Review by The Manx

"I always knew Dirk was clumsy, but this..."

There can't be a gamer alive who doesn't know what Dragon's Lair is. So I'll spare you the long-winded description and get straight to the subject at hand. A couple years ago the laserdisc classic was revived on the modern PC in 3-D format. It was an ambitious move, but spotty gameplay ruined the return to the lair.

Plot is the same as the first game: Singe the dragon has kidnapped the voluptuous Princess Daphne and taken her to the Dragon's Lair. Only Dirk the Daring (and Dim-Witted) can save her, by penetrating the castle and fighting his way past the familiar monster inhabitants.

The trip through the castle and to the lair is a much more interactive experience this time around, but it's debatable whether that's good or not. Mainly, there's about a bazillion buttons whose functions it becomes necessary to memorize to play this game at all. There's one to draw Dirk's sword or put it away, another to attack with it, another to jump, to use Dirk's crossbow or magic spells once he finds them, another to target an enemy, others to rotate the camera, move Dirk around, climb ladders and just about anything else a platform game has ever done.

It's all a little unwieldy. And Dirk is just as much of a klutz as you remember from the laserdisc game. Unfortunately, it shows through a lot more since you're responsible for every breath he takes this time around rather than just telling him what direction to move or when to bust out the sword. Especially awkward, I thought, was that the "draw sword" "swing sword" buttons were different. I suppose they had to be, though, because Dirk can hardly do anything but fight when his sword is in hand. He can't climb ladders or cling to ledges with one hand holding his sword, despite all the crazy daredevil moves you see him do in the laserdisc games with sword drawn, like jumping from all those flying musical instruments or fighting a mummy while hanging from the leg of a bat.

Like other action games, Dragon's Lair 3-D has a targetting mode for when in combat. Except it doesn't work. It just highlights an enemy, Dirk doesn't actually lock on to it and focus his attack on it.

The graphics are decent, particularly the fully animated opening sequence (which is at least partly recycled footage from the laserdisc games, though). The monsters are recognizable to veteran lair-dwellers, and you can tell what everything is, though nothing is startingly life-like. The sound is okay; I can't say I really dig the voice acting, but it's not terrible.

Unfortunately, Dragon's Lair 3-D is one of those games like Lifeline that's solid in other departments but ends up destroying itself by having an awkward or cumbersome interface. What's the point of playing a game if it's hard to work the controls, no matter how nice it looks or sounds? From now on I'm probably sticking to just being a third party observer and letting Dirk handle the specifics.


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 05/28/04, Updated 05/30/04


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