Dragon's Lair (Nintendo DS) Review

By Sam Turner 16.12.2010 5

Review for Dragon

Some games just remind me of Rapunzel. Yes, Rapunzel, that folically-enhanced Jezebel who, locked in her tower, had nothing better to do than grow her hair in hope that a passing stranger feels like having a yank. Strangely aloof yet romantic, the tale of one women’s virtue to be rescued by beauty and physical triumph weirdly evokes so many resemblances to many games I have played. It reminds me of those times when long moments of trying finally reveals reward, and when - for whatever reason - you latch on to that base temptation to pull and poke that which sways in front of you, only for it to pay off with a surprising conclusion.

It is fairytale gaming, so consequently it doesn’t tend to happen that often. You’re more likely to stumble into a Goldilocks situation, finding a game that is ‘just right’, than be sufficiently rewarded for persevering with a vertical struggle. Dragon’s Lair screams virtue and reward, but really only offers a haggard impatient memory of something that used to look so pretty.

Now, Dragon’s Lair has been repackaged so many times since its original 1983 release that it is easy to get carried away with the legend of the game. It’s a game that looks so startlingly brilliant, crisp and overt that even today if you were to speak of its wonders to those who knew not, they would be captivated.

To the unwashed, Dragon’s Lair is conceptually a do-it-yourself cartoon animation created by Disney auteur Don Bluth, whose skill with a pen and pencil could only be matched by the grandeur of the tales he bought to life. It is arguably the biggest joy of Dragon’s Lair to feel like a manipulator of such a work of art, for that is entirely what the game consists of. Drawn and animated to within an inch of brilliance, the screen of the DSi screams with bright, vibrant personality as you guide Dirk the Daring in his quest to rescue Princess Daphne from Singe the Dragon. Essentially, each scene is a two way street; you either press the right button, that will trigger the next frame of animation and thus lead to further progress, or it’ll send you to your death. It’s all one big interactive FMV, but equally one that looks and plays out naturally and makes you feel like you’re the master of your own cartoon. It doesn’t take long to figure out you’d be more creative with an Etch-a-Sketch.

Screenshot for Dragon's Lair on Nintendo DS

For a game made in the early Eighties, of course, you would expect some limitations to what you can really do. The problem is that no matter how well presented the game is or how joyous an occasion looks, the effort to play the game reaps little reward. Dragon’s Lair is a test of your reflexes as much as it is a test of your memory and timing, as each area of the game is an arena of trial and error. To die is just to realise that at that moment that the ‘up’ button is not the one to press at that time, so on the next attempt you’ll just have to try something new. Sometimes the logic is simple as ‘there’s a fire on the right, so move to left’, but at other points it is a six button gamble to find the right one.

It is not really a frustrating process once you learn the timings and the right keys. It helps also that dying has its own virtues, as Mr Bluth has somehow managed to squeeze more life into Dirk’s last moments than throughout most of the rest of the game. However, what starts and feels like an experimental process suddenly turns to a game of Simon Says, and making your way through each stage is a progression of repetition.

Dragon’s Lair is still a captivating game and one that everyone should experience just for its visual style. Only pen and pencil could evoke such tactile animations that really do emulate movement well. Unfortunately, though, this does make it such a stern disappointment that the gaming mechanics feel tacked on to a title that, even at nearly three decades old, is still too pricey to buy on the DSi store.

Screenshot for Dragon's Lair on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 4 out of 10


Dragon’s Lair is the fairy tale story of a new generation, a story of adversity towards a sight of triumph. However, what started as a tale has grown into a legend, and this once addictive penny-eating bounty of visuals and originality has outweighed its own origins. Sadly it has become a hairy unkempt Rapunzel at the top of a very tall, very repetitive - though very colourful - tower.


Digital Leisure


Digital Leisure





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


Dragon's Lair has always been rubbish. I don't know why people think of the game so fondly. It only did well in the 80's because there was nothing else like it in the arcades and it was a curiosity. Back then we all thought it looked amazing compared to other arcades, so we had to have a go. But honestly it's just a laser disc cartoon that involves the odd button press. It's more of a tech demo for a long dead digital format than it is a game.

( Edited 17.12.2010 10:31 by Trepe )

it can only be enjoyed if your a fan of animation really, i wouldnt call it a real game seeing as it has more in common with a DVD menu than a game. But from an animation point of view its really great to see fluid animation compared to todays half arsed standards even if it is recycled. not many games out there you'll die on purpose just to see what amusing way he'll die Smilie

Theres some great games with more gameplay and great animation.
A Boy and his Blob, for example. Some of the best animated sprite work Ive seen.
Then, of course, theres Layton with pretty high quality cutscenes.

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

Sometimes the older games are just as fun. Maybe I'm dating myself, but I like the Dragon's Lair and still find it fun.

( Edited 17.12.2010 23:17 by Mandy )

Lots of old games are great. Just not all.

http://www.fanficmaker.com <-- Tells some truly terrible tales.
Last update; Mice,Plumbers,Animatronics and Airbenders. We also have the socials; Facebook & G+

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