A very special thanks to Philip Oliver, Andrew Oliver, Bob Schuricht.
Welcome to the Aladdin Deck Enhancer special, in this article I will try to cover as much of the history behind the Deck Enhancer as well as the games that was in the works. The company responsible for bringing the Aladdin Deck Enhancer to the consumers was Canadian based “Camerica”, a company well known to both Canadians and Americans at the time for their struggle with Nintendo regarding the Game Genie, for which they eventually handed over the publishing rights to Galoob. Though Camerica did release a somewhat limited supply of Game Genies in Canada. In 1991 they sold 150.000+ Game Genies in Canada, while Galoob sold well over 1 million in the US in just 3 months.
The Game Genie was invented by Codemasters, a company based in the UK and still active to this day. Well in early 1992 Camerica began spreading the word about a new product to be released, called “The Aladdin” – a revolutionary product which was to be released early 1993 and yet again Codemasters was the brain behind the new Camerica product.
Aladdin was first shown to the public at the Summer CES in 1992 and was at this point called “The Aladdin System” before it eventually became the “Aladdin Deck Enhancer”.
|Camerica, who made the Game Genie, now has a new gizmo in the works which will drive the people at Nintendo crazy (as usual). The gizmo, which you insert into your NES deck, contains various MMC-chips – meaning that the expensive chips no longer have to be included in every cartridge and because of this new invention, cartridge production cost can be reduced quite a bit. What Nintendo’s lawyers have to say about this, we don’t know. I’m sure we’ll soon have more about the Aladdin, which is what Camerica calls their gizmo.|
Translated from Danish to English.
Nintendo Magasinet, Issue #10 1992.
Camerica was a company dealing in consumer electronics, giftware and decorative accessories as well as retail merchandising services. The Aladdin Deck Enhancer was just one of many ideas Camerica had, others included a CD based system which would play NES games off CDs, a Portable NES “clone” of sorts and an adapter to play Gameboy games on a TV using the NES. Camerica was founded around 1986 by Canadian David Harding, five years later the company had sales in the range of $30.000.000 according to a biography of David Harding. At its peak the company had around 200 employees in Canada.
The Aladdins true shine came at the Winter CES of 1992 where Camerica announced that the product would be ready to ship by the end of January of 1993, expecting to hit the store shelves in mid-February. Although Camerica had a close relationship with the Home Shopping Network, where their games would be sold exclusively for 30 days before they would be available at retailers, the Aladdin Deck Enhancer however would be available to retailers at launch.
Camerica had a budget of 3 million dollars to promote the Aladdin, mainly through television and print advertisement. They expected the Aladdin to account for 60% of the companys revenue in 1993, expecting sales of more than 2 million units, exceeding sales of the NES Game Genie. They were even looking into bringing the Aladdin to the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo at this point.
The Aladdin Deck Enhancer is basicly a cartridge split in two where all the generic components in one part and another smaller part, called Aladdin Compact Cartridge, contains only the ROM chip. The small news snippet from Nintendo Magazinet also claims that the Aladdin Deck Enhancer “Master Cart” would contain a lot of MMC and enhancing elements, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth, at least the final product wasn’t such.
|The difference is the ROMs are on little carts that plug into the “Enhancer”. It obviously doesn’t enhance anything… just marketing hype – Kevin Horton (aka. Kevtris)|
What it does contain though is 8K of CHR RAM and a lockout defeating curcuit – just like a regular Camerica/Codemasters NES cartridge. The 64K “memory upgrade” written on the box is no where to be found. But fact is that the Aladdin Deck Enhancer still would reduce cartridge manufacturing cost for Camerica carts a bit.
It seems that the Codemasters layout is pretty similar, if not identical, to Nintendo’s UNROM board used for games such as Asterix, Smurfs, Castlevania, Duck Tales and Mega Man. So a rerelease of Duck Tales on the Aladdin Deck Enhancer could’ve been possible without much work.
