Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1993 (UK)
Yet another licensed game, yet another Perry helmed effort. It's action, it's platforming and its scrolling to the side. With that sounding so standard, is this acclaimed MD version of Aladdin all its cracked up to be?
In a word: YES!
Released in 1993 this Sega published, Virgin developed offering was one of the first games I was given on near perma-loan from my uncle when my dad went and bought our 16-Bit home console. What the game did do, was kick-start my personal affinity for Disney games. While those in America were used to their Capcom offerings on Nintendo consoles and fellow Brits were already loving Castle of Illusions, this was my first personally.
I was immediately mesmerised by the gorgeous hand-drawn sprites courtesy of Disney's own animators and the arcade style audio that reinterpreted all the best tuneage from the movie. Being a kid, I loved Disney and Aladdin was huge back then. This game represented the best of both worlds for me back then and yeah, it continues to today. Now, the game was the initial result of an exclusive deal Sega managed to wrangle with Disney to publish licensed games from their motion picture library while also making a deal to bring the actual animation to the small screen in pixel form. Sega of America whacked Virgin in charge and the rest is history...
I wont hold back here, as the game for me is near perfect. I no jokes, buddy. Unlike some of the later efforts like The Lion King, the level of difficulty/learning curve is as fair as a 16-bit platformer should be. It never feels like the game is punishing you and although you're unlikely to 100% it first time round (if you do you're a wizard) it doesn't leave you confused as to what's going on. Controls wise, again, it is just, well...wonderful. Straightforward mapping combining the already fluid and decidedly not floaty controls eases you into the game with correct responsiveness.
The presentation, as you should expect with those involved; is absolutely top-notch. All for separate reasons that come together as one beautiful whole, to which I shall talk about now...
Graphically speaking, Aladdin remains high-up on the list of any 16-bit gem of the time. It has aged beautifully, even if visually surpassed by the likes of Pinocchio later on in the systems lifespan. Much of this is to do with the aforementioned collaboration between Disney-Virgin-Sega. With Disney animators working under the supervision of Virgin and utilising the Digicel technique, the graphics remain bright, sharp and extremely fair representatives of their film counterparts. When you hear folk say it looked and felt like an "actual cartoon", they no tell lies. Its for real. There's some sassy scrolling going on alongside ingenious usage of back/foreground images that make the levels feel genuinely immersive.
It's an action-based platformer, true enough, not a musical rhythm game with elements of action. But it's still story-driven, using plot points taken directly from the film of which it is based and utilising cut scenes to indicate the passing of events between levels. The levels are themselves also essentially lifted from the film, too. Just here, it's all retooled for the purpose of, y'know; a game. Word! And yes, they're all eye-candy and well designed.
As is typical of all true products of Disney, you can find cameos and references scattered throughout the game. Just as you would with a Disney movie. Example? Sebastian from The Little Mermaid and the famous ears of the Mouse appear! It's utterly ace noticing the little touches. It is after all those same touches that just make me love the attention to detail even more. Much like the movie itself, the game features a healthy dose of comedy. Who doesn't love the continue screen with the Magic Carpet cooling off a KO'd Aladdin? I DEFY YOU TO SAY YOU DONT LOVE IT! The Genie is just as awesome here as in the flick, too.
Although you could easily state the sound effects are fairly straightforward and rather standard, they are still all fitting. From the sound of the sword slashing, to the smashing of fallen pots. But the music is where it really does shine. Featuring chiptune arrangements from the films OST, it easily helps the overall encapsulating feel of the title. The moment that Agrabah Market fires up, you instantly know what you're playing - and that you're in for a damn good time. All the credit in the world to Don Griffin's epic talent in breathing blipbloop life into the original score, re-appropriating as nesker for the world of gaming.
You should be able to manage a full playthrough can have you done in 40 or so minutes, depending on your skills. But you'll want to stick around for as long as you can, simply to take in as much of the games atmosphere as possible, from the pure joy it manages to infuse.
There's secrets to be found and copious items to collect. Apples can even double as weapons (leading to a very cool slicing animation if an enemy counters it), then you've got the Genie, Aladdin and Abu heads to collect, heart balloons and gems. There's a possibility of cracking out two bonus levels in the stakes of these collections, too - one is essentially a game of luck working like a fruit machine, the other you get to play as Abu - awesome. You can also barter with the shady merchant at points within levels to get more lives, etc.
It's fair to say that this is a game for many a folk. If you're a fan of David Perry's games like Cool Spot, Earthworm Jim and co - you're likely to love this. It's possibly his best work (outside of Jim, at the least). If you're a fan of the movie and/or Disney, then I'd honestly be shocked if you got nothing out of this title. It has everything a good video game needs and is solid proof that license games need not be bad. From the thrilling carpet ride, to the intense apple throwing final boss battle that leads to true loves kiss (as the credits roll) - what the heck's not to love?
Now, in all honesty, Aladdin is impossible for me to review without some sort of nostalgia vision. Yet, I honestly stand by my thoughts on it being one of the finest action-platformers ever made. It's a fine example of brilliant game design that stands the test of time. Some people swear that the SNES version by Capcom is superior, but not for this guy. For this guy? Sega all the way, baby. It's faster, more intuitive and just works better as a game overall. Sorry, but Genesis does.
The only negative feedback I could possibly leave for this would be the unrealistic expectations that Disney's Aladdin gave me in terms of every Disney game ever made. It's what I compare literally everything to. The point it becomes harsh is when we get to the realms of Fantasia, which is a game that isn't quite the masterpiece its cinematic counterpart is/was. To put it lightly.
But, yeah. Basically, if you don't like Aladdin, you probably don't like the genre. As just like a good genre film, or book; this is a work that excels in every way possible within the known constraints and continues to impress. With all the charm, wit and downright FUN that a video game called Disney's Aladdin should deliver, you'd be foolish to pass judgement other than pure winnitude. That is all.
Just remember ABBA if you ever get stuck. Yurp. Gotta fly...
Verdict:- A decidedly above average licensed game. Yeah, that’s self-referential right there. Like the game! But yes, the game is absolutely fantastic in every conceivable way. Anyone who doesn't honestly agree with it either sucks hard at video games and can't beat it, or are in denial.
This is a Perry title you need in your life. This is a Disney game you need. Plain and simple? This is a game you need in your life. Get it, play it, be happy.
Second Opinion:- Transbot cannot find fault with this review at all.... It is an absolute prime example of a quality looking as well as a superbly playable game and this Type D firing stud prefers it to Earthworm Jim in every possible way.
In the day's of copy and paste this along with several other Disney licensed games bucked the trend and offered something familiar yet different enough to sit alongside all the other games of the genre.
Transbot Scores:- 9 out of 10