Dragon's Lair Review

By Jonathan Barnes, 7 years ago
It’s not every day that a game reviewer gets charged with posting a review on a game that is almost as old as he is, but http://www.trueachievements.com/Dragons-Lair-xbox-360.htm made its appearance on the Xbox LIVE Arcade this week with a few tweaks and additions. With that in mind, gamers might wonder if the entry is worth the price of admission which, at 800 MSP, is almost cheaper than it would cost to play through the entire game in an arcade.

Dragon's Lair Screen 11

First and foremost in this review should be a respect for the lineage of Dragon’s Lair. Originally created in 1983, Dragon’s Lair was a seminal arcade experience that gave gamers the chance to direct the adventures of Dirk the Daring in his quest to rescue Princess Daphne from the Dragon Singe. Illustrated by former Disney animator, Don Bluth, the game was immediately eye-catching and gave the illusion that you’d actually be able to control the movements of a fully animated character. Dragon’s Lair also has the “honor” of being the first arcade game to cost 50 cents instead of the traditional quarter. In the three decades since its arcade release, Dragon’s Lair has been ported to over sixty different platforms.

With its arcade roots, the XBLA port of Dragon’s Lair pays homage to the quarter-sucking beast that siphoned off many an allowance with its (initially) grueling learning curve. The gameplay for Dragon’s Lair is basically a glorified quick time event that forces you to make critical (and correct) button presses on a moment’s notice. With only five buttons to master (the directional d-pad arrows and the “A” button for your sword) the gameplay lacks variety and the time in which you’re allotted to hit the buttons wildly and drastically varies, making for a frustrating experience. Fortunately, you are given a guide on which buttons to press… a feature that was notably absent in the initial arcade release and can be turned off in the options menu. Further complicating matters for beginners is that checking the “How To Play” or “Controls” menu forces you to exit your game.

Dragon's Lair Screen 13

The crowning achievement for Dragon’s Lair has always been the art work. Bluth’s hand-drawn cartoons that so seductively lured in gamers in the 80’s still look the same today and are great for a trip down memory lane, but, beyond that, are unremarkable. What makes the visual experience frustrating is that one must scan the scene to find occasional button prompts which can be hard to spot amongst the animated scenery.

The game itself, however, is incredibly repetitive. Many of the “puzzle rooms” are repeated (or inverted/flipped) throughout the quest, making the experience monotonous, repetitive, and boring. While the port does have a few nice features like Arcade Mode (which puts Dirk in a new room every time he dies), the replay value is virtually zero, especially once all of the achievements have been gained.

Dragon's Lair Screen 8

On the achievement front, completionists shouldn’t be scared to pick up Dragon’s Lair if some quick Gamerscore is your goal. All of the achievements can easily be gained in three or four playthroughs which, all things considered, should only take part of your afternoon (my first playthrough only took about an hour). The trickiest of achievements, Lair King, forces you to get the highest possible score in the game using a controller, while the rest can be planned out and accomplished with relative ease.

With antiquated gameplay, graphics, sound, and voice work (Princess Daphne does get some points for sounding like a coquettish Marilyn Monroe and looking like a vintage pinup girl), Dragon’s Lair is not so much a game you want to play, but rather a trip down memory lane. The 800 MSP price point seems much too high to recommend for even the most nostalgic of gamers.
Jonathan Barnes
Written by Jonathan Barnes
Jonathan has been a news/views contributor since 2010. When he's not writing reviews, features, and opinion pieces, he spends his days working as an informal science educator and his nights as an international man of mystery.