A touch of genie: Aladdin is one of the most attractive videogames of the year. Rupert Goodwins ducks exploding fruit and camel spit

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The Independent Culture
Sex, violence and black magic: a recipe if ever there was one for a videogame to spark outrage and protest. Yet it's also the recipe for fairy-tales. Disney Studios are the Brothers Grimm for the post-literate generation, and Aladdin is one of their most successful animated fantasies to date - it's got the same three ingredients, but in the acceptable guise of love, action and mystery. The videogame concentrates more on the last two facets, but not at the expense of good taste.

Even the title should put fretting parents at ease; 'Aladdin' in Arabic means nobleness of faith, a far more wholesome moniker than Street Fighter II. There is something of the latter in the game; our hero has to fight off knife-wielding foes by the hundred in flurries of swordplay, but when the baddies disappear in a puff of magic dust (rather than gouts of blood), it's all much more palatable. Close action combat can even be avoided altogether, with Aladdin lobbing apples to first disrobe and then destroy the evil Vizir's ne'er-do-wells.

These explosive fruits are part of an armoury of magic weapons that can be collected and employed in the search for Princess Jasmine and the much nastier Jafar. The Genie plays little part - squeezing Robin Williams into a cartridge is beyond even Disney's repertoire, though the lantern-jawed grin does pop up to award bonuses and give the occasional hint on the way.

Disney's influence is everywhere. Aladdin is a step closer to the marriage of cinema and interactive home entertainment, using animation and animators from the film itself. The results are impressive: characters have character, baggy trousers billow and scimitars swish. The cross-pollination goes deeper than that, with a train of visual gags running through the game - look for the Mickey Mouse hat hanging on a washing-line, or the skeletons which quizzically swap their skulls for cherry bombs before flying femur over sternum. Even the opening scene raises a smile; it's Hollywood from start to the three minute, 160-name credit sequence.

The gameplay is more conventional. At heart, Aladdin is a platform game with puzzles to solve, gizmos to collect and baddies to overcome. Still, the animation is such that even old tricks seem fresh. There are eight scenes to work through, all corresponding more or less to parts of the film, plus a scattering of bonus levels to boost the score. There are even a few intermissions between levels to set the scene and move the plot along; the whole is brisk enough to be involving without any of the longueurs that many games suffer from between set pieces.

The music might have won Oscars but piped through the Sega synthesiser it soon loses its magic. You can turn them off without losing the other effects. These are much more palatable in quantity - you won't hear a finer rendition of a camel spitting this side of Wildlife on One.

A few tricks have been missed. There's no password system or game saving, so when you finally get spiked by a beturbaned guard you'll normally have to start from the beginning again no matter how far you've got.

Aladdin is one of the most visually attractive videogames this year, and one of the more playable. It won't keep you going for a thousand and one nights, but it should dispose of a few days of the Christmas holidays.

(Photograph omitted)

'Aladdin' is available on Sega Megadrive pounds 49.99

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