Camerica got great response at the Winter CES back in 1993 and and orders for thousands, the actual number is unknown, of units were sent off to Codemasters in the UK who manufactured the Aladdin Deck Enhancer hardware and shipped it to Canada. Orders from retailers were also starting to show and everything seemed to go as planned, but…
|Many deliveries were late and retailers could not count on delivery being on time and they started to cancel orders and then they were stuck with inventory and had to move it the best way they could to recover cash that was already spent. They tried to go public in Canada and their IPO failed and they ran out of cash to support their other business.I was the VP of Sales at Atari when they hired me and they wanted my name and history in their IOP. They had a good idea but could not meet the demand, just like Atari. – Bob Schuricht (VP of Sales and Marketing at Camerica, September 1992 – April 1993)|
Even Toys R’ Us was going to carry the Aladdin Deck Enhancer and Camerica had spent a lot of money securing the deal, but in the end Camerica failed to supply them on time and the deal fell through.
Camerica’s problems meant they were delaying payments to Codemasters and thereby Codemasters subcontractors, meaning staff wasn’t getting paid and games were delayed. Only months after the release of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, Camerica went bankrupt in April of 1993.
What’s funny though is that even though the lifespan of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer was rather short, Codemasters and Camerica still managed to manufacture a release a revision of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, also known as “V2”. The initial version of the Deck Enhancer, revision 1.1, features a switch for NES deck compatibility, while revision 2.2 doesn’t – but most likely uses the same bypass technology Codemasters used in the European releases, known as the “black carts”, using a design much like the Aladdin Deck Enhancer.
While Camerica had plans to bring the Aladdin Deck Enhancer to other territories than the US and Canada, Camerica firmly declined that the device would ever reach European consumers, eventhough it’s compatible with European NES decks.
The Aladdin Deck Enhancer was available at select retailers in February 1993 with a retail price of $39.99, packed with a never before released NES game from Codemasters called “Dizzy the Adventurer”. Additional 6 game carts were also available at launch, though all already released by Camerica, being Micro Machines, Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, Quattro Sports, Quattro Adventure, Linus Spacehead’s Cosmic Crusade and Big Nose Freaks Out, each with a retail price of 19.99.
The back of the box also announced a lot more games “to come”….
Camerica actually announced another 17 releases (25 games) at Winter CES 1993, all to be released during 1993.
Go! Dizzy Go!
CJ’s Elephant Antics
Team Sports Basketball (unreleased)
Big Nose the Caveman
Mig 29 Soviet Fighter
Dreamworld Pogie (unreleased)
Metal Man (unreleased)
Dizzy Pinball (unreleased)
Adventure World Dizzy (unreleased)
5 Pack Sports (unreleased)
5 Pack Dizzy (unreleased)
In 1996 a guy by the name of Mike Etler, running a store in New Jersey called VideoGameConnections, stumbled upon a small quantity of Aladdin Deck Enhancers (V1) and the 6 games available. Mike sold the Aladdin Deck Enhancer bundled with all 6 additional games for US$80. Etler’s supply soon ran out and the Aladdin was no where to be found for a few years.
Fast forward some 10 years, pallets upon pallets began appearing in the US, one ebay seller I spoke with back in 2005 had bought and was selling 8 pallets of Aladdin Deck Enhancers, each pallet contained 90 boxes, each with 6 Aladdin Deck Enhancers. It also seems that not all games were manufactured in the same quantity as this seller mainly had “Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy” games. These Aladdin Deck Enhancers were the revised “V2” though.
From 2005 and some 3 years on, the Aladdin Deck Enhancer “V2” was available on ebay in large quantities pretty much non-stop. Prices were around US$60 for the Deck Enhancer and about US$10 per game cartridge.
I’ll go as far as saying that the “version 1” seems to be very hard to find, compared to “V2”.
