Dragon's Lair 3D Review


Dragon's Lair was one of the classic games from the heyday of the arcade, the 1980s.  Gameplay was pretty simplistic and repetitive, but through the magic of the Laserdisc players were treated to an interactive cartoon.  And this in the days of 2D pixelated sprites.  Well the classic has made a comeback, and this time out it's been brought into the 21st Century with fully 3D graphics and a host of new moves for Dirk.

Screenshots

One thing that has stayed the same is the game's storyline.  Dirk is still a brave but clumsy knight trying to rescue the bimbo-esque Princess Daphne.  She's gotten herself kidnapped by the evil wizard Mordoc and his dragon Singe, and it is up to Dirk to save her.  The opening cinematic will be familiar to those who remember the arcade classic.  In one of many nods to the original, the sequence is taken straight from the opening scenes of the arcade game.

As Dirk chases Daphne into a dark and forbidding castle, she drops a magic amulet.  Daphne uses this amulet to communicate with Dirk throughout the game in her squeaking, Snow White on helium voice.  Her communications begin with some tutorial-like instructions, and later turn to pleas for help and occasional hints.  The hints tend to come when the puzzle solutions are more obvious, but sometimes they provide some timely guidance.

In the original game, different scenes were loaded at random and you needed to time your joystick moves to successfully navigate to the next room/puzzle.  Dragon's Lair 3D follows the same format in that each room (or series of rooms)  is a puzzle to be solved.  Completing the puzzle will allow you to move on to the next room and on to the next puzzle.  Dragon's Lair 3D differs from the original game in that you now have full control over Dirk.  The move to 3D has freed Dirk to move in any direction at any time, and given him an arsenal of new moves.  Dirk can now jump, long jump, roll, and climb.  He can also gain more attacks and moves when he collects special "Dragon Essences" hidden throughout the castle.  These essences allow him to perform spin attacks and floating jumps, among other things, but performing these moves requires special mana which can only be recharged by finding mana potions or orbs. 

The downside of all these new moves is that the control scheme used to pull them off is unresponsive and difficult to use.  Dirk moves very slowly unless you press the run key.  Since there is no way to "always run", you are forced to play with one finger on the run key throughout the entire game.  Some moves are critical to completing a majority of the puzzles such as the long jump or the roll.  However, to pull off the long jump, you need to press the forward key, the run key, control direction with the mouse, and time your press of the jump key.  To make matters worse, even for those with Shaq-sized hands, is that the default key mapping is terrible.  A long jump forward requires pressing [w] + [r]  + [Alt], but when playing under Windows XP pressing [Alt] + [w] minimizes the game and takes you back to the desktop.  I tried to remap jump to [Space], but when I did this Dirk would only jump when not running.  If I also pressed the run key, the game ignored the jump key.  You need to perform a double-jump to make it into the castle at the very beginning of the game, so I spent the first half hour of gameplay screwing around with the controls until I could finally begin the actual game.

Should you even get to a point where you can perform the keyboard Twister game with some consistency, you'll still have problems.  There is often a slight delay between the key press and Dirk's reaction that will cause your death on many an occasion.  The game's puzzles are very heavy on platforms and jumping, so tight control is vital, but unfortunately you'll be forced to go through many reloads while trying to make a series of well-timed jumps.  The puzzles themselves are not very difficult (once you figure out what you are supposed to do), but can be very frustrating when you spend all your time falling of ledges.