When I was a kid, we didn’t own a lot of video games.
We had a Nintendo and a Super Nintendo, but we only had several games for each. Owning a game meant commitment. You had to plunk down a lot of money to buy the cartridges, so you had to know that you wanted to play it a lot.
And so we rented games. A lot. Blockbuster was king, and a trip with my siblings to the video rental giant always meant a lot of fun, as well as a lot of squabbling over what game we wanted to spend our collective hard-earned money on (we mowed the lawn for cash).
(I’ll never forget the time my brothers tried to rent a sports game, but they accidentally gave us the fantasy-themed “Magic Sword.” They weren’t happy. I was in heaven.)
We once rented the game “Aladdin,” a relatively simple platformer based on the Disney cartoon.
I loved it.
My older siblings were much better at playing games than me (possibly a natural talent, but more likely that they were older and had developed better hand-eye coordination), so my experience playing most video games was usually playing the first couple of levels until I ran out of lives and then playing those levels over again. Later, I’d watch the entire game unfold as my sister and brothers ran through the entire game.
But with “Aladdin,” I could actually do it. Y’know, play the game. And well.
“Aladdin” more or less follows the storyline of the film. Escape the guards in Agrabah. Find the scarab. Survive the Cave of Wonders. Ride the magic carpet. And finally, defeat the villainous Jafar, who turns into a giant snake.
As a kid, I never finished “Super Mario Bros.” or “Metroid” or “Donkey Kong Country” on my own. “Aladdin” might have been the first game I ever beat by myself.
The game isn’t spectacular — it has relatively simple mechanics: jump on platforms, swing a sword and fling apples to beat each level — but because I loved the film and actually defeated Jafar, it holds a special place in my heart.
It’s also why I was excited when “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” (another Disney cartoon adaptation) were released together as “Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King.”
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The new release combines various releases of the game (the Sega Genesis and SNES versions were slightly different, for example) and also provides a few new modes. In one, you can watch the computer play through the game and jump in whenever you feel like playing. (It’s kind of like watching your older brothers play and being handed the controller every so often.) You can also rewind any portion of the game, which is especially helpful when you come across a platform you just can’t seem to reach. (You will use this feature. This is an old-school game, so it’s not exactly easy.)
There’s also some behind-the-scenes videos detailing how “Aladdin” was made.
My enjoyment of the game was also fueled by the fact that my two kids are recently obsessed with “Aladdin.”
Disney’s new “Aladdin” film (starring Will Smith, Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott) is a recent favorite in our house. Though my sons, Sam and Elliott, had seen the 1992 cartoon before and enjoyed it, they have seriously connected with the live-action update.
Sam, 5, has also started to pick up his dad’s interest in video games.
When I announced that I had a review copy of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” he freaked out.
We sat down together to play last week.
Sam’s experience with the game has so far been like mine with my older siblings. He’s not yet very skilled with playing games. He can slowly navigate some “Mario” levels and “Pac-Man.” With “Aladdin,” he could get through a portion of the first level, but he pretty quickly got taken by Agrabah guards and various desert traps.
So he handed me the controller and sidled up to me to watch me play the game, offering encouragement and high-fives whenever I defeated a level. Meanwhile, Elliott sat in awe. After a while, the 3-year-old grabbed a second (unplugged) controller and began to “play” alongside us.
The “watch the game” mode is perfect for them. Sam can let the game play through portions he can’t defeat himself, but he can also jump in any time he wants to play.
Obviously, the subject matter is another big connection. Recent releases of new film versions of both “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” mean my boys have been bombarded with images of both films, so they were way excited for these games.
It’s been fun, and I’m excited to play more.