(Note: this is the Megadrive version of the game, but Dooyoo always files MD games under Amiga games. Odd, but true.)
Back in the 1990s, game/film tie-ins were big business. With rare exceptions, they were also usually cheap cash-ins that had very little in common with the film on which they were based and played worse than a 2 legged donkey with a concrete block around its neck.
Aladdin was an exception, showing what film licences could be if a bit of thought was put into them. It's true that in terms of basic gameplay, it's nothing special; essentially a bog standard 90s platform game set that uses locations from the film as a backdrop to the various levels. However, is not an issue because every other element of the game is so perfectly implemented that the lack of innovation is soon forgotten.
For a start, the game looks superb. The gorgeous cartoon-quality graphics make you feel like you are actually playing in the cartoon-film. The characters look incredible with fluid animation as they move across screen and plenty of character shown through some nice little touches. For example, leave Aladdin alone for a couple of minutes and he'll get bored, take an apple out of his pocket and start throwing and catching it. Stand just out of range of an enemy and he'll beckon aggressively to you, swiping his sword in your direction and shouting "COME ON!" to try and goad you into making a silly move. It's little touches like this that give the game real character and help it rise above its generic platform game origins.
Backgrounds, too, look incredible; superbly detailed with great use made of colour to really the capture the look and style of the animated movie on which it is based. They are colourful and bright and will instantly appeal to kids, yet the incredible attention to detail will also prove attractive for adults. For the most part, colour schemes work very well, allowing you to see both enemies and platforms clearly so there are few frustrations there. The only real exception is in the dungeon level, where the dark interior of the prison walls can make some things (particularly the small bats) difficult to spot. As a result, this is my least favourite level in the whole game and the only one that I am always glad to finish.
If Aladdin looks good, it sounds good too. Each level features a jolly tune that plays throughout. The first level tune in particular, really captures the spirit of the film by using a jolly arrangement of one of its songs. Other tunes have been specially created for the game but fit perfectly. On every single level, every single time you play you'll find yourself humming or whistling along to the game. This is how you use music in a game!
Sound effects are fairly standard platform game stuff, but work very well and the limited use of speech is also very effective. As already noted, enemies shout "Come On!" to try and goad you into attacking them, whilst Aladdin shouts out an excited "Yeah!" or "Wow!" when he picks up something like an extra life.
Controls also work very well. Aladdin comes from before the days when you needed 37 fingers and a manual 14 inches thick just to get through Level 1 and the simplicity of the controls works in the game's favour, allowing you to concentrate on having fun and getting through the levels, rather than having to remember which control you need to press next.
Outside of the standard movement controls, there are just three things about Aladdin you need to remember: one button makes you jump, one throws an apple and one swings your sword. You instantly pick up those controls on level one and you don't need to learn any new skills as you progress through the game.
Moreover, controls have been fine-tuned to within an inch of their lives. Aladdin himself is incredibly nimble and responsive, making it possible to achieve pixel-perfect leaps from platform to platform (an essential skill on later levels). Similarly, there's nothing more satisfying than sitting just out of reach of an enemy who swipes his sword ineffectually at you whilst you pick him off with one of your apple bombs.
The gameplay within Aladdin is perfectly balanced. It might not offer new but it is possibly the single greatest implementation of the platform game ever. Levels are superbly designed so that each time you play you get just that little bit further before you run out of lives. The smattering of extra lives that can be picked up (or won for every 100 apples you gain) means that you should have a fair stock of levels for when you reach the harder later levels (and you will need them). There's also a lot of variety amongst the different levels, so that whilst each one is essentially a platform-based affair, they feel quite different. Some levels, for example, require you to gradually work your way up the screen; others are a left-to-right affair.
The difficulty level is pitched so well that it is a fun (if not taxing) challenge for experienced gamers, but easy enough so that kids can enjoy playing the favourite animated film. Aladdin was fairly generous in terms the location and frequency of re-start points so that when you die, you don't have to repeat large areas of the game that you have already done. For the most part, enemies don't respawn once you've killed them and they are in the same place each time you play, so you can soon learn where they are and use that knowledge to plan ahead.
It's true the game suffers slightly from those unfair elements that used to plague 90s games: platforms which crumble from under you with no warning and send you crumbling to your death, for example. However, the game doesn't really too much on these unfair tactics and the rest of the game is so good that you could forgive the odd slip-up.
Surprisingly Aladdin has a lot of long-term appeal. It's actually pretty easy to complete and most experienced gamers will have worked their way through it in no time at all, and even average players will not be far behind them. Unlike most modern games, there's no high scores to beat or hidden achievements to uncover so once you've beaten it, you seen everything it has to offer. Yet, it's such fun to play that I keep coming back to it again and again. I've beaten it dozens of times now and could probably almost do it with my eyes closed so it doesn't exactly hold a great challenge. However, since Aladdin perfectly captures the whole point of computer games (sheer, unadulterated fun), that's irrelevant.
One mild criticism (and this is true of many 90s console games) is that there is no Save option. You have to complete the whole thing in the one sitting, because as soon as you switch your console off, your progress is lost and the next time you play you start again from Level 1.
Aladdin might not be the most innovative game in the world, but it is the perfect example of the platform game. Everything about it - the graphics, the sound, the controls and the gameplay - are so just so spot on that it is a dream to play. This is how you should treat game/film licences. Aladdin might be 20 years old now, but it doesn't look it. There are few games from the 90s which I still play on a regular basis. Aladdin is very definitely one of them.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012