Friday 20 August 2021

Alex Kidd: High Tech World (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1989

Alex Kidd: High Tech World is an action-adventure title and the fourth game in the franchise on the Sega Master System.

Your mission is to collect eight map pieces and make your way to the new arcade before it closes at 5pm. Initially, you're tasked with scouring the Castle and trying to solve puzzles to find said pieces. Despite the differences in gameplay from previous Alex Kidd titles, the slower and more methodical approach could have worked here if it wasn't for one fatal flaw... the inclusion of cheap deaths that result in an instant game over. Sure, there are obvious traps that try to goad you into turning on an electrically dangerous computer, but when your adventure ends by walking down a staircase as it suddenly breaks (with no warning that this may happen) it leaves a very sour taste in your mouth. In terms of the objectives to find the map pieces, some can be located by simply scavenging the environment. However, a handful are either overly cryptic or designed to deceive, such as having to talk to someone three times before they give you the real answer; there's no fun in either learning or performing this and it's puzzling why the developers couldn't think of more imaginative, yet entertaining ways of hiding them. Once you do complete the map the gameplay switches to an action-platformer as you battle ninjas and various other enemies while throwing stars. It's slightly more compelling than the first half of the game and it's somewhat reminiscent of the excellent Alex Kidd in Shinobi World (1990, Sega Master System). The challenge is sky-high though due to the one-hit deaths, annoying platform placement and abundance of enemies, and sometimes your button presses are ignored at the worst moment.

Alex Kidd: High Tech World is a missed opportunity in the series, as it has some good ideas and variance in its gameplay styles, but it fails to execute anything to a satisfactory degree. The ambiguous and underhand Castle parts are irritating enough, but the latter half ups the challenge ten-fold resulting in too much trial-and-error. 

Random trivia: The game is a localisation of a Japanese-only title called Anmitsu Hime (1987, Sega Master System).

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