Dragons Lair first appeared in arcades a quarter of a century ago and became an immediate hit. What made it so appealing to gamers of the day was its graphics, which consisted of video of original animation created by famed animator Don Bluth. This was the age when triangles were being passed off as spaceships after all. Since its glory days, Dragons Lair has made periodic appearances on various game systems and video formats and now its Blu-rays turn to host the knight errant Dirk the Daring. Now Im sure that you know that Blu-ray can deliver the video from the game quite nicely, surpassing the quality seen in the original game, but the real question is whether or not the gameplay has stood the test of time.
I know that there are plenty of nostalgia buffs out there who remember Dragons Lair fondly, so please bear with me while we bring everybody else up to date on the game. In Dragons Lair you play as a brave but somewhat bumbling knight who enters the castle of Singe the dragon to save the kidnapped beauty Daphne. To reach Singe you must make your way through a series of traps, trials, and tribulations, all of which lead to a fatal result should you fail. The gameplay is timing-based and requires you to move Dirk in one of the four major directions using the d-pad or swing his sword by hitting X (note: Dragons Lair will play on any Blu-ray system, but the game was reviewed on a PS3). You dont need to worry about anything like where to jump or who to swing your sword at, all that matters is the timing. Push up when the game wants you to push up and you survive. Push the wrong direction or push at the wrong moment and you die.
Now heres where it matters whether or not youre already a Dragons Lair fan and are familiar with its gameplay. If you are, then you know what youre getting yourself into. If youre not, well, the gameplay will seem quite primitive and frustrating to you. You dont have the freedom to try different things to make it past a sequence, move around the rooms, or even to recover from a mistake if you dont do exactly what the game wants you to do when it wants you to do it, youll die. And youll die a lot in this game. Some sequences require several different moves to make it through and youll die at each point until you see the whole sequence and know what to do. The game will sometimes provide visual clues as to which way to go at each point, but it doesnt always do so. Even after you know what to do through a sequence, the game can be a bit touchy with the timing and youll find yourself dying even though you thought you did everything right. All in all there is about 20 minutes of video sequences in the game, and some of that consists of mirror image scenes designed to trip you up by reversing the left and right moves youll need to make to survive. Thats not a whole heck of a lot of gameplay, especially when youll spend most of your time with the game watching the death sequence over and over again.
The game is very hard to recommend to anyone under 30, and if you played the game back in the day youll have to ask yourself if your memories of those bygone days havent been embellished over the years and you can look at the game with a 21st Century eye. If youre still enough of a Dirk fan to go through with it, youll be happy to find that the picture quality is quite good and the game includes a number of extras on the disc. These extras include an interview with the original games creators, an option to watch all the sequences in the game without the need to play through them all, and sequences that show the HD restoration process and compare the video quality to that of prior incarnations of the game.
Five stars for the Dragons Lair buff, but for everyone else the gameplay is too primitive and frustrating to make buying the game worth the money.