If I remember right, Aladdin was the first Disney movie I saw in theaters. At the time, it was probably my favorite movie. It’s still ranked highly among my favorites, and for good reason. It won several awards and was nominated for a dozen others. It also can’t be understated that Robin Williams as the genie really made the movie as great as it is.
When the games came out, there were several different versions, depending on which system it was released on. Since I’ve never played any of them before, I chose to play the Sega Genesis version. It’s partly because I grew up with the Genesis instead of the SNES, but also because the Genesis version actually had Disney staff members on hand to draw everything, which were then converted to sprites for the game. I just felt the version with actual Disney involvement must be the better version. Let’s see if I was right.
The game starts in the Agrabah Market. Right from the start the graphics are amazing. Aladdin looks like he’s pulled right from the movie. All the animations are just so fluid and very expressive. One curiosity though is that they gave Aladdin a sword. I mean, I guess it makes sense. He needs to defend himself in an action game, but it’s still a bit of an oddity, especially since he also throws apples which do nearly as much damage as the sword.
Exploring Agrabah Market boils down to the basic platformer goal of “make it to the end”. While that’s not particularly innovative, the level design and enemies keep it interesting. There’s a few different guards taken right from the movie, as well as the sword juggling street performer, which I thought was a nice touch.
While the levels are mostly linear, there are a few spots hidden away with extra collectables. As it is, the levels are already overflowing with extra apples to throw, giant gems to buy extra lives and continues, and extra health. But there are still the Abu tokens and genies to look for. The Abu token is rare, only showing up in a few stages, but finding it allows you to play a fun little mini game. You play as Abu with a sword trying to avoid pots falling from the sky
The genies are much more common and straight forward. For every genie you collect, you get one spin of the slot machine between levels. You can win extra apples, gems and even lives from this. Unfortunately, if you land on Jafar, not only do you not win anything that spin, but you lose all your remaining spins. I had the worst of luck with this, usually landing on Jafar on my first or second spin.
Having escaped the palace guards, Aladdin is confronted by an old beggar and tasked with finding the cave of wonders. To do this, he’ll need to recover the two halves of the golden scarab, the first of which is lost somewhere in the desert.
Death Count: 3
The level design for the desert was really interesting, if not a little confusing. A large part of the level actually takes place in what seems to be an ancient ruin rather than just a vast expanse of otherwise empty desert. However, there are a frighteningly high number of large bones lying around. There are also these weird spikes that rise up and down from under the sand. I can honestly say I have no idea what they’re supposed to be.
There are a few fun Disney easter eggs that I noticed scattered around the level. Things like Mickey ears hanging to dry with the rest of the laundry. There’s also Goofy’s face carved into a pillar in the ancient ruins. These are the kind of fun little details you kind of expect Disney animators to sneak in.
While the level design is fun, the actual level objective of finding the scarab falls a bit flat. You’ll encounter it a few times during the level, but it will fly off before you can grab it. Then when you make it to the end of the stage, it’s just kind of waiting there for you. There’s just no sense of accomplishment. There’s no boss guarding it, or any other big monster you would usually expect to be keeping an important item for itself. The level just kind of ends and everyone moves on with their lives.
The second half of the scarab is apparently back in Agrabah, so right back to town we go. It’s not entirely the same as before though. This time around, you’re given the secondary task of finding the flutes scattered around the level. I say secondary, but really finding the flutes enchants the various ropes which will then fly you around to the next areas of the level. It’s an interesting idea, but Aladdin’s auto grab mechanic feels a little temperamental, which ruins some of the fun.
Waiting for you at the end of the level is Gazeem, Jafar’s vertically challenged henchman. He is the games first boss, and you just feel so bad for him. It’s like beating up a kindergartener, a very hairy, angry kindergartener. That’s not just an attack on his height, he is also just so pathetically easy to beat that I hardly want to count him as a boss battle. But he is a boss, and defeating him will earn you the second half of the scarab.
We’re not finished yet however. Immediately following the “Boss battle” with Gazeem, you are taken to ANOTHER boss battle with Razoul, the captain of the palace guards. Apparently Razoul is a bit confused about what game he’s in, because he starts throwing barrels at Aladdin like he’s Donkey Kong. This is another pathetically easy boss battle. Jump over the barrel as he throws them, and throw an apple while still in the air. He’ll go down pretty easily.
Death Count: 6
Even though you beat Razoul, Aladdin is still captured by the palace guards and thrown into the sultan’s dungeon. The dungeon is actually a rather fun level with a lot of pseudo 3d effects. There’s the ball and chains swinging between the foreground and background as well as spikes shooting out of the wall. As annoying as they are, there’s also bricks that slide into and out of the wall to making timed platforms. All of these effects I feel were very well executed.
There are also several more Disney references hidden in the dungeon. For starters, many of the skeletons are wearing Mickey Mouse hats. Also about half way through the level, it appears like Sebastian the crab from the little mermaid series has been captured and is hanging on the wall. One of the more subtle references I noticed is actually for pirates of the Caribbean. Right at the start of the level there is a dog holding a key just out of reach of a prisoner reaching through the bars in reference to a memorable section of the ride where the same thing happens.
