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Dragon's Lair

For: iPhone   Also on: Android

A classic from a bygone era

Product: Dragon's Lair (iPhone) | Developer: Digital Leisure Inc | Publisher: EA Mobile | Format: iPhone | Genre: Adventure, Arcade, Retro | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 11.19.09
Dragon's Lair (iPhone) iPhone, thumbnail 1
The laser disc coin-op revolution of the eighties may have been short-lived, but it generated some truly iconic games.

Two of those came courtesy of former Disney artist Don Bluth, who created the action-packed Space Ace (which is also available on the App Store) and Dragon's Lair. The latter has now made its way to iPhone and iPod touch, and it's an amazingly good conversion.

For the uninitiated, playing Dragon's Lair is like taking the lead role in a cartoon. Interactivity is sacrificed in order to present gloriously smooth and expressive animation as you – the fearless, but often goofy knight Dirk the Daring – attempt to infiltrate Singe the dragon's castle in order to liberate Princess Daphne.

Interactive movie

As each scene plays out you have to look for visual cues that indicate some form of input on your part. For example, if an enemy looks like it's about to claw Dirk's eyes out, you need to push the action button in order to load up the next scene, which would involve him retaliating with his trusty sword.

Likewise, if Dirk finds himself in a collapsing room, you're expected to push on the virtual D-pad to assist his escape.

In the original it was left entirely up to the you to learn – usually by painfully protracted trial and error – where these interactive points existed. Thankfully with this version, things are less exasperating.

Save your pennies

For starters, you're given split-second prompts which show which button or direction to press. While this may seem like cheating at first it still requires lightning-fast reactions and a keen memory.

Playing Dragon's Lair in the arcade was an insanely expensive pastime, with plenty of coins being needed to get all the way to the end. Again, compromises have been made with this portable version as it offers infinite lives by default.

This certainly makes things easier but it also removes a significant portion of the challenge. If you want to extract value for money out of Dragon's Lair, it's advisable to alter the settings so you have a set number of tries.

The stuff of legend

For those of you that remember pumping countless coins into Dragon's Lair back in the day, this conversion will be as welcome as Princess Daphne's voluptuous embrace. Everything is perfect, from the pin-sharp graphics to the excellent sound and seamless loading transitions between each scene.

However, those of you that missed the laser disc craze will probably wonder what all the fuss is about; Dragon's Lair is hardly revolutionary in terms of gameplay. In fact, it's downright regressive, with interaction sorely limited.

That misses the point - this is a gaming classic that succinctly sums up an entire era, and if you give it the opportunity it will entrance you just as it did countless others back in the eighties.
Dragon's Lair
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 18 December 2009
While arguably an acquired taste, the awe-inspiring animated action boasted by Dragon's Lair is sure to charm you
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