If you’d like to know what version of the Deck Enhancer you’re buying it’s actually pretty easy to tell. A small label can be found underneath the barcode on the box of all “Version 2” Aladdin Deck Enhancers, as shown below.
A closer look at the games…
So, let’s take a closer look at the games, maybe especially the unreleased ones, but also if there are any bug fixes in the Aladdin versions that makes them worth picking up…
Dizzy the Adventurer
An Aladdin Deck Enhancer exclusive based on Dizzy – Prince of the Yolkfolk. This one is a true gem, don’t believe those that say otherwise! 🙂
Originally Grand Prix Simulator, according to the Oliver Twins, and supposed to be part of the Quattro Sports cartridge, but Galoob with whom Camerica had made a distribution deal with, wanted the game rebranded to their Micro Machines product. This game is probably one of the best NES racing games ever released. The previous regular cartridge from Camerica’s “Gold Series” refuses to run on a PAL NES, the Aladdin version does however and was edited with a new 1992 coopyright.
David Darling, one of the founders of Codemasters, has a different take on this one though. He said in an interview with “Nintendo Life” that the game converted to Micro Machines was originally called “California Beach Buggies”. The Micro Machines brand was offered to Codemasters during a meeting with Lewis Galoob about the Game Genie, and Galoob thought it would be interesting to have a Micro Machines game, but they never intended to sell any Codemasters games.
Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy
The game was completed in September 1990, just in time for an American christmas release but was delayed until November 1991 due to the Game Genie lawsuit. ‘Game Players’ awarded the it ‘Game of the Year’ in 1991.
The Aladdin release of the game was improved, not only speed wise – the original version is painfully slow. There are also 250 stars to collect as opposed to 100 in the regular cartridge release in Camerica’s “Gold Series”. . As if that wasn’t enough, parts of the map has also been changed.
In the Camerica Dealers Pricelist from Spring 1993 neither this title or the Quattro Adventure is mentioned as available for ordering along with Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy.
I suspect that the two versions are nearly identical. Kevin Gifford of “Tsr’s NES Archive” reported back in the day that “Baseball Pros” on the Quattro Sports Aladdin cart has a weird bug that makes you play ten innings each game no matter what the score is.
Probably identical releases, the Aladdin and Gold Cartridges. As mentioned, the title isn’t even mentioned in the Dealers Pricelist from Spring 1993, so by late 1992 the title had been discontinued. Codemasters released the game in Europe in 1993 and named it Super Adventure Quests on the box.
Linus Spacehead’s Cosmic Crusade
Seems identical to the regular cartridge in Camerica’s “Gold Series”. Codemasters released the game in Europe in 1993 as “Cosmic Spacehead” and this version of the game had a little extra game called “2 Player Pie Slap” and it’s actually quite fun. The working title for the Camerica release was Linus Spacehead’s Crusial Adventure.
Big Nose Freaks Out
No known differences, the regular cartridge was part of Camerica’s “Gold Series”. This was one of the few games not made by Dizzy Enterprises (the Oliver Twins company). Optimus Software was responsible for this one and you may want to look up another article on this very website called “Big Nose the Caveman – Exposed” for more details on the long lost caveman. Oh by the way, the working title, even used in some adverts, was Big Nose and the Witchdoctor. Optimus Software was later sold to Iguana/Acclaim.
Go! Dizzy Go!
Featured on the Quattro Arcade Gold Cartridge but was to be released as a single game for the Aladdin Deck Enhancer. The price would be $17.99, a little less than the usual $19.99 retail price for an Aladdin Compact Cartridge. This game would be one of a few “color coded – easier to play” releases targeted children from 4 to 7. It was planned for a Q2 1993 release but never happened.
Planned for a Q2 1993 release, with a retail price of $19.99. It was released on a regular cartridge in Camerica’s “Silver Series” , but the Aladdin release never happened, though it was featured on the back of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer box.
