (there's a general knowledge one as well), along with base graphics and cutesy midi tones give us the idea that High Tech World is geared toward younger kids.
But kids will not play this, not even if it was their only game. While the castle puzzles are usually simple, a few of them are obscure enough to gain accolades from the Simon’s Quest school of dilemma design. After the castle is a forest, and after the forest is a village. In the village, there is a puzzle that requires you to complete a single task 100 times before the necessary item is gained. Not only is this unbelievably ridiculous from a puzzle standpoint, it’s extremely tedious to actually execute! (And how's this for a conundrum: you earn gold coins in the first forest, to use to purchase items in the village, that are ultimately useless! I then concluded that I'd need the coins to play the games in High Tech World, but that wasn't the case. Why amass the riches at all then? That might be the strangest puzzle of all.)
Really though, that’s not what will deflate the younger ones’ spirits like a stapled stomach. The puzzles will start the bleeding, but it’s the platformer parts that widen the wound to where it cannot be staunched. Entering the aforementioned forest will earn you a password, and a continue point, thankfully. You will return to this continue point countless times upon being thrashed by crummy-looking enemies. It’s a short trip through the forest to reach the village, but it will probably take you even longer than it took to amass the eight map pieces! It’s a grueling test of timing as you fight shuriken tossing blue ninjas, bomb hurling red ninjas, the water around tiny platforms, and the horribly slippery controls that threaten to dump you into that same water, time and time again.
An autopsy of this dead-on-arrival mess is as follows: It’s just way too easy to lose in this game. Talk to Alex’s parents in the castle one too many times? Game Over. Let’s see, you’ve collected all eight parts of the torn map and are descending a hitherto unexplored ladder that mysteriously turns into a broken staircase? Game Over. Getting flustered by those ninjas while you cross the river and they toss three stars at once, forcing you into the drink? Game Over. After the village, enter another forest with more ninjas, demon raccoons and annoying snakes… all it will take is one hit. You know the rest.
This is fun?
No, it’s not. It did occur to me that the game is very short. A silly castle sequence, a short forest stretch, a inane village experience, and finally another forest bit and it’s all over. A sad, bitterly funny scene featuring Alex playing an arcade game, saying ''Hey! These Sega games are great!'' concludes the misery almost mockingly. Sega only manages to make High Tech World seem long enough to publish as a legitimate 8-bit adventure by virtue of all the dying and ensuing repetition that the poor design necessitates. While the horrid platformer parts can’t be helped, you could consult a FAQ to ease through the puzzle parts, making the whole thing a tiny bit less painful. You could do that. Or you could just not bother at all.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 12, 2004)
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