If there's one thing Disney Interactive did well in the '90s, it was their educational titles. Reading Quest with Aladdin, released in 1998, the same year as the similarly titled Maths Quest with Aladdin, continues in that same vein, complete with a catchy name! Considering the dearth of information about both titles, I don't know which one came first. What I do know is that despite some repeated assets, Reading Quest is certainly the inferior game of the two.
For starters, word games are simply not as interesting to me as equations and logical reasoning. Most of the puzzles are simply a matter of filling in the letters to spell a word and as such are incredibly easy and banal for anyone older the target age group of 6-9. In fact, I suspect many kids on the higher end of that age group might feel the same in many cases, even on the hardest difficulty.
You'll get a piece of the inscription when you complete each puzzle (left)
although older players may want to play on the hardest difficulty (right)
Take the first puzzle for example. Letters have been taken away from a word and you have to click on the correct letter that's moving around the screen thanks to Iago, Abu and Carpet. On the easiest difficulty, only the first letter of a three letter word is removed and Jasmine will read out the correct name. The hardest difficulty goes no higher than four-letter words (and not the good ones either), and you're left to your own devices to fill it out. The thing is, it's rare that one of the options won't make a word so you'll have more trouble failing the task than succeeding.
In fact, none of the puzzles interested me in the least, except for the very last one which deals with reading comprehension to set up a trap for Jafar (which was still entertaining despite its incredible ease). More than the gameplay, what does interest me in Disney's educational titles is Disney Interactive's impeccable dedication to visuals and presentation.
Chase down nouns on the rooftops (left) or complete words to form a bridge (right)
Too few games require any type of skill or forethought.
The pre-rendered 3D environments are very nice to look at, even if some of them appear to be recycled from Maths Quest (or is that the other way round?). The areas are again traversed in much the same style as a first-person adventure. The 2D animation is as good as you can get for 1998 and most of the original voice cast return with the disappointing (yet understandable) exception of Robin Williams.
Ironically, I always thought Dan Castellaneta was an adequate replacement for the irreplaceable Robin Williams. He captures the ADHD insanity of the Genie, even if his schtick is far less spontaneous. Beyond this larger-than-life character, the other stars are left playing the straight men. Scott Weinger and Linda Larkin as Aladdin and Jasmine respectively are left with the majority of exposition and explanation. Without the playful buffoonery that define characters like the Genie or Iago, they appear bored and lifeless compared to the passion they brought to the movies and TV show. The fact that most of their lines are the banal puzzle texts and words repeated again and again doesn't help either.
You can access the Magical Book at any time, which not only acts as your main menu,
but also as a means to replay certain puzzles if you've played them in game.
As far as the story is concerned, it's more standard fare, simplified to fit the theme of reading comprehension. Aladdin and three dim-witted men known as the Babylon Brothers enter the cave of wonders believing that Genie has been trapped there. When they read the scripture to free him, they find that they have been tricked by none other than Jafar. This ruse frees him to not only take over the palace but also the weak minds of the Babylon Brothers. Only the magical inscription found in the magical book given to you from the street vendor at the beginning of the game (which also acts as your main menu) can save the day. The only problem is that the needed page has been torn out, ripped into pieces and scattered around the Agrabah. That sounds like a Quest with a suitable amount of Reading if ever I heard one! It's a functional premise, made better by the winning characters that accompany you throughout the game, even if their personality has been toned down somewhat. That being said, there are some entertaining new characters exclusive to this game that do raise the chuckle quota.
Much like Maths Quest, it is the target audience of children (and Disneyphiles) that will get the most out of the game. The graphics and presentation are endearing, making it a cut above most other edutainment titles in that regard, but it's the puzzles - in both their entertainment and education value - that really let the whole package down. If you want a program to teach your kids reading and comprehension, you'll be better off with any of the Animated Storybooks.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '95. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release the mouse. Tested on Windows 10.
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.
File Size: 576 Mb. Install Size: 976 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Disney's Reading Quest with Aladdin is © Disney Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me