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Dragon’s Lair XBLA Review

Dragon’s Lair will always be one of those classic arcade games that fascinated more than it entertained with it being one of the very few laser disc experiences, offering 80′s seaside goers an opportunity to take part in the animated antics of Dirk the Daring.  With all its swords and sorcery there must of been something truly magical about Dragons Lair, a money eating coin-op that we knew full well was bloody awful and punishing but drawn to because it was basically a masterfully animated cartoon by Don Bluth, hosting a graphical look years ahead of what was surrounding it at the arcades.

Dragon’s Lair was pretty much a quick time event (QTE) adventure game on rails, you watched the action and either moved the joystick or used the action button when prompted, progressing the story if successful or watching an entertaining death with Dirk flying into walls or getting crushed by a snake as he tries to infiltrate a trap laden castle and save his Princess Daphne from the clutches of Singe the Dragon. 30 years later and with the XBLA version nothing has really changed here; you still have milliseconds to react to the screen prompts, be it a direction or swinging his sword through numerous traps and monsters. The action flows continuously from room to room, with every area overcome leading right into another, never letting up with an almost physic requirement to know what is coming next in each devilish area, requiring lightning quick reflexes as Dirk travels through monster laden tunnels, wild water rapids and collapsing floors.

The game has had some visual touch ups and looks even better than the original but the awkward nature of the QTE results in you missing most of the wonderfully animated action as you look like a hawk at the sides of the screen for a prompt to pop up. Though you can change difficulties, switching from on screen arrows to the original and more difficult mode which will briefly highlight the exit or item to attack, Dragons Lair is very much a spectators game, with many comments made by the Mrs on how great it looked; but even those praises wore thin when realisation set in that the game pulls the old classic mirror image views to extend lifespan of this already short game.

Due to its harsh nature you will die a lot which surprisingly is not such a bad thing as there are plenty of comedic deaths awaiting Dirk in the castle; sadly though, after your five credits are up the inevitable continue screen ruins the overall feel of the game with a horrific 3D “modern” take of Dirk, why not a simple picture like the rest of the game?

To give the game a modern update the creators of Dragons Lair have seen fit to include Kinect controls; now I do enjoy Kinect titles but to add a famously slow to respond control option to a hyper reactive game is doomed to fail. Irrespective of the expected poor results, with the Kinect you get to jump around the room and wave your arms to act as a sword plus there are some new moves introduced exclusively for this version like grabbing ropes or running on the spot; fun for a short while before the onset of far too many deaths just makes you give up (though there is a continuous play mode where the game will play through irrespective of constant death).

Though this review reads harsh and I can’t really recommend this to any modern gamer, I am still giving the game an exaggerated high score as this is more like a of a piece of gaming history, just put aside the shonky controls and enjoy an animated classic. For the purchase price it would have been nice to include the other laser disc releases from the series or at least some behind the scenes extras but that is more money for another time I guess.

Rating: Average Review Policy (version tested: XBLA/Xbox 360)

Edited On 28 May, 2012

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