Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King Review

By Sam Quirke,
Finishing off the Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King achievements list should feel like a proud moment for anyone who, as an eight year old, struggled to see past either games' opening levels. But convenient, highly welcome accessibilty options have de-fanged the experience, allowing players of all generations to fumble their way to the finish. Unfortunately these new options, along with some fairly lacklustre packaging, leave the original games exposed. They're colourful distractions, filled with beautiful animation but replacing any gameplay satisfaction with a kitchen-sink approach to difficulty to keep kids playing longer — a difficulty that we can now circumvent.

Aladdin Lion King Xbox One review

If you were close to these games as a kids, prepare to have your heart-strings tugged almost immediately; the games are presented in pristine and unchanged condition, meaning that those familar, chirpy, low-fidelity versions of some of the greatest tunes in Disney feature animation history still resonate. So too do the games' animation quality. One of the few notable additional features in this bundle is the inclusion of a couple of featurettes — Aladdin's is far a more recent catch up with the development team, while The Lion King's documentary is a hideous reminder of Saved By The Bell era fashion choices. In both cases though, players can get an insight into how Disney animators attempted to replicate the same animation style from the movies directly into the games — and it still shows today. Sure, it's blurry and ultimately limited by the capability of the original machines, but a lot of talent and processing power has gone into making sure the characters move how players would expect, having watched the movie and demanded the game version for Christmas. If you are in the mindset of someone able to appreciate artistic merits on old technology — and surely any purchaser of this bundle would be — there's a lot to love in the colour palettes and the animation attention to detail.

Unfortunately that can't make up for the glaring gameplay faults, even compared to contemporary releases. Before these games came to market players had already been spoiled with well-constructed side-scrolling platformers, sacrificing some visual complexity for solid interactivity with platforms and with enemies. In attempting to recreate painterly Disney backdrops, the developers failed to make well-defined platform edges and appropriate hit-boxes — something that in-house studios at Nintendo and Sega tended to focus on. In these games enemies can be seemingly metres apart from the player character and still land a blow, while some platforms seem to just meld into the backdrop just when the player needs to land.

Aladdin Lion King Xbox One review

It's a pretty damning example of how difficulty was sometimes managed in games of the early 90s. Aladdin suffers less, but The Lion King is seemingly stuffed with horribly unfair ways to kill Simba, where a couple of light touches between pixels can carve a huge chunk of health off, if not kill the king-in-waiting outright. The dreaded hyena is just copy-pasted multiple times into areas far too small for the player to manage, leading to some Capra Demon levels of endless raging restarts. It's a game that doesn't know how to space itself correctly to keep the experience enjoyable, even while still being challenging. Aladdin doesn't get off completely unscathed either — while its difficulty spikes are less persistent, the Rug Ride through the lava is just preposterously difficult, speeding up past the point of sanity. If it wasn't for the ability to save and rewind in this edition I very likely wouldn't have finished it, and broken a controller to boot.

Like repackaged Sega games in the last few years, the modern nods to accessibility are the Disney Classic Games collection's saving grace. Rewind could be better advertised as an option, but it's welcome to quickly fix a sloppy jump or to edge back, frame by frame, until the hyena stops dropping directly onto your head. Speaking personally, the ability to save at any time was far more critical — though multiple save slots really should have been added so that players can explore whether they're going to actually make it through the level without risking an overwrite. The play-through option just feels a little strange — fast-forwarding through the action until you find a point where you want to jump in yourself is a long-winded way around for chapter selection. As a viewing experience, it doesn't really add much to watch an anonymous stranger play through the game on a recorded video — not these days anyway, when you have streaming platforms available.

Aladdin Lion King Xbox One review

Those movies will probably have a lavish assortment of special features on their Blu-Rays, but the same can't be said for the extras on these games, which feel as lacklustre as an early 00s family movie DVD. Apart from the aforementioned documentaries, which will only appeal to true nerds such as this reviewer, the only other special features are some static images of animator style guides and a music list — perfectly fine, but there's already a sound test music list in the games themselves. The bundle is admittedly packed with a near-exhaustive catalogue of game versions, from the colorized hand-held editions to a pre-release demo version of Aladdin. None of those will heal the wounds of those missing the Nintendo version of Aladdin, missing from this collection and leaving Nintendo nostalgists with the significantly different Genesis edition. It's also questionable how many people will truly have the patience to explore these games multiple times in various colour palettes — they're just not entertaining enough to justify the effort.

Achievement hunters will have to play them a few times though, because the three difficulty achievements per game do not stack. That's right, if you complete the game on the hardest difficulty, you won't automatically get the achievement for completing each game on two lower difficulties, meaning three playthroughs of each game at minimum. Here's a stroke of luck, though — Aladdin's original Genesis level-skip cheats still work, meaning that you can — if you wish — breeze through the harder difficulties rather than punishing yourself. This doesn't apply for the Demo version or for completing the bonus levels, and The Lion King to my knowledge has no such cheat codes. In these cases, liberal use of saving will still make light work of the situation.

Check out our Best Xbox One Platformer Games Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

Nostalgia can only take you so far. This repackaging of two classic 90s Disney tie-ins should feel wonderful, but thanks to lacklustre additional features and frankly, some rose-tinted memories, Aladdin and Lion King both come off as shallower, meaner than their original players may remember. There's still some things to love — the colours are vibrant as ever, the animations still feel much more dextrous than the games' contemporaries and some accessibility options can help players skip a few particular design headaches. Nevertheless, it's hard to recommend. Die-hard fans of early 90s platforms have been finding their own ways to play these games for decades, and without a substantial display of additional features, it's hard to point to many reasons to purchase – except if you want a relatively easy achievement completion.
2.5 / 5
Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King
Ethics
The reviewer spent 10 hours fighting and losing against several metres of thin air between Simba and his hyena opponents, eventually earning all achievements. An Xbox One digital code was provided for the review. Played on a standard Xbox One.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.