Dragon's Lair III Review


Dragonís Lair is an arcade classic that pops up in a computer game from time to time, this time out as Dragonís Lair III. The thing that made the game stand out so much in the arcades was its novelty and graphics. In the land of pixilated Space Invaders, the laser disc game is king. Gamers were blown away by the chance to control an interactive cartoon created by Disney animator Don Bluth Ė so much so that it really didnít matter that the gameplay was simplistic and repetitive. But that was then and this is now, and compared to the PC games available today Dragonís Lair III is more a fossil than a classic.

In Dragonís Lair III you play as Dirk the Daring, a bumbling knight who still manages to get the job done. Sort of a medieval Inspector Clousea, if you will. The Princess Daphne has been kidnapped by an evil wizard and it is up to Dirk to rescue her from his castle lair. So far so good, but unfortunately thatís about the end of the good.

The problems start with the graphics. The resolution on todayís PC monitors is far greater than anything available in an arcade over 20 years ago, so the game plays in a tiny little window unless you really, really crank down your monitor resolution. You have the option of playing the game full screen, but doing so zooms the graphics to the point where they are very fuzzy and washed-out. So much for the quality animation of the gameÖ

The gameplay is very simplistic, which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, in the case of Dragonís Lair III it is. The game plays out as a series of animated encounters in which you must cross rooms filled with monsters and traps. Surviving is a matter of timing, as the safe course is predetermined for you and you just need to hit the right key at the right moment. Control is limited to five actions, moving in one of the four basic directions and swinging your sword. The game is supposed to clue you in on when to hit which key by providing visual cues. For example, when it is the exact moment to stab an attacker with a sword, the attacker will momentarily flash. Well thatís the way it is supposed to work in theory anyway. In practice the game doesnít always give you such cues and youíre often stuck wondering what youíre supposed to do. There is very little interactivity in the game, so itís not just a question of which key to press but where in the animated sequence you are supposed to press it and it is far from intuitive as to when that moment occurs. Imagine getting killed two dozen times by a flying fireball because you donít know when to move out of the way or in which direction. The room could be large and filled with options for evading the fireball, but unless you can figure our exactly where and when the game wants you to dodge you are mercilessly punished by instant death. Even when the game does let you know what youíre supposed to do it doesnít always seem to register your key press. You may have played through a room a dozen times committing the key timing to memory, only to have the game miss the last key press.