Dragon’s Lair was a Laserdisc Video Game released in the early eighties. It stood apart from the other games of the time because, instead of using traditional pixel or vector graphics, it used sequences of cartoons to depict the action. These were drawn by a guy called Don Bluth and with those cartoons and the recorded music, effects and voice it looked and sounded amazing. The story had a fairly traditional set-up with Dirk the Daring – a knight, entering a castle owned by the dragon, Singe, to rescue the Princess Daphne. Ok, incredibly traditional.
The gameplay was, by necessity, fairly simple. A scene would play and then you would have to either press the sword button, or up, down, left or right (and possibly diagonals) at the right time. Some events meant you could take the appropriate action at pretty much any time before the sequence ended, other events were timed: too early or too late and Dirk met an … ahem … untimely demise. Of course, fail to take any action and that usually meant Dirk also met his demise. While good reactions could help, the best way to play the game was to learn each sequence so you were ready for them.
Now, Dragon’s Lair has been released on just about every platform, it seems. Including DVD and Blu-Ray. I got a bit of a ‘thing’ about it, and now have it on my Galaxy Note 2, on my 3DS, and on the XBox 360. Why? I have no idea.
However, it did show how differently this one game can be presented, and how poor touch screens are for games of this type.
Of course, the “joy” of this game is that even the DVD four way controls are adequate for it. So an XBox controller has absolutely no problems. The 3DS with its analogue stick, and digital D-Pad also works well – though I think the D-Pad is slightly more “positive”.
The touch screen of the Tablet, of course, has problems. Their solution is to put four buttons on the screen for movement, and one for sword. The problem, of course, is that you don’t really know if you’re hitting the button until something doesn’t happen. Really, touch-screens aren’t designed for this. Perhaps this idea will take off eventually …
Despite being the same game, they all have slightly different presentations. The two most common “modes” are “Arcade” or “Home”. Curiously “Home” actually presents the game in the way it was played in the Arcade. “Arcade”, on the other hand, simply runs you through all the sequences that exist in the game.
The 3DS version gives you 5 lives for the “Home” version. The Android version allows you to choose how many lives you want, including “infinite”. To me, that’s the most fun, because after a few games, seeing just the introduction scenes bores me.
The “Arcade” version is ok if you want to see all the scenes, but you don’t get the story (brief and disconnected as it is).
Some of the versions (like the 360 and Android versions) give the option of showing you which button to press at what time, effectively showing you how to get through the game. Of course you do still need to get the timing right.
As I say, at its heart it’s a very simple game with beautiful visuals and sonics. Even after all these years it still fascinates me, though I can’t say why. Without the filter of nostalgia that I have, I wonder if I’d enjoy it at all?
If you do like this kind of game, there’s also Dragon’s Lair 2 – Time Warp, and Space Ace, which is a science fiction setting.