CJ’s Elephant Antics
Yet another Q2 1993 release off the already existing Quattro Arcade Gold Cart release. CJ was another “color coded – easier to play” releases targeted children from 4 to 7, with a pricetag of $17.99.
Basketball (Team Sports Basketball?)
One of the unreleased games is Team Sports Basketball, featured on the back of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer box and a great looking basketball game that was almost complete. One of the guys responsible for the game was Peter Williamson who had joined Dizzy Enterprises from Codemasters. It was another “color coded – easier to play” releases targeted children from 4 to 7, with a pricetag of $17.99, to be released in Q2 1993.
|Yes, amongst the other Codemasters NES games I was responsible for (Linus, Mig29, parts of Quattro Sports and Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy etc.) I was in charge of Team Sports Challenge (or Quattro Team Sports) as it was probably going to be known. – Peter Williamson|
Quattro Team Sports would contain the following games: American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Ice Hockey.
Yet another title to be released in Q2 1993 for the Aladdin. The game isn’t completely lost as it was released on a regular cartridge in Camerica’s “Silver Series”.
The last of the Aladdin batch planned for Q2 1993. Ultimate Stuntman was released on a regular cartridge in Camerica’s “Gold Series”.
Big Nose the Caveman
One of the early regular cartridges, part of Camerica’s “Gold Series”. This one was the first of the Q3 1993 batch, it was mentioned in the Spring 1993 Dealer Account Pricelist, but never advertised.
Mig 29 Soviet Fighter
Released on a regular cartridge in Camerica’s “Silver Series”, there’s even a couple of box variations to be found. Planned for Q3 1993, mentioned in the Spring 1993 Dealer Account Pricelist, but never advertised.
Advertised as Coming Soon on the back of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer box, though development was halted in August 1992 to focus on Dizzy the Adventurer. It was to be part of the Q3 1993 batch of Aladdin carts. This one has always been THE Aladdin game I wanted to play, but rumors say that the game only ever reached Alpha. Now in June 2011 the game appeared out of no where, well from a binary on a floppy disk, as a download on the website yolkfolk.com and it seemed pretty much complete.
In December 2016 the Oliver Twins announced a Kickstarter campaign for a physical release of the game along with a bugfixed and more polished version of the game, free to play or download at www.dreamworldpogie.com. This very website has also made a Game Spotlight article about DreamWorld Pogie which can be found here. The Kickstarter was a huge success with 601 backers and over 550 cartridge to be produced.
An arcade style game which played much like the game “Thrust”. It reached beta and then got scrapped. Metal Man was going to be part of the Q3 1993 batch of Aladdin releases and was even featured as “Coming Soon” on the back of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer box.
|Metal Man was a left to right scrolling shooter – with a Jet Pack Man – trust to go up. Release to drift down. Waves of enemies swarm from the right, and you shot with a variety of upgrading weapons (like Nemesis or Gradius).I was assigned the Project Manager for a game already in production by Mark Baldock. He was a long standing employee and as such he was given freedom to do his own game. – Philip Oliver|
Another “color coded – easier to play” releases targeted children from 4 to 7, with a pricetag of $17.99, to be released in Q3 1993. The game doesn’t exist and was never worked on.
|Dizzy pinball was probably no more than 5 mins thought on trying to fill up a list of potential games. It was probably going to be Advanced Pinball Simulator converted to NES (Aladdin). – Philip Oliver|
The last “color coded – easier to play” release of 1993, with a pricetag of $17.99, to be released in Q3. The game exists on the Quattro Arcade regular cartridge release.
A project that belonged to Dizzy Enterprises and the Oliver Twins. It was a puzzle game, hence the name, with conveyor belts, trap doors, spring traps, portals, treasures and more.
Development was halted when another project required the attention of Andrew Oliver, and he never resumed work on Puzzled. Pogie was supposedly going to be the star of this game. It was the first of the Q4 1993 batch of Aladdin carts planned to be released.
