Dragon's Lair (Software Projects) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

Dragon's Lair
By Software Projects
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #36

Dragon's Lair

"A revolution in arcade gaming" was how some people described the original laser disk coin-op of Dragon's Lair. It was thoroughly unique, allowing you to make a decision and step back and watch as it was implemented. For the first time, you could enter into the world of real cartoon animation. It did, however, have one drawback - gamers just couldn't handle standing there and watching for any length of time - especially when they had just stuck 50p into the thing as it originally cost. It is a problem Software Projects have overcome?

In case you've been wrongly imprisoned in a foreign jail or otherwise held against you will for the last two years, here's the idea. You take control of Dirk the Daring whose beloved has been abducted by a randy old dragon by the name of Singe. Can you get her back? Do you want her back? Assuming you do, you'll have to enter the Dragon's lair to find her.

The game begins as Dirk is assembled at the entrance to the castle. He darts a quick look right and then left and heads off down a passage. The first task is just a hair's breadth away.

A disk floats up and down the castle from the top down into the depths of the dungeons. Jump on it and descend to the bottom where another ledge awaits you. Miss and you'll end up a blob spread across the castle floor beneath and your baby will be wearing black. Just one other hazard here. Air genies appear and attempt to blow you off the platform with their buzzard breath. Nasty.

Step two is where the real Dragon's Lair play gets going. In the Skull Hallway you make your way along nervously whilst nasties leap out of the shadows and try and squeeze the life out of you. Stab the fire button and drag the stick in the right direction to make Dirk flash his blade and destroy them. After this, there's a bit of rope swinging to come and several other perils including a rooftop chase and the deadly chequer board, which is really mean.

If you manage to get through these seven sections (you'll need a long holiday to do it) you're rewarded with the final confrontation with the smoke-puffing dragon. Graphically, this is the best section and probably one of the easiest since you only need to slip past old Scorch Breath to get to the sword - and claim your beloved's heart, blubber, blubber.

So is it just like the original? Well not really, the graphics are a bit of a disappointment. The cartoon detail isn't there - you can get better examples around. Particularly sad is the absence of any real expression in Dirk's face which made the arcade game such fun. The way his face widened in horror before he was plastered all over a wall was great.

Then there's the interminable wait every time Dirk's body reassembles after a slight mishap. That really slows things down. Then there's the lack of good sound or even speech and some really dreadful music.

These shortcomings are a shame because Dragon's Lair could have been absolutely brilliant on the C64. The people who programmed it just took on more than they could chew.

One nice feature about the game is its unique loading technique. It actually loads the next section whilst you are playing and the first section is always in memory so that you don't have to wait to start again. Very clever - I hope it catches on.

Dragon's Lair is not a disastrous conversion by any means, there's a good game in there that's difficult to ruin. I just hate to see a good opportunity go to waste.

Ferdy Hamilton

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