[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”” developers=”Digital Leisure” publishers=”Microsoft Studios” platforms=”” genres=”” release_date=”May 18, 2012″]
A blast from the past, Dragon’s Lair makes its 67th port to XBLA thanks to Digital Leisure and Microsoft Studios. First appearing in 1983, this port of Dragon’s Lair brings the title to high-definition visuals with the added feature of being able to play using the Xbox 360 Kinect. So is the tagline “It’s Better With Kinect” true or is this a game that should have stopped at its 66th port?
Dragon’s Lair is part of a trilogy that debuted on laserdisc back in 1983 and 1984. It is considered to be the one of the first, if not THE first, game to feature Quick Time Event based gameplay. The concept is simple, a video is playing and you are prompted at certain points to hit a button. Hitting the correct button continues the scene in a positive manner while hitting no button or the wrong button or the correct button but not fast enough would launch a scene that was usually the death of the hero.
The game itself is about 15-20 minutes of animation done by ex-Disney animator, Don Bluth. Dragon’s Lair follows the hero, Dirk the Daring, as he makes his way through the castle to Singe The Dragon’s lair to save Princess Daphene. Scenes are comprised of Dirk entering rooms and having to dodge, fight, and survive traps, enemies, and other calamities. Daphene is an interesting character as they actually used old playboy magazines to model her after due to a lack of funds. This background probably influenced the voice actor for Daphene to overact the part and give it a very ditzy fake feel.
What can we expect in this port of Dragon’s Lair? You can play with a controller on easy or hard difficulty in Arcade or Home mode. The Arcade mode is the game as it was played in arcades while the Home mode is the version laserdisc users had. The major gameplay difference is that if you have to pass a scene to go to the next in the Home version while in the Arcade, if you die you move on to the next scene. Playing with Kinect is a bit different. There is an Adventure mode where you can’t die, Quest mode that if you fail enough moves you will die, and Daring mode that any failed move equals death. Each of these 3 modes can be played in Co-Op, but any of the controller modes can only be played solo. Don’t get too excited about Co-Op though because it is essentially taking turns every scene and death.
The menu system seems to have been implemented without much though on the switching between controller and Kinect functionality. Going to Play Game with the controller and then selecting Kinect as your means of control will leave you with having to get up and start the game via Kinect. When you exit the game back to the main menu, you will be forced to go through the Kinect sign-in process if it doesn’t recognize you before you go to play game again (which is where you switch the control type). There was no way to go back to using the controller without doing the Kinect sign-in over again. This is a sign of a lack of forethought into the user experience when switching up these two control types. The Kinect gameplay itself is not very good as you have to jump up down left and right and the window for making these moves is still the window given to people that would be pressing buttons. It makes the game almost impossible to play with Kinect unless you have drank 5 cups of coffee or snorted a kilo of cocaine. Luckily, if you are an achievement whore, Kinect is not required at all to get the achievements.
Another issue that was found that the video scenes don’t seem to be synched to the game’s timing. Sometimes there would be a hitch when loading and the death scene would get triggered before you even get to the part where you should be pressing a button to survive. Most of the time this sync issue would be no more than 1 second but at it’s worse case 3-4 seconds. You can save anytime in the game so this allows you to save each scene and if you are screwed over by a hitch, you can just quit to menu and resume game from the save.
Other features of the game include an Arcade Monitor that frames the gameplay and gives the impression that you are playing it in the arcade. There is a Move Mode that when turned on displays the buttons that can be pressed on the screen at the time they can be pressed. There is a feature to just sit back and watch the game as if all the right moves are made. You can view photos of you playing with Kinect. And lastly, you can watch the original game trailer that took them 18 hours of straight shooting to make.
Dragon’s Lair is a game that has been ported 67 times now and there is a reason for that. It’s a classic that showcases ingenuity at a time when most games did not have graphics that actually resembled what the objects were meant to be. And while Dragon’s Lair is a nice history lesson, it does not hold up in anyway to today’s games and it should stop at its 67th port, at least until the next decade so it can once again be used as a history lesson.