Adventure World Dizzy (Wonderland Dizzy?)
Probably the biggest myth of them all, Wonderland Dizzy was rumored to exist, but not even the Oliver Twins seemed to remember having made an NES game with this title. I first asked about this title back in 2003/2004’ish but there were no traces of it then, though a development cartridge was supposed to exist. Now forward a decade and the Oliver Twins recovered a map which said Wonderland Dizzy from a collection of old development material at a loft in 2015.
|It was a new adventure but “was inspired by” ideas we’d done on the Atari ST/Amiga. The big thing about it was that a Cheshire Cat kept appearing and disappearing – and gave you clues. etc. Obviously there were lots of other “Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the looking glass” references. – Philip Oliver|
Wonderland Dizzy, a NES’ified version of Magicland Dizzy took from January to April 1993 to make, but by that time Camerica had gone bankrupt and Codemasters weren’t too interested in selling any more NES cartridges themselves, so Wonderland Dizzy never made it. It was supposedly going to have a single cartridge release, but was also to be featured on an Ultimate Dizzy Collection cartridge which would have 5 Dizzy games on one cart.
So the map for the game had been recovered and later in 2015, October, the Oliver Twins announced that Wonderland Dizzy would be available to play or download for free at www.wonderlanddizzy.com. A Kickstarter for a physical release was also made, but it kinda went under the radar and only roughly 100 cartridges were made. This was most likely due to the fact that the cartridge was an addition to a book release and the pledge had to be £100 or more. It was during the research for the book “Let’s Play Dizzy – The Story of the Oliver Twins” that an old floppy disk was discovered, a long lost game had been recovered.
Wonderland Dizzy was part of the Q4 1993 release schedule for the Aladdin Deck Enhancer.
By the way, I have heard a rumor a while back that Wonderland Dizzy actually got manufactured by Codemasters, but ended up in a warehouse somewhere. I’m not sure if it’s actually true as it was a Q4 1993 release and had Codemasters manufactured another batch of cartridges, it would probably be the ones planned for the Q2 release schedule, Go! Dizzy Go!, Bee 52, CJ’s Elephant Antics, Stunt Kids and Untimate Stuntman.
Yet another regular release from Camerica’s “Silver Series” to be released for the Aladdin in Q4 1993.
5 Pack Sports (Team Sports Challenge?)
This might be Team Sports Challenge, not further details are known. Scheduled for release in Q4 1993.
5 Pack Dizzy
Most likely the Ultimate Dizzy Collection 5 in 1 which would contain Wonderland Dizzy, Panic Dizzy, Mystery World Dizzy, Go! Dizzy Go! and Dizzy the Adventurer. Scheduled for release in Q4 1993, priced at just $19.99. An Game Spotlight on Mystery World Dizzy has been made by this very website and can be found here.
So was the Aladdin Deck Enhancer such a bad idea?…
I’ve been hearing a lot of bashing towards the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, how dumb the idea was, that it didn’t enhance anything, the games were already out there. Well I may be the only person who thinks this gimmick is awesome, but I also understand what Camerica/Codemasters were trying to do, cutting costs meant cheaper products – cheaper products could lead to more games sold. Yeah the games were already out there, but the Aladdin was a new product, why not allow new customers to purchase existing games $10 cheaper, mind you the original retail price for a Camerica Gold cartridge was $29.99, Aladdin Compact Cartridges were $19.99, some even $17.99.
There were lots and lots of NES decks still in American homes, not everyone got a Super Nintendo at launch, so had Camerica been able to distribute the Aladdin on time, so retailers wouldn’t loose faith, I’m sure we would have seen a lot more success for the Aladdin Deck Enhancer.
So no, I don’t think the Aladdin was a bad idea at all, it was gimmicky, games were cheap, but Codemasters and Camerica sadly failed to get it into hands of retailers and Aladdin advertisement never happened. … thanks for reading 🙂