The oft-released Dragon's Lair seems such a staple of video game history that it may well seem that anything negative said about it is a knock against the entire industry, but unfortunately it must be said; while the game may have pioneered new technology and a new way to mesh interactivity into gaming, it simply doesn't transcend to the lofty plateau of being called a classic. Casablanca can be viewed next to any modern day Academy Awards winner and still shine, but in this day and age of twitch gaming, graphical prowess and console pushing engines, Dragon's Lair is a painful experience that only retro-gamers and older fans will likely appreciate in its new high definition outing.
We've all seen this "story" a million times over; girl is held captive, guy wants girl, guy goes to the end of the earth to save her, guy expects compensation. Unfortunately, that's being awfully kind to Dragon's Lair's story. Really it's just; guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed, guy wants girl, guy must navigate pitfall after pitfall to get her. In either case, while Jungle Hunt's four levels of rescuing felt meaty 20 years ago, so too must have been Dragon's Lair quest. Unfortunately, it just doesn't hold up anymore. The game is basically just a twitch puzzler in which you find your main character Dirk in dire peril (is there any other kind) over and over and you must chose the proper button press (yes, just one) that will allow him to avoid trouble and continue on to the next dire peril. There are always five button options (up, down, left, right and sword) and they generally follow the on-screen action pretty closely.
Running through the entire game takes roughly 30 minutes the first time through and by then you've probably witnessed every alternate death sequence there is stemming from improper button presses. Too many, the meat (and draw) of this game will be pure nostalgia or curiosity. Well, if you're feeling nostalgic, you'll love how wonderful Dragon's Lair finally looks and plays. I can't imagine it looking any better than it does in 1080p and playing it off a Blu-ray disk makes the branching seamless - no more laserdisc delays here. Unfortunately, those who are only curious to see what the whole Dragon's Lair hoopla is all about will undoubtedly be somewhat disappointed. Not so much because it's an older game with retro-gameplay and very little to do, but simply because there really isn't much to Dragon's Lair's charm and the game can be incredibly annoying to play, especially on the PS3 where there appears to be some broken settings that move the scenes forward even if you fail. The end-result feels like being caught in a high-powered blender. No sooner are you aware that you have to input a command that you find yourself dying and then thrown into a completely new puzzle, where you'll most likely die again. I'm not sure if stand-alone players have this issue, but the "Home" branching on the PS3 seems very suspect.
Speaking of options, this Blu-ray version has five settings that you can adjust before playing through the game. Unfortunately, you'll be hard pressed to ever figure out what each does and when you start toggling them, some my very well appear to do nothing at all. These options allow you to set your number of lives, see on-screen score information (when it works), show on-screen prompts for command inputs, and a Home/Arcade option that "may" involve audio clues (it'd be nice to have had some documentation with the game on these!). Luckily, if playing the game frustrates you too much, you can simply choose to watch the entire thing as a movie (which will also show all death animations) and just enjoy it for what it is; a well animated and drawn cartoon that has a sense of humor and humanity all at once.
Luckily for fans of Dragon's Lair, the disc's worth may very well lie in its extras. Not only do you get a wonderful video commentary track with the three creators (while the entire 19 minute feature is played), but there are some really good version comparisons and historical pieces/interviews included that will really help justify the purchase to existing fans.
Unfortunately, if you're not already a fan of Dirk and Daphne, you may as well steer clear of this title. For the hefty price tag associated with it, there really isn't enough to Dragon's Lair in our day and age to warrant buying it (or even renting it for that matter). For those however, who fondly remember paying 50 cents to play it in arcades, you may want to see what modern technology can accomplish with a pioneering endeavor like Dragon's Lair; not only has it never looked better, but the branching is seamless and the extras a probably worth their weight in gold. A very mixed review depending on your age and experience with Dirk, but in any event, I'm sure we'll see him and Daphne yet again on the next generation's consoles.