Dragon’s Lair

Picture the scene if you will. A young CritAnime eagerly awaiting his parents return from the shops. Hoping and praying that this is the week they bring a new game home. And praise be to the gaming gods, for in his fathers hands was a bag containing a shiny new game. But unknown to him was the horrors about to be played out on his TV.

My dad was actually more excited than me about this game. He had played the arcade release and loved it. So he was expecting more of the same from this SNES port. I, on the other hand, had lower expectations of this game. For I had read a review in a magazine and had seen the warning signs. While I couldn’t remember the full article, there was one phrase that did stand out in my mind. “Interesting game play mechanics” and the last time I had read something along those lines was with Back To The Future (Oh sweet lord no – Ed). The simple fact of the matter is that the game could have been so much better. Yet it seemed to be nothing more than a simple money-spinner. A game designed to wring a few more coins from people, like my dad, who played and loved the game.

The game was published by Ellite. The same people behind the rather poor NES version two years prior. Because of hardware limitations at the time, much like in the NES version previously, an exact arcade replica was not possible. So the developers went for an action/platformer style of gameplay. The game spanned 24 levels and was filled with obstacles and enemies. Pretty much your standard setup for this genre. However there is nothing standard about this game. It not only sucked the proverbial donkey extremity. It almost KOs its self choking on it.

The single biggest complaint I have about this game is the controls. Almost every platformer, regardless of how good or bad, has tight controls. Trying to control Dirk in this game is comparable to handling a giddy weasel, in boxing gloves covered with grease, while drunk on a wobble board. In other words it’s a touch more than challenging. Even though Dirk has a pretty remarkable looking sword he can only swing the thing downwards. This means he either has an incredibly heavy sword and he is unable to swing it, or he is the most feeble and pathetic knight known to mankind. Either way you do have your backup throwing knives. Which thankfully you have an infinite amount of, because you will be relying on them for every enemy taller than your kneecaps. The developers must have known that they cocked up though as most of the enemies you will face in the game can be killed within one hit. Most of the levels are filled with long jumps onto small platforms. Which, considering Dirk’s inability stop walking properly, are a pain in the rear to negotiate. One of the earlier levels is actually filled with quite a lot of these small platforms and I found myself on more than one occasion swearing violently at the screen.

In later levels they tried to add a puzzle element to the game with underwater sections. These basically involved Dirk rolling up into a ball and been encased in a bubble with the aim of getting a barrel from one side of the level to the other. While they may sound good in theory, they once again prove that the controls just are not responsive enough to negotiate the ensemble of traps and enemies. And if the hazards don’t get you and you accidentally lose the barrel then you have to kill yourself to try again. Again sounds good in theory but is just executed in poor way (wait till you try and input a password – Ed).

That’s the game all the way through though. It’s all good in theory but it’s all executed in a poor way. The smooth animation of dirk may give him a more life like look and feel. But the added animation and incredibly stupid stopping distance mean it’s just frustrating. The enemies maybe weak but you need to be able to hit them first. The puzzle elements maybe an interesting diversion from the mainly action elements, but the game mechanics mean if you mess up once it’s a wasted life. The sounds and music are great on the SNES hardware, but the music is far too relaxing and doesn’t fit the game.

So final thoughts on this game then because playing it again has caused me to have a minor stroke. I suppose if you looked at it as a platformer without the Dragon’s Lair franchise attached to it, then it could be just an average game. I seriously think that if it was called “Average Knight goes to the Magical Castle to kill a not so big dragon called Dave then it may have got a more favorable reception. The only reason I actually own this game again is because I got both the NES and SNES version from a car boot sale for £3. And I paid more for the NES version than I did the SNES version. If you seriously want to play this game then go for it. But you may have a more fun time putting your wedding tackle through a grinder and that’s why I give this game 2 out of 5 stars.

Gameplay Video

CritAnime

I grew up in the magical 8-bit era of computers and consoles. I saw the games crash and saw the recovery from it with the NES. I will always have my trusty C64 in my office and when the need arises I will pop a tape in the Datasette and play some classic games.

With a wealth of knowledge, especially on old-school rpg's, I hope to bring it to you. The viewers of Retroist.com

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