Dragon's Lair Blu-ray Review

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Publisher: Digital Leisure
Developer: Digital Leisure

Platform: Blu-ray
Reviewed on PlayStation 3

Valiant knight Dirk the Daring braves the torturous traps and malevolent monsters in a dark wizard's castle while questing to save Princess Daphne from the clutches of Singe the Dragon, where Daphne is held in a magical prison. Can Dirk live long enough to save the damsel?

Kyle Ackerman

Dragon's Lair Blu-ray revisits the glory days of coin-operated arcades, but is something of an anachronism on modern machines. The game is one long sequence of "gotcha" moments. That was perfect for the arcade, when players had to dump quarter after quarter into a machine to learn, by trial-and-error, how to save Princess Daphne from Singe the Dragon. Better yet, with spectacular animation by Don Bluth that far surpassed the graphics offered by any other video game of its era, you could watch a player who had already mastered the game show off and guide Dirk the Daring through every animated challenge. But it's at odds with the modern experience, where dying or losing the game every few seconds is more frustrating and less commonplace.

Recent versions of Dragon's Lair have brought the experience of the original game to homes again, but Dragon's Lair Blu-ray delivers the experience in 1080p HD video with 5.1 surround sound – somehow even more realistically than standing at one of the original laserdisc-powered, coin-operated machines. It's still fun to take turns guessing at Dirk's next move, in an effort to reach the animated conclusion – but it's not the sort of gameplay modern audiences expect. Winning requires a preternatural talent for Simon Says-style gameplay and no small measure of stamina to meet every challenge. Play is like the most demanding platforming sequence ever programmed. And while the game allows for players to continue after every death, it's hard to feel a sense of accomplishments when nearly every trap between the drawbridge and the dragon means Dirk's demise.

When you do succeed (or remember from past failures what to do), Dragon's Lair Blu-ray is as fantastic to watch now as it was more than twenty years ago. Even in 1983, the game had a spectacularly high animation budget, and it's a joy to watch. Plenty of creative nasty creatures and traps await Dirk, such as the Lizard King, horrifying crypt creatures and the deadly Black Knight. The animation, characters and colorful (but deadly) world are splendid, and the quality of the animation means that this game can stand alongside modern titles in terms of visual quality.

The main problem this game sports is its $50 price tag. For nostalgic fanatics of the coin-op game, that's worthwhile to be able to relive the experience and share it with friends. But if you never experienced the original game, you may find the gotcha mode of gameplay frustrating. And once you've learned how to win, the Dragon's Lair Blu-ray has minimal replay value. That said, it sure looks spectacular.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on June 1, 2007 10:29 AM.

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