Once again, the level ends with Aladdin simply walking away through the exit. Even throughout the level, the actual enemies were a bit scarce, with environmental hazards posing the largest threat. With this being a dungeon that just makes it doubly confusing that there’s no one guarding the exit.
Either way, Aladdin is once again confronted by Jafar disguised as an old beggar man and is guided to the Cave of Wonders to steal the magic lamp. Much like the dungeon, there aren’t a lot of enemies in the Cave of Wonders, focusing again instead on environmental hazards. If you’re not dodging falling rocks, you’re trying to avoid the many sharp stalagmites scattered around the cave.
While in the cave, there are also several monkey statues you’re required to destroy to progress. There’s also a bunch of I believe Shiva statues which are easily the most annoying enemies in the game. When you’re looking at them, they are simply statues, and are immune to all damage. However, if you turn your back on them they’ll start throwing gems at you.
Death Count: 12
Deep in the Cave of Wonders, there is another boss battle, but it’s so insultingly easy. Aladdin has to face off against the golden monkey idol as he teleports between the two platforms. Normally, a teleporting enemy is cause for concern, but here, it just gives you time to set yourself up. There are only two platforms and he always teleports from one to the other. Stand by the platform, attack him when he shows up, move to the other and repeat until he’s dead. So disappointing.
Gotta love Abu the water fountain. he’s doing something funny near the end of most of the levels.
Follow the path after the boss fight, and you’ll soon come across the magic lamp. Grab the lamp and then prepare to run for your life. If you remember from the movie, the Cave of Wonders doesn’t take too kindly to Aladdin trying to steal the lamp, and it will do everything to keep him from getting away with it.
Death Count: 32
The peaceful blues of the previous level have been replaced with a vengeful red as the cave fills with lava. Paired with the now frantic music and Indiana Jones style giant boulders, this level has such an amazing sense of urgency. In reality, you’re actually free to take as much time as you want and really line up your jumps.
Death Count: 48
The lack of a ticking clock is something I wish I took advantage of. I died so many times in this level just from being caught up in the moment and making careless mistakes. I’m pretty sure I died at least once to every obstacle presented. Somehow I managed to make it to the end where Aladdin jumps off a cliff and is saved at the last second by the flying carpet.
We’re not out of the Cave of Wonders just yet. Aladdin still needs to outrun the tidal wave of lava. While flying through the cave, you’ll have to guide Aladdin up and down to avoid hitting rocks. That carpet must be jet powered with how fast it ends up going. Luckily the genie gives you a helping hand with this, literally. Moments before any of the obstacles appear, a genies hand appears showing you which way to go to safety. This combined with the fact that there is no collision detection with the roof or floor makes this area much easier than it should be. You still need to pay attention, and react quickly, but it could have been so much worse.
Aladdin never does make it out of the cave. Instead he becomes trapped inside the genie’s lamp. This level is probably the most fun level of the game, at least from a design perspective. The genie is everywhere in this level, and everything has so much expression. Bouncing on a spring head gives a comical honk, there are balloon faces that make a shocked expression when you grab them, and then most of the platforms are either his ethereal arm or disembodied hands.
Death Count: 60
Unfortunately, many of the things that make the level fun also make it annoying. The genie’s arm for example isn’t a solid platform. It acts very similar to quicksand, letting you slowly slide down into it and eventually straight through it unless you keep jumping. The hands also frequently acted as disappearing platforms whose timing seemed slightly random, which is an annoyance in itself for a disappearing platform.
I wonder if the genie played this game on his genesis…
This level in particular has several annoyances from the general game mechanics themselves. First with the balloons, you can’t tell from the still pictures, but they’re actually steadily moving to the left whereas I’m trying to jump across them to the right. So this section requires fast, very precise jumping. Unfortunately Aladdin’s auto grab mechanic is very demanding, and many times I fell off the balloons when I felt I should have grabbed it. There were also times when the camera simple wasn’t in a good position to see where I was supposed to go next. Late in the level in particular is a jump to a hand which is just off screen without manually manipulating the camera.
Eventually, Aladdin will run into the genies mouth, and the level will end. Aladdin must not taste very good, because the genie decides to help him escape the Cave of Wonders rather than eating him. With the genies help, Aladdin returns to Agrabah and heads straight for The Sultan’s Palace and to Princess Jasmine.
Death Count: 64
As would be expected of the Sultan’s Palace, the place is crawling with guards. Less typical is the mystery pool of water. It’s deep enough for fish to live, but shallow enough for flamingos to stand in. Not just stand in, but support Aladdin’s weight. Yet if Aladdin were to fall into the water, he instantly sinks to the bottom and drowns. Maybe it’s not actually water and is actually some kind of acid. Curious.
