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PC Game Review

Dragon's Lair


Format: PC
Publisher: Digital Leisure Inc.
Developer: Digital Leisure Inc.
RRP: £6.99
Click here to buy
Age Restrictions: 3+
Release Date: 17 May 2013

Don Bluth is probably more famous for the work he did, as an animator, after he left Disney and for the fact that his last major film Titan A.E. (2000) closed the animation arm of Fox when it lost an impressive amount of money, I liked it, but the numbers show that I was in a minority, although like a lot of misunderstood gems it did well on DVD and garnered a cult audience.

Review imageIn between these events Bluth released a sting of animated films with various successes, including The Secret of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986) and probably his most commercial and critical success, Anastasia (1997). Not content with his work as a film maker Bluth also got involved with the nascent computer games industry when he released Dragons Lair on laser disc back in 1983.

Of course, designing a game which could be played on a machine not designed to play games came with a number of limitations. As an early form of the DVD, although with a much larger disc, the machines did have the ability for the viewer to interact with the disc in a limited way.

Review imageThe game is really an animated film with the possibility of limited branching; the number of controls is limited to five, four for directions and one to swing your sword. There are on-screen prompts for you to follow, which sounds easy, except that the game often relies on the player having lightning fast reflexes. There are even times when it seems that the right button has been pressed at the appropriate time and yet still your hero, Dirk, inexplicably dies.

The story is pretty basic, as you control Dirk through various levels, trying to reach the Dragons lair and rescue Princess Daphne. Along the way you have both physical environments and monsters to overcome.

Review imageI guess you would have to be of a certain age to appreciate just what a technical achievement the game was, when first released.

Today games push the limits of reality, offering 3D and wonderfully rendered environments. In 1983 most games looked pretty basic, in comparison Dragon’s Lair looked nothing short of spectacular. Highlights of that year included a wire frame Star Wars game; Manic Miner and M.U.L.E, all important milestones on the road of computer games development, but none of them could touch Dragon’s Lair for graphics.

Review imageNow, it’s true that the game has dated, freed of its laser disc origins it feels limited in scope and yet it is an important part of the history of computer games and something kids in the eighties would have killed to play, if only the laser disc player wasn’t so very expensive.

The graphics remain the game’s biggest selling point as it still looks like a wonderfully hand drawn cell animation. The story is still funny and the game remains a decent, if short fantasy adventure.


Charles Packer

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