Ah yes, it is, I suppose, a sad, but definite truth... licensed video-games are seldom of particularly high quality. We all know it, us gamers(even those of us who perhaps sometimes deceive ourselves into thinking otherwise, in wanting a game of a recent flick, a comic book, etc., and wanting it to be an accomplishment... yours truly admits openly to being guilty as charged of that). No, rather, they tend to be rushed messes which try(ultimately failing, on account of lacking real substance) to win over the player by throwing a bunch of references to what the original is at them, in uneven amounts and without properly developed material. The Disney games aren't all good, either... the one for The Lion King has levels that make somewhat little sense, just to name one. To name another, the quality of Hercules was, overall, just above average. But this one... this one, is a different matter. This is one of both those types, and it actually works, in both respects, and never really lets you down. The plot follows that of the movie, most of the way, adding some to make up for what had to be taken out(not all of the film could be turned into a game, at least of this type), but it all makes sense. And there aren't really any bad parts to the game. I should perhaps point out that this review could reveal details about the animated musical original that may be best experienced by watching that. The music used consists of so-called midi versions of some of the songs of the feature(usually the song used in the scene, since that does, obviously, make the most sense), including One Jump Ahead, and this works quite well. The sound isn't bad, if perhaps somewhat sparse, but I'm not sure more was really missed. The game is a platform action game, and has you running, jumping, crouching, and occasionally, climbing, around as the title character himself, and for fighting purposes, for dispensing some Middle-Eastern punishment upon the enemies, such as those pesky guards(who do seem to be stationed just about everywhere in the kingdom... or is it sultanate? Whatever)... fear not, for he is brandishing a sword with two possible attacks, one stronger than the other, and, for some reason, apples for throwing(in the movie, Al is considerably less decadent, and does not, in fact, waste food). However, not to spoil it, but the magic carpet will also make appearances, as will Abu. The Genie appears in multiple forms throughout, to aid your quest. One thing that helps are the countless great references to the movie, which with no real exceptions are well-integrated and fit in, taking you into the universe and making it interactive, rather than coming off phony and forced. The levels are all based on material in the film, and in addition to the obvious and more or less direct translations, such as the Agrabah Market and the exhilarating Rug Ride, there are such levels as the Desert(where you must seek out the Golden Scarab), Jafar's Quarters(complete with Iago, who appears what I suppose is an inordinate amount of times) and a level inside of the lamp, the latter full to the very brim of Genie and his magic in various forms, as seen in the feature. Level design is nicely done, for the very most part, with backgrounds and details from the film, mixed in with original material that fits in the universe as presented. There are a few boss enemies here and there, and they're varied in how they attack and how you must defeat them. The graphics are great, the animation being done by actual Disney animators, and looking almost entirely like that of the movie, throughout. The color scheme is marvelous, and the visuals quite good. The action and game-play are really good, with you being able to attack from almost any position or situation(climbing a rope, jumping, ducking, etc.), and the levels being fun to explore and run through. There are secrets enough to keep you coming back to the game, and tons of bonuses and stuff to pick up and find. Granted, the game won't take you but a few hours, but given that there is no saving outside of the levels(there are save-points in most levels), you will have to start the entire game over if you lose one too many times, and if or when that happens, you will be grateful that it's no longer than it is(and right after you've beaten it, your fingers will, as well). It doesn't overstay its welcome, either, and it's great fun while it lasts. I can't help but suggest to anyone wanting to play this to watch or re-watch(it is one that makes for going back to) the film in connection with playing. It helps you see just how many things they managed to put into the game, and how expertly lifted from the feature they were. The difficulty settings ensure that most people can play it, regardless of how skilled a player you are, and that it can still provide a challenge for the veterans. The levels get increasingly more difficult to complete, and you get less help and have a harder time finding the helpful items, and enough of them, the further you get. There is no real AI to speak of, but the enemies and environments do pose genuine threats to the survival of the popular Arabic thief, and the probability of him being successful in saving the Princess, defeating the Grand Vizier Jafar, and thwarting his evil scheme. The adventure is definitely a thrilling, satisfying and entertaining one. The game is perhaps dated now, but it was magnificent when it came out, and it still holds up well, and surpasses ones released later. If you like the feature, Disney, platform games, one, several or all of the aforementioned, you may very well enjoy this fine piece of work. I recommend this to anyone who fits that. 8/10
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