Retro Review: Aladdin
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Robin Williams was a genius! There is simply no other way to describe a man of such immense talent. I think it’s only through his tragic untimely death that we fully appreciate what an amazing actor, comedian and performer he truly was. If I’m being honest there are very few celebrity deaths that touch me but when I heard the news of his passing I stopped in my tracks and was completely stunned. Here was a man who had entertained me since I was a child. A man capable of making me laugh uncontrollably, make me cry like a baby, a man who I would have loved to have as a friend or even father figure and now he was gone. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I think you could tell that despite the manic often hilarious ad libbed comedy, there was real pain and sadness behind his eyes. You only have to watch Good Will Hunting to see how he seemed haunted by demons. I believe his amazing performance in that movie is more than just acting.
Williams role as the Genie in the Disney feature Aladdin changed the game in terms of voice acting in animated movies. He raised the bar so much that whenever you think of Aladdin, you instantly think of Robin Williams. From what I understand he read the original script and said to the producers that he could do much better, so he threw the script away and ad-libbed huge portions of the dialogue. Aladdin has become a firm favourite of my daughters and she loves watching it as much as I do. I’d go so far to say that Williams performance is ‘Genie-us’. Sorry, bad joke.
I briefly played Aladdin on the Megadrive shortly after it was released in 1993 and although I was impressed with the graphics, I was probably at an age when cutesy graphics and platforming wasn’t for me. I was more interested in ripping spines and punching peoples heads off in Mortal Kombat.
Aladdin is filled with sumptuously detailed animation. Even by todays standards I was still really impressed with how great the game looked. When you aren’t controlling Aladdin he is looking left and right or juggling an apple. Guards hold their feet and hop across hot coals. Knife swallowers juggle their sharp objects before flinging them at you. Even the way Aladdin slides down a pole after a jump looks superb. It really is a beautiful game and its no surprise to me that animators from Disney worked on this title. The story follows the movie plot very closely with some nice cutscenes moving things along.
The action takes place as a side scrolling platformer. Aladdin can run and jump which is pretty standard. He is also armed with a sword and can throw apples at enemies. The jumping is pretty spot on but it can feel a little slippery at times. There are plenty of apples for you to collect so you can lob them at bad guys.
Aladdin is a very tough game. You are beset by all and sundry, from armed guards to folk throwing endless pots out of windows. Aladdin must have annoyed a lot of people because everyone seems intent on causing him harm.
Luckily there is a handy checkpoint system during levels to ensure you don’t get too frustrated with the inevitable multiple deaths you will sustain. Aladdin can take a number of hits, and his energy bar looks like a magic lamp which adds to the charm. Even the death screen is wonderful with Aladdin being knocked down and a bell ringing, whilst the Genie gives his shoulders a rub and Abu fans him with a magic carpet. Brilliant!
There is also a chance to get extra lives in-between levels where you have to stop the correct icon in the right place. There is even a bonus level where you control Abu who collects gems that fall from the sky whilst avoiding pots.
The music is excellent throughout with a wonderful digitised rendition of A Whole New World and other tunes from the movie. In fact I was humming the main theme all evening after playing. There is some sampled speech with guards goading you whilst they beckon you using their wonderfully animated hand.
Graphics – Some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen on the Megadrive. Beautifully animated and looks like the movie. 10
Sound – Super music which again comes straight from the movie. Great sound effects and speech. 9
Playability – There is a lot of variety in the gameplay with bonus levels breaking up the main game. 9
Re-Playability – Aladdin is a tough game but still a dream to play even by todays standards. 9
Overall – Aladdin is so close to receiving a 10. It is one of the best Megadrive games I have ever played. For me it surpasses other well regarded Megadrive platformers like Castle of Illusion. It’s a beautiful game that any self respecting Megadrive owner should have in their collection. 9
Review by Chris (co-host of 60 Minutes With and ‘The Same Coin’)