Eventually you’ll find Iago in the basement running on… something. Was this in the movie? I don’t remember this part from the movie. Whatever he’s doing, it’s causing electrical discharges and summoning ghosts. I didn’t notice it with the other boss battles, but apparently you can only damage them with one of the two attacks, depending on the particular boss. In this case, Iago is only damaged by the apples, despite the fact that he is clearly within sword swinging distance. This was particularly annoying as my apple supply was low at the time. The game does supply you with apples if you run out. But only AFTER you run out, at which point they magically appear on the opposite side of the room, off camera, in a place that was previously empty.
If I’m to believe the story prompts, at some point while I was throwing apples at Iago and causing his death, he managed to steal the lamp from me and give it to Jafar. With his new found power, Jafar transforms the palace to his liking, which is to say he painted everything red and put some giant gold snakes around. I guess he’s just been mad this whole time because no one would listen to his interior decorating ideas.
Death Count: 70
Everyone was right not to listen to him, this is not very good decorating at all. I don’t know who told him that giant swinging balls on chains over spike pits was in this season, but they lied. He also seems to have liked the Shiva statues from the cave of wonders. Curiously they seem to be made of silver instead of gold like the originals. I guess he used all the gold in the world already on the giant snakes.
Someone has to talk some sense into Jafar, and I guess Aladdin is the man to do it. The fight with Jafar honestly feels like he painted himself into a corner, and is just mad you’re stepping on the new paint. In his human form, Jafar never actually attacks you, he just uses his magic staff to draw you close to him, causing touch damage. Much like the fight with Iago, sword attacks curiously do no damage at all and you’ll have to rely only on your supply of apples. I just don’t get this. the fight with Iago you could argue that while on the wheel he was out of reach of the sword, whether it looked like it or not. But Jafar is just standing there ready to be cut down. It makes no sense.
After enough damage, Jafar will eventually transform into a giant snake. “Giant” being a very relative term in this case. He doesn’t really become much bigger than he already was. This part of the fight was rather difficult simply because of bad mechanics. For starters, he still can only be hurt by apples, which still makes no sense. If I saw a giant snake and I had a sword, and an apple, I’m going to attack it with the sword. Also, you are no longer allowed to stand on the platforms or a pillar of fire will shoot up and hurt you. This forces you to keep some distance at all times since he stays nestled between the two center platforms. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the platforms block the trajectory of the apples, smashing them to pieces long before reaching Jafar. Your timing has to be perfectly and the highest point of the jump for the apples to clear the platforms and actually hit Jafar.
Now bludgeoned to death by a barrage of apples, Jafar has been defeated, the kingdom is saved, and Aladdin wins the heart of the princess. The end. Cut, print, roll the credits, moving on, go home now. Seriously, there’s no wrap up or anything. If anywhere in the game needed a quick story cut scene, this is it. I know from the movie that we saved jasmine, but that’s not really shown in the game. Last time we saw her in the game, she was casually talking to the guards telling them not to arrest Aladdin. It was never shown or even implied that she needed saving. The game just needs SOMETHING to wrap it up better.
Gameplay – 7 / 10
The controls are mostly great, with only the “jump and grab” mechanic being temperamental in my opinion. The level designs and layouts were also mostly good. Nothing particularly innovative, but still very fun to play. Unfortunately, the lack luster boss battles really soured an otherwise great experience.
Graphics – 10 / 10
Having actual Disney animators on hand really made this game shine. Everything was so beautiful and detailed. Then all the Disney easter eggs just made everything that much more fun. Finding the random Mickey Mouse ears, or seeing Sebastian hanging in the dungeon, even a nod to the genesis itself in the genie’s lamp. This attention to detail only helped to improve what was already very impressive graphics and just the type of thing you would expect Disney animators to sneak in.
Audio – 8 / 10
Most of the game’s music is made up of slightly remixed versions of the movie’s already award winning soundtrack. Every song fits so well and really makes you feel like you’re playing the movie.
Story – 5 / 10
While the movie had a great story, the game suffers from a bit of choppiness. It’s understandable why this happened. The game only really shows the action sequences, which means it left out most of the character development and exposition. Without having actually seen the movie, it’d say you’d have a pretty hard time actually following the story as presented in the game.
Total Playtime – 2h 11m
This is a pretty average game length for a platformer. Though I could have probably shaved at least a half hour off if I hadn’t died so many times trying to escape the Cave of Wonders.
Total Deaths – 78 Deaths
Nearly half of my deaths were from trying to escape the Cave of Wonders. I got too caught up in the moment and made stupid mistakes to the extent of running straight into the lava without jumping. The game as a whole however was not too difficult.
Overall Score – 7 / 10
First off, I really liked this game. The graphics were great, the sound was great, even the level design was great. But somehow the game as a whole just felt so average. Honestly, I can only think to blame this on the boss battles. There just isn’t any sense of accomplishment with any of them. Without any exciting boss battles to really get the blood flowing, the rest of the game is just kind of going through the motions. The most exciting part of the game was probably escaping the Cave of Wonders on the flying carpet, and even that held your hand with the genie telling you exactly what to do. It’s still a fun game, it’s just that it leaves you wanting something more.
It’s over, you can rest now Aladdin
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