A Whole New World: Aladdin (Sega Megadrive)

Aladdin title screen

Prepare for platforming perfection!

It’s no secret that film/game tie-ins can be big business. Sadly, it’s also true that they are often cheap cash-ins that play worse than a 2 legged donkey with a concrete block around its neck.

Aladdin was an exception. Whilst its gameplay is nothing special (essentially a bog standard 90s platform game), 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 complement the look and feel of the film perfectly. The characters look incredible with fluid animation are full of individual character. Leave Aladdin alone for a couple of minutes, for example, and he’ll get bored, and stand there throwing an apple in the air. Stand just out of range of an enemy and he’ll beckon aggressively taunting you to “COME ON!”. Camel’s spit apples if you jump on them (a useful weapon) and you can incapacitate your enemies by making their trousers fall down. Little comical touches like this help Aladdin rise above its generic platform origins.

Spitting camel

Spitting camels make a handy weapon!

Backgrounds, too, look incredible. Colourful and bright they instantly appeal. Colour schemes work well, generally allowing you to see both enemies and platforms clearly. 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. This is my least favourite level in the whole game and one that I am always glad to finish.

Aladdin dungeon level

Watch out for those pesky bats, Al!

Controls have been fine-tuned to within an inch of their lives. Aladdin is incredibly nimble and responsive, making it possible to achieve pixel-perfect leaps from platform to platform (an essential skill on later levels). Perfect positioning can also be useful elsewhere: there’s nothing more satisfying than sitting just out of reach of an enemy and safely picking him off by throwing apples at him.

The gameplay might not be innovative but it is one of the best platform games ever designed. Levels are well structured to reward perseverance and practice: each time you play you get just that little bit further. There’s also a lot of variety amongst the different levels, so that there is an element of variety. 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 well-pitched to create a game that is fun, but a reasonable enough challenge. It’s fairly generous in terms of extra lives and re-start points and enemies always appear in the same place each time you play, so you can learn from your mistakes and plan ahead.

Surprisingly Aladdin has a lot of long-term appeal, even though it’s not that difficult to complete. I’ve beaten it dozens of times now, yet I still keep coming back to it because it’s just so much fun to play.

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. Aladdin comes from that era when developers still focussed on gameplay (rather than simply trying to impress with graphics and sound) and it shows. It oozes quality and is as much fun to play today as it was on its release.

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