Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch,
October 29, 2019
Nowadays, a tie-in game usually alludes to a mediocre experience all round. After years of bad tie-in games based off everything to make its way out of a cinema, it’s hard to imagine that a video game based off a movie could be good. Back in the day though, Disney was pumping out games to tie-in with their most recent motion pictures and for games based off movies they were usually perceived pretty well. Disney’s Aladdin and The Lion King were two of the games that people fond of retro Disney seem to talk about the most, and now that they have been packaged together a re-released on modern consoles, it’s time to give them another go and see how they hold up.
Both games take players through the plots of the movies they are based on. Aladdin has breaks between levels with text summaries of the story so far where The Lion King doesn’t. Though it won’t matter too much as long as you’re familiar with the plot (or the plot of Hamlet I guess), there are also a few cut-scene segments for the major story beats. Both games play exactly how they did originally so If you don’t own copies already this is probably one of the best ways to play them because it means being able to try all editions of the games on one system (sans the Aladdin SNES game). Another important thing to note for folks who don’t already own copies of the original is that the port is cheaper than it would be to buy the carts (even loose ones), and most importantly for anyone who hasn’t played a classic platformer in a long time: it comes with save states.
Overall, Aladdin is a more approachable game than The Lion King is. Aladdin feels clunkier but has better level design, most of the geometry is square or rectangular, making it easier to navigate. Most of the stages in Aladdin also avoid bottomless pits and the like, falling from the top of a stage will rarely result in losing a life, your punishment is only needing to climb back up. Moving in The Lion King on the other hand feels fluid but the awful level design means you never get a chance to enjoy it. From level two onward, the game starts introducing a ridiculous number of insta-kill elements. It becomes a game of trial and error, working out what does and doesn’t kill you right away. Along with this, Simba needs a proper run up to get his full jump and the game is littered with tiny platforms that compromise that.
“Save states make The
Lion King palatable”
This is where those save states are almost necessary. Falling the millionth time into a bottomless pit or being hit out of nowhere by a rolling boulder will eventually lose its novelty. I am not very good at classic platformers and I know this, so I enlisted the help of my partner for parts of the review. He grew up on the Megadrive and watching him have immense trouble playing though The Lion King cemented that it wasn’t just me having a problem. We tried playing it originally, no save states for a while, but it grew sour quick. After getting through a particularly difficult level, my partner, staring stone-faced at the screen said, “Save states make the Lion King palatable” and that really is the best way to put it. Playing through it without them is miserable, playing with them means it isn’t painful, but it still doesn’t bring it back around to being fun.
Along with the save states, both games also come with a ‘watch’ feature. It lets you watch a perfect run of the game, giving players the option to pause and then take over themselves whenever they want. It’s an interesting idea, but I felt like save states mitigated the need for it. The only times we found it was useful was when we needed to figure out what to do next in some of the more obtuse of The Lion King’s puzzles. We never used it in Aladdin at all. The games also have a bizarre Life is Strange rewind feature where you can screw up a jump and then rewind back to before you had done it. Save states were a good addition, but being able to mitigate mistakes on the fly was way too much. Once you realise you can rewind, the only person stopping you is yourself. And I, for one, am not very good at telling myself what to do, because I know I’m weak and I could take myself in a fist fight. So I ended up playing some of the latter levels on the last smidgen of health and just rewinding every time I got hit instead of trying to collect health like you’re supposed to do. I honestly wish I never found the function to begin with.
Presentation wise, both games are stunning. The animations within the games were traced directly over pencil drawn animations by Disney artists and it really shows. The frames where Aladdin climbs ropes and Simba’s basic running animation are both fluid and beautiful. Plus these are just the two I chose to showcase, both games do an amazing job with the limitations of pixel art and cartridge space. All the music is amazing too, beautiful recreations of the soundtracks from both movies that sound spectacular for the original hardware. This brings me to where you get the real bang for your buck by buying this collection: the bonus features. Both games come with concept art, sketches, animations, music and even videos from the original creators themselves explaining the highs and lows they had creating games that felt just like a Disney movie on such small cartridge space. I could spend hours just flipping through the art from these games, it really was a brilliant inclusion.
The collection also comes with a Final Cut version of Aladdin that fixes some bugs and glitches, the main one we noticed was a platform with a finicky collider that was fixed in this version. It also has a faster moving camera which makes the pace of the game feel much better. Along with this version of Aladdin is also a Trade Show Demo, showcasing a bunch of ideas for the game that never made it into the final version. It’s really interesting to play through and see how radically the game has changed from that point in development.
- Stunning animations
- Disney music you know and love
- Tons of bonus content
- Unfair difficulty spikes
- Instant deaths
Overall, I would say that this is a collection for either fans of the originals or folks who have always wanted to play them but never had the opportunity. If you’re not sure that these games will be for you, I would recommend at least waiting for a price drop, because $60 is still quite a bit to spend on ports of games that you might not even find enjoyable. While Aladdin holds up much better than The Lion King, they are both old games and so suffer from a lot of old problems. They aren’t very long, and all the insta-kills in The Lion King are there to pad it out, so with save states and the rewind feature the game is barely an hour long. The bonus content is really where you get your money’s worth with all the art and videos about the making of both games. It gives a really interesting insight into the world of retro game development, that, and the fact that the collection comes with virtually every version of the two games available means that it is at the very least bursting with content.
This is a collection for fans. If you are looking to get your own copies of these games, this might as well be the way you do it.