Dragonstone
Ubi Soft
Action
1
11.18.02

Dragons Lair 3D: Return to the Lair


Dragon's Lair. Since 1983 the name has been known amongst the video-gaming community. It was billed as 'the world's first full-animation laser-disc video game', a phrase which suggests a really pioneering game, perhaps in the way Pac-Man or Pong were revolutionary in their time. In fact, these are the only three games which have been given prestigious permanent placement at the Smithsonian Institution. This impressive standing can perhaps be classified as a blessing or a curse when, 19 years after Dirk The Daring's first adventure, players can once again follow his epic journey through the castle in Dragon's Lair 3D - Return To The Lair.

Graphics

The original Dragon's Lair had a unique and beautiful graphic style. The game played out like a cartoon, thanks mainly due to the stunning artistic style of Don Bluth, the genius behind the game. Dragon's Lair 3D set the bar very high, and aimed to recreate the cartoon style in three dimensions, and to stay as true to the hand-drawn style of the original game. Dragon's Lair 3D looks better than I could ever have hoped. I was anticipating the release of the game from the very moment I heard it was in development, and as soon as I saw the first screens I knew I was in for a treat. The game plays out so like a cartoon it can sometimes be scary. The words 'cartoon' and 'three-dimensional' are rarely associated with each other, we all remember how terrible the 3D South Park game looked (and played, for that matter), it simply did not work. Thankfully, Dragon's Lair 3D has not fallen onto the wrong path. The game is still hand-drawn, from the textures to the character models of Dirk himself, the dragon Singe, and the beautiful Princess. I feel that I have left out the most important part of this game's visuals, which is that the game runs entirely in 1080i resolution, taking advantage of the latest in HDTV technology.

Sound

Dragon's Lair 3D is a pleasure to listen to, and one of the nicest aural experiences I have had whilst playing a video game. The original arcade title didn't really have much sound at all, except for the fanfares when the correct path was chosen, and the occasional gasps, roars, and yelps of the Princess, the Dragon, and Dirk respectively. While it can be said that this game doesn't have as much sound as you are possibly used to, the sound it does have is very nice. The sword clinks, burning fires, platforms crumbling and bones turning to dust when you die are all superb. The music is also very nice, I'm not quite sure who composed it, but they did a superb job. The fanfares are, of course, right where you'd expect them, as Dirk runs through the door into a new area or stealthily rolls on the floor to avoid a lick of the Dragon's blame. The voice of the Princess can be a little bittersweet to be honest, a little too like a Barbie doll for my liking, but oh well, can't win 'em all. I have also left out the most important and best sound in the game, and that is the sound of Dirk gliding with his wings. Just listen to it, you'll know what I mean.

Gameplay

The game plays very nicely, although not without it's flaws. Giving you the bad news first, you will find yourself holding the left trigger down basically through the entire game, in order to make our dashing hero run, as his walking speed is far too slow, and you'll find yourself dying all too many times if you don't make the guy run. The arcade original of Dragon's Lair had very few controls, simply directions and an action button. Taking that into consideration, it is amazing that this new game has the controls that it does, you'll find every button on your Xbox controller in use, and the buttons all seem to be where they should be, nothing is an inconvenience, except with the possible exception of the black and white buttons, which are used to change between Dirk's sword and his crossbow, and doing this quickly can sometimes be a problem. The bulk of the game is, of course, platforming, and it is a marvelous example of what a platformer can be.

Replay Value

Dragon's Lair will take you a good long while to play through. The castle contains over 200 rooms, and although not all of these NEED to be explored to win the game, it's advisable that you do look around as many of them as you like, as they often contain things that players who know the original game inside-out will remember with glee. There are also a few videos in the game detailing the history of the series, which are a fascinating read to anyone interested in how computer games are made and developed, or anyone interested in the Dragon's Lair series.

Bottom Line:

I would suggest that anyone who is either a fan of the Dragon's Lair franchise, or platforming and adventuring games in general to pick this little gem up. However, I will warn people expecting non-stop action and hacking bad-guys to bits that this isn't all of what this game is about. Sure, there are enemies to kill, but this is a platformer at heart.

-Blade




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