Dragon’s Lair Review
The original Quick Time Event returns with Kinect support.
If you’re considerably younger than me, count yourself lucky that you never ran into Dragon’s Lair in an arcade. (Arcades were places you used to go to pay to play video games, look them up.) What made Dragon’s Lair so frustrating was that you could put a quarter in, get three lives, and lose them all in under twenty seconds. Thankfully the XBLA version is more forgiving, with unlimited continues, but it was over so quickly that I’m not sure it made up for previous losses.
The Xbox Live Arcade version of Dragon’s Lair features the full original arcade/laser disc game and can be played using the controller or the Kinect sensor. What originally made this game so popular was the visuals, when it was released in 1983 most games were played with sprites and looked like Donkey Kong or Space Invaders. Dragon’s Lair, however, got around all that by simply being a cartoon that accepted inputs at certain points.
What were revolutionary visuals, at the time, still hold up well today and will closely resemble the cartoon style of the 80′s. Don Bluth’s animations still manage to convey humor, relief, triumph and frantic terror with the same accuracy they did almost thirty years ago. There are only a couple of lines of dialog in the whole game, and our hero Dirk never utters a word, but you still manage to know what he’s feeling in each section.
Dragon’s Lair is played by following on screen prompts to press in a specific direction or swing your sword. While the original was punishingly difficult, there are a number of difficulty levels available in this version. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I am not a fan of Quick Time Events but the pace of Dragon’s Lair is what makes it fun and challenging. In fact, the original had no arrows on screen, just quick flashes in doorways, or nothing but logic to dictate which direction you were supposed to hit. To get the full experience the new arrows can be disabled, good luck with that.
While the original was meant to eat your quarters in an arcade, this model doesn’t really hold up with unlimited continues and you’ll find yourself saving the princess in about half an hour. You will want to play through a second time with the Kinect controls as they were really developed with expanding the game in mind. You can navigate Dirk by jumping up, down, left or right and there are gestures that have been invented for climbing, catching, attacking and so on, so playing with your Kinect is actually much more interesting that with the controller.
There is a sort of two player local co-op in Dragon’s Lair but it involves switching off after a death while using the Kinect. Deaths are quite frequent so you’ll be switching back and forth quite often. I can’t imagine anyone doing this for very long.
Dragon’s Lair still has merit in this day and age, and warrants a playthrough with the new Kinect controls, but due to the length it simply isn’t worth the $10 price tag. Once you finish the game you’ll be so relieved that I doubt you’ll go back for another round, unless it’s to try out the other control scheme.