Alex Kidd: BMX Trial
  • Genre:
    • Racing
  • Platform:
    • Master System
  • Developer:
    • Sega
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • JP 11/15/1987
Score: 55%

This review was published on 09/29/2017.

Alex Kidd: BMX Trial is a video game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Master System, known in Japan as the Sega Mark III. BMX Trial was exclusively released in Japan on November 15, 1987. As its title implies, this game is a spinoff from the Alex Kidd series. Alex Kidd was born in 1986 on the Master System as Sega's answer to Mario, acting as the company's mascot before it created Sonic the Hedgehog in the early 1990s. Out of all the games in the Alex Kidd series, BMX Trial is the only one to remain exclusive to Japan. Even though the first few games in the series were side-scrolling platformers, many of the Alex Kidd games aren't of the platformer genre. That's certainly true of BMX Trial, which is sort of like an overhead racing game involving bikes. You may not like this game if you're an Alex Kidd fan, but cyclists just might. Actually, they probably won't, either.

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In case you don't know him, Alex Kidd is a young boy with big ears and even bigger sideburns. He's the crown prince of the Radaxian kingdom, which is located on the planet Aries. Alex is highly adept at punching things to smithereens, most notably rocks. He won't be doing any punching in this game, though. Alex previously went on an adventure to save his world from evil, but this time, he's decided to take some time off by undertaking a BMX trial. His objective is simple: ride across the various obstacle courses and reach the goal within the time limit. Whether or not he will succeed is entirely dependent on you, for you are the one controlling Alex Kidd. Pedal your way to victory in this speedy BMX challenge starring Sega's long forgotten mascot. It's a race to the finish that will make your heart race.

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Normally, the Master System used controllers similar to the NES pad, but Alex Kidd: BMX Trial requires the use of a special paddle controller. As a result of that, the game originally came packaged with the thing. Not many titles supported this unique controller, but BMX Trial was one of the first ones to do so. Regular Master System controllers had one d-pad and two primary buttons, more or less mimicking the layout of an NES pad. However, the paddle controller replaces the d-pad with a paddle, and it changes the locations of the two buttons so that one is in the middle of the pad and the other is on the top. This is similar to the paddle controller that was available for the Atari 2600 and various other platforms from the early 1980s. Unfortunately, just like Alex Kidd: BMX Trial, the Master System's paddle controller was never released outside of Japan.

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You control Alex from an overhead perspective as he rides his bike across the landscape. The paddle on the controller is used to make him turn left or right, and holding down the main button causes him to move forward. It's just like any other racing game, except you're using a paddle instead of a d-pad. Regardless of where Alex is headed, there will always be obstacles in his path, such as rocks and trees. There are also other bikers, who primarily act as moving obstacles, because you don't actually have to race them. Colliding with certain obstacles will cause Alex to fall off his bike, but he'll get back on again on his own. At the top of the screen is a vitality meter, which goes down whenever Alex collides with an obstacle. If the meter is fully depleted, the game will end; no extra lives or anything. Even for an old 8-bit game, this is pretty punishing.

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Not everything encountered in the environment is harmful. Frequently, there will be ramps that assist Alex in some way if he rides over them. For instance, there are jump ramps that enable him to jump for a short distance. The jump ramps are primarily used to clear large gaps of water, though they're also helpful for clearing obstacles on land. If Alex falls into the water, he'll automatically swim to dry land and begin biking again, but he'll lose some vitality in the process. There are also wheelie ramps, which make Alex pop a wheelie when he rides across them. Wheelies reveal power-ups, like rice balls that replenish Alex's vitality meter, clocks that give him more time, and rockets that let him fly over everything for a brief period of time. Essentially, you'll want to hit as many ramps as possible, because they benefit you more times than not.

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As mentioned earlier, you have a limited amount of time to reach the goal at the end of the game. Along the way, you may or may not encounter around five different stages. These stages consist of a forest, a desert, the town of Radaxian, and two water areas that have Alex ditch his bike in favor of some sort of hovercraft. How many stages you'll actually see all depends on what path you take. Each stage has several exits that lead to other stages, but if you don't go the right way, you'll just end up going in circles. Otherwise, the game can be completed in a few minutes if you take the proper path. Riding around on the bike is almost fun, but the overhead perspective prevents you from seeing what's up ahead. Due to that, you'll basically have to resort to raw memorization to not stumble into every obstacle on the course.

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Let's be honest: there aren't many Alex Kidd fans out there. However, even if you're a diehard Alex Kidd fan, this game doesn't have much to offer you. It's an interesting little experiment, but Alex Kidd: BMX Trial isn't much more than a curiosity. Also, the only way to enjoy this game properly is with the original hardware, making it rather inaccessible for those of us who live in modern times. Even with the right equipment, the game is rather frustrating to play due to the overhead perspective not giving you enough time to react to obstacles.

Word Count: 1,034

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