Perhaps it's a sign of the times that, just as American football was designed in the 1960s with intervals for commercial breaks to be inserted on the television, film scripts are now being penned with computer game conversions in mind.
Why, after all, would the big Hollywood studios have risked making the same Arnold Schwarzenegger film ten times in a row all through the 1980s - the one where he walks around shooting people for an hour and a half - if it wasn't to facilitate the production of ten identical walking-around-shootin-people games?
Why, halfway through Jurassic Park, did the action suddenly switch from the jungle to the inside of a building, if not to allow Ocean's programmers to join in with the current vogue for Wolfenstein-style 3D shoot-'em-ups? Why were the executives behind Speed prepared to risk everything on a film set entirely on a runaway bus, unless they were perhaps thinking of the driving game which is surely to follow?
And why, do you think, does Aladdin (the film) open with Aladdin (the lovable rogue) jumping from rooftop to rooftop, swinging on flagpoles, sliding down ropes, bouncing on people's heads and collecting apples, while being pursued by dozens of identical-looking men with swords?
It's therefore impossible to blame Virgin for turning Aladdin in a platform game. Especially when they've made such a splendid job of it.
Now, there've already been two Aladdin video games - one released on the SNES at the beginning of this year, and one that came out on the Mega Drive more recently. They're both platform games, they're both beautifully presented, with cartoon-quality animation and nice touches like writing everything in the same typeface as the film's credits, and they both look uncannily similar.
But in terms of gameplay they're very different. Capcom's SNES game, in keeping with Nintendo's since-abandoned-no-violence policy, has you jumping on baddies' heads to 'make them disappear', while Virgin's Mega Drive version gives you a proper sword to hack people up with.
The SNES game was perhaps a little more graphically inventive, with a great bit where you fall down a hole in the floor of a dingy cave and, after a long drop, land on a top of a huge pile of gold; some really good bits with the genie and Abu the monkey in, and lots of graphical interludes to explain the plot.
The Mega Drive one, on the other hand, is more satisfying to play, with its swordfighting action, steadily-increasing difficulty level, temptingly-placed bonuses and lack of a crap flying carpet section. It also takes longer to play through and isn't over-easy-fied by a password facility.
So guess which one Virgin have chosen to base the Amiga version on. Capcom's attractive SNES game? Or Virgin's solidly-playable Mega Drive one?
Run straight at baddies waving
OH YES HE IS
Oh. No. Hang on. It's a bit obvious, isn't it? They've converted their own Mega Drive game. (Otherwise they'd have had to pay loads of money to Capcom, and ended up with an inferior game anyway, which would have been plain silly). And John Twiddy, the programmer, has made an incredibly good jb of it, the results being virtually indistinguishable from the original.
The Mega Drive game was designed by Dave Perry, who did Cool Spot. And there are plenty of similarities between the two games, especially in the design of the levels, which keep twisting back on themselves and placing bonuses in hard-to-reach places.
There's a screen at the beginning with all the power-ups and things on it, with arrows pointing to them saying which one does what. But in gameplay terms, Aladdin is streets ahead of Cool Spot (which I must say I didn't like nearly as much as Stuart Campbell did - he gave it 85% in AP34).
The swordfighting is excellent. If you run straight at baddies waving your sword about, you'll kill them but almost certainly lose some energy. If you edge up to them carefully, though, you can stay just out of range of their swords and ill them safely. You've also got the option of standing just out of range and pelting them with apples, although this isn't so much fun and you'll probably want to save the apples till later on when you have to start hitting things that're out of range of your sword.
And there's much more to it than jumping across platforms and shinning up and down ropes. There are springy flagpoles you can bounce on, magic ropes that carry you upwards, washing lines that you can slide down, and platforms that shoot up on jets of water.
Each level has new tasks for you to complete, like smashing statues to reveal platforms, or collecting flutes to release magic ropes. There are bosses, too, which there weren't in Cool Spot, and they're tough enough to stop you in your tracks without spoiling everything by being too hard. It's varied all the way through, while not deviating too dangerously from the platform-hopping it excels at.
Go 'Ooh! Ow! Ooh!' Just
OH NO HE ISN'T
Graphically, Aladdin's superb - the best I think I've seen on the Amiga. The animation of Aladdin is slick and fluid (he's probably traced directly from Disney's original animation cells or something), and the same goes for all the other characters.
Look out for the camels who spit out apples when you jump on their backs, or the baddies whose trousers fall down to reveal spotty underpants, or the bloke who runs across burning coals going 'Ooh! Ow! Ooh!' just like in the film. It is - yes - just like watching a cartoon.
And it's got the sound effects to match (that baddy really does quite literally go 'Ooh! Ow! Ooh!) along with wonderful renditions of all the songs from the film, right down to a version of A Whole New World at the beginning, which starts off on the piano and then all the singers come I halfway through in what will surely become one of history's Great Gaming Moments.
I really like Aladdin (it even spares you Up-to-jump if you've got a two-button joystick), and it's with some regret that I must mention its one drawback. In fact, I was tempted to keep it quiet in the hope that no-one would notice, but it's actually an obvious one.
As those familiar with the console versions may have suspected, Aladdin is A Bit Easy. Even with no passwords, and with continues that you have to buy from shops as you go, and the option of setting it to Difficult, you'll romp through huge swathes of it on your first go, and gobble up another couple of levels on each subsequent turn, and it won't be until much later, on the fiery escape-from-the-cave level, that the first drops of sweat will begin to collect in your eyebrows.
We must assume that it's been designed for the console market under the all-too-common delusion that, because they're generally younger than us, Mega Drive owners aren't as good at playing games. (In fact, of course gameplaying ability is inversely proportional to age, which is the reason we periodically have to pension off AMIGA POWER team members when they otherwise seem to have years left in them).
Even so, it's a game I'd happily play through a few more times to ferret out all the secret bonusy bits, unlike the SNES version which is very much a watch-the-end-sequence-and-toss-it-aside-affair.
If Disney really did make Aladdin with a game in mind (which, okay, is unlikely, but we love a good conspiracy theory here at AMIGA POWER), Virgin have risen to the challenge admirably.
The game's just as nice to look at as the film, just as laugh-packed, and just as entertaining. Let's hope they cope as well with the rather tougher task of turning The Lion King into something presentable.