In 1983, Dragon's Lair promised a glimpse of the future. With its stunning animation and movie-quality productions, this laserdisc game was a sight to behold. But as impressive as the presentation was, all it took was a single play for gamers to realize how shallow the experience was. There's no way that the simple gameplay of Dragon's Lair represents the future, right?
Fast Forward three decades and this overpriced arcade game is influencing some of this industry's biggest titles, from God of War to The Walking Dead to Heavy Rain. I guess Don Bluth had the last laugh after all.
Dragon's Lair's enduring success didn't happen by accident, it has taken a lot of effort to keep the franchise relevant. From the moment game consoles adopted an optical disc format, there was somebody there pushing Dragon's Lair. If you owned a Philips CD-i, 3DO, Sega CD or Jaguar CD then you had access to this novelty. These days the game is on just about everything in your house, including your DVD player, cell phone, handheld game systems and now, thanks to Digital Leisure Inc., on the Xbox Live Arcade. These days you'll have an easier time finding a copy of Dragon's Lair than Tetris.
For those who have somehow missed the dozens of releases over the years, Dragon's Lair tells the story of Dirk the Daring. Dirk is a clumsy knight on an adventure to save the beautiful (and very annoying) Daphne from a large dragon. But before Dirk can save the day, he'll need to fight off giant snakes, slay magical wizards, survive deadly pits and fly on a mechanical horse. Every second of the game is animated by Don Bluth, the man behind An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH and other children's movies.
Unfortunately you don't have direct control over Dirk. Instead of moving a character around the screen like most games, Dragon's Lair has you watch an animated movie and interact with it in the most limited way possible. From time to time the game will prompt you to push the D-pad in a specific direction or hit the attack button. If you hit the corresponding button in time you'll move deeper into the dragon's castle, but don't take too long or you'll be treated to one of the many death animations.
These days we call this game mechanic a "quick time event," a Simon Says system where you repeat everything it tells you. Back in 1983 I didn't know what to call it, but I knew that I was giving up deep gameplay for flashy graphics. Playing the game three decades later only highlights how limiting this style of game is. It's the kind of thing you can beat in less than a half hour and never want to play again. Even with the extra bells and whistles, Dragon's Lair only gets worse with each play through.
With its Don Bluth animations and movie-quality production values, Dragon's Lair is the best looking game of the 1980s. Unfortunately, in order to look so good the game had to make a few sacrifices. As a result we're left with a shallow "action" game that is little more than Simon Says. Not even the gimmicky Kinect support makes this game worth playing more than once!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!