Dragon's Lair 3D Review
If you were hanging out in arcades in the 80s, then you are almost certainly familiar with the original Dragon's Lair game. The gameplay was simplistic, just a sequence of timed movements of the game's joystick, but its animated graphics were far superior to anything else available at the time. Games have come a long way since then - the Xbox brings more gaming power into your home than any arcade game could muster in the 80s - and the original Dragon's Lair would pale in comparison to today's games. Dragon's Lair 3D updates the original game, bringing it into the 21st Century by moving the game into 3D and adding a whole host of new puzzles and challenges.
Lots of ledges to jump on.
The game's story stays true to the original. You take on the role of the clumsy but intrepid knight Dirk the Daring as he tries to rescue the scantily clad Princess Daphne from the evil wizard Mordoc and his Dragon, Singe. In one of multiple nods to the original game, Dragon's Lair 3D's opening cinematic is taken directly from the classic Dragon's Lair. Before Daphne is whisked into the wizard's castle, she manages to drop a magic amulet for Dirk to find. The amulet allows Daphne to provide hints and guidance to Dirk as he makes his way through the castle.
Your quest to rescue Daphne is played as a serious of puzzles contained within the rooms, or sets of rooms, in the castle. Most of the puzzles involve jumping between ledges, moving platforms, and swinging ropes, but others involve properly timed moves, hitting switches, or fighting enemies. There is no shortage of puzzles in the game as the publisher claims to have packed it with over 250 different rooms.
In the original game, Dirk was limited to moving in eight directions and a single sword attack. In Dragon's Lair 3D he's picked up a few new tricks. With the move to 3D, Dirk can now move in any direction and can now jump, leap, and roll. He can also acquire special "dragon essences" as he moves through the game. These give him special attacks or new abilities such as the ability to float after jumping or to see invisible areas. These essences are powered by mana, which Dirk can gain by finding potions or special orbs.
The solutions to the puzzles are not difficult in and of themselves. Their challenge arises from the need to correctly time your jumps and attacks (in a way, not much unlike the original game). The issue is that Dirk's control is not consistent - far too often there is a slight delay between the moment the button is pressed and the time the action is performed. In a game with so much platform jumping, this can be frustrating at times.
When attacking you face a slightly different problem - Dirk takes a while to recover from an attack so there is a delay before he can launch his next. If you hit with your first attack it is not an issue, as enemies are usually stunned by an attack making it easy to dispatch them. However, should you miss, you'll be vulnerable to a number of hits before you can swing your sword again. Sometimes there is also an issue with the camera during combat, and the enemies you are fighting might be momentarily off-screen. Thanks to Dirk's slow attacks, this can be enough to spell disaster more often than not.
The original Dragon's Lair gave you three lives to work with, and missteps were always fatal. Dragon's Lair 3D makes things a bit easier on you by giving Dirk a health meter and bestowing him with infinite lives. The game will also save the game at periodic check points, so you are not forced to start every puzzle from scratch should you die. The game carries over the death screens from the original game, but this is actually an annoying touch of nostalgia. Who wants to see Dirk turn into a skeleton umpteen times because they are having trouble timing a jump correctly?