I’ve come to the grim realisation that I’ve just plain gotten worse at video games as I’ve gotten older. I don’t know if that’s down to my ever advancing age causing my reaction times to slow down significantly, but there are games that I used to complete for fun back in my childhood that I struggle with incessantly these days, and Aladdin is very much one of them.
I completed the Super Nintendo version of Aladdin without too much bother in my youth (one level aside, which we’ll get to later), but returning to it for this week’s article saw the game delivering a severe kick right to my posterior. I barely got past level three before I was ready to walk away in frustration after countless deaths. I got through more continues than Ric Flair got through Bloody Maries in the 80s, most of which were eaten up on the magic carpet stage during level three.
Oh yes, the magic carpet level. Simply put, this is one of the cheapest and most infuriating levels in video gaming history. True to the Disney film of the same name, the stage in question features Aladdin and his monkey pal Abu fleeing from the crumbling Cave of Wonders on a magic carpet whilst trying to avoid rivers of lava and falling rocks. One hit leads to an instant death, and the hit detection is completely unreliable, so you never know exactly how close you are to clipping onto a bit of scenery and meeting your immediate doom.
Even as a kid I used to fear this level, and I would often see a run through attempt ground to a halt in a matter of minutes. I appreciate that Capcom wanted to recreate one of the best scenes of the movie, but to put such a continue-eating level like this so early into the game just makes it feel like an attempt to pad things out through an artificial difficulty spike. What makes it all the more frustrating is that the game uses an unsophisticated password system that always brings you back to the start of a level. This means that after getting a game over on the carpet stage, you have to go all the way back to the first stage of that level, which itself is a frustrating scrolling one, which means you can’t even rush through it.
Carpet stage aside though, Aladdin is not what I would call an overly cheap game. It can be fiddly sometimes as Aladdin himself feels a bit flighty. It’s quite hard to gauge how he will land at times, which makes platforming stages dicey on occasion. Being able to glide whilst deploying a towel does slow down your descent somewhat, which makes it a tad easier to land where you want to. You will spend most of your time swinging over gaps using a mixture of ropes, levers and stalactites, with a fall often leading to death, or at the very least the depletion of your life bar.
Unlike the Mega Drive version of the game, Aladdin does not come armed with a sword and instead defeats enemies by jumping on their heads. I’m not entirely sure why the SNES version doesn’t include a sword as well, but I’m willing to bet that it probably had to do with Nintendo being squeamish about Aladdin swinging a blade around and thus took it off him. Aladdin is able to throw apples at bad guys, however, which will stun the bigger foes, like guards, whilst killing some of the smaller ones, like bats.
The game is as faithful to the source material as it can be whilst also trying to fit interesting platforming levels into the narrative. If you are a big fan of the film, as I was back in the day, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate the effort put into creating a game that not only does the story of the movie justice but also looks as good as a 16-bit version of a Disney picture possibly can. Some of the backgrounds are wonderfully detailed, for instance, with one of the opening stages seeing Aladdin and Abu rushing across the Agrabah rooftops whilst the sultan’s palace looms in the background. The game also has an excellent soundtrack which feels like a cross between the songs found in the movie and something you’d hear in a Zelda game.
Aladdin is one of those games that I played relentlessly as a youth and really enjoyed but one that I was sadly piss poor at once I returned to it for this article. I think if I dedicated even more time to it, I might be able to finally work my way to the end once again, and I may in fact give that a go. The difficulty can be pretty punishing at times and downright cheap on rare occasions, but it is also faithful to the source material, and the general design aesthetic was clearly crafted with a sense of care and respect. If you’re an Aladdin fan and like yourself some uncompromising platform action, then this could very well be worth your time.
Keeping with the Retro theme, Jes has recently taken a look at what he thinks to be the Top Ten games on the SEGA Mega Drive. You can see what he went for by clicking right HERE
If you fancy picking up Aladdin for the Super Nintendo, then you can visit the Amazon page for it right HERE