Reviewed: September 8, 2010
Released: September 2, 2010
App Store Price: $4.99
Are you ready to take a magic carpet ride? Lamp of Aladdin is one of the most visually breathtaking and professionally developed games I have played on my iPad since it launched. From the storybook cutscenes to the enchanting music to the gorgeous game graphics, I was totally blown away by this new puzzle game from Chillingo, but sadly, my sense of wonder and enchantment quickly turned to boredom, aggravation, and even a feeling of being a bit mislead on what I was supposed to be playing.|
Billed as a mix of Hidden Object and Match-3 puzzles the scales are unequally tipped toward the more mundane gem matching we have seen and played in so many games before. There are 14 levels in the Lamp of Aladdin that alternate between the fabulous and totally creative Hidden Object puzzles before dumping you into a maze of colored gem stones. Sadly, these mazes are comprised of multiple stages, often up to 8-12 puzzles before you can move on, and always ending with a Timed Bonus Puzzle that you must complete before the timer turns red if you want that coveted Crystal Leaderboard Trophy. Essentially, you get seven fantastic stages that are horribly interrupted with about 70 stages of match-3.
The hidden object stuff is pure genius with multiple themed pickups like coins or jewels or seashells scattered about the area. Then you have puzzle pieces that are broken into parts and scattered about the scenery. Collect the pieces to complete the object then use that object to interact with the scenery to reveal more objects. Like I said Ė genius, and I could play 70 of these levels all day long.
But then you have the match-3 stuff. Iím not against these games. Iíve certainly spent a few dozen hours with others, but in this game it is all about moving Aladdin through a maze that must be revealed by matching gems. Along the way you might need to collect pieces to complete a tool like a water jug or a machete or a parrot or sea turtle or even a flying carpet to get to the next part of the level. Itís actually quite inventive and fun at first but about halfway through the game the stages double in number and increase in size and it all just gets very tedious. I was literally forcing myself to complete this game on the final stages. Itís just very imbalanced.
I didnít find any real problems with Lamp of Aladdin, although there were some annoyances. If you quit the game after doing a hidden object level you will have to do it all over again when you reload unless you at least start the next match-3 puzzle. My other annoyance was the overly abundant cascade effect in the match-3. I would eliminate a few gems and start a chain reaction that would go on for what seemed like a minute or more. Itís really hard to plan your next move when the whole pattern of gems is shifting. The game also seemed to suck the life right out of my battery, more so than any other game or app I use.
Lamp of Aladdin looks great and sounds even better with plenty of authentic music that is soothing and never gets repetitive Ė sadly, the same canít be said for the collapsing gem sound effects. The storybook sequences are fully voiced and the genie and Aladdin will make random comments during the game. You can even view the story from its own menu. There are all sorts of nice subtle visual details in the backgrounds for the match-3 puzzle boards and some great animation. The seven hidden object pages are pure works of art, and the pieces are increasingly more difficult to find in the later levels. Thankfully there is a hint system to help if you get stuck, and even the genie will toss out a bomb if you get stuck in the maze for too long.
Iím rather surprised at how this game (and the review) turned out. About halfway through I was ready to give Lamp of Aladdin a very high score, but after spending more time on the last two maze levels than the rest of the game combined, there is just something very wrong with the game design and balance. If you love match-3 in all its colorful and tedious glory then jump on inÖthe water is fineÖand deep. But I instantly fell in love with the hidden object parts and found those puzzles to be too few and with too much ďworkĒ to get to the next.