reviews\ Dec 4, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair - PC - Review

20 years after he first hit the arcades, Dirk the Daring is back again in Dragon’s Lair 3D.  This game differs fundamentally from the Dragon’s Lair of old.  Whereas the original was more of an interactive cartoon than an actual game, Dragon’s Lair 3D is a next-generation platforming adventure that gives you full control of Dirk.  The game does an excellent job of retaining the style and feel of the original Dragon’s Lair.  The game does have its problems, though, namely nasty cameras and stiff controls.  However, fans of the original should get a kick out of this piece of nostalgia.

Not a sequel, Dragon’s Lair 3D is more of a remake with some new puzzles and enemies.  The story is the same:  You play as Dirk, a knight who must rescue Princess Daphne (a damsel in distress) from the evil wizard Mordroc and Singe the Dragon.  Along the way you’ll battle enemies like evil knights, Giddy Goons and Firedrakes and solve difficult puzzles.

The game does a great job of recreating the style of the original.  Several puzzles have been accurately recreated, like the Black Knight’s electrical floor section.  The puzzles are pretty difficult but not frustratingly so.  However, one thing that is frustrating is the controls.  Dirk handles pretty stiffly, and moves very slow.  The game requires a good amount of precise platform jumping, which can be maddening considering Dirk’s inaccurate jumps.  The combat system consists of simply whacking away at your enemies until they die, which can be a bit mundane.  While you can target and strafe your enemies, even this can seem very cumbersome and unnatural in the heat of battle.  Another problem is the automatic camera.  It constantly gets caught up on walls and in very inopportune locations.  While there is a manual control option (you can use a mouse), it’s kind of a pain when you are playing with a game pad.

The graphics are great.  Dragonstone did a great job of recapturing the cartoon feel of the original through cel-shaded graphics.  The characters look excellent and the animations are pretty nice.  The game also sports some pretty nice lighting effects, like magic spells and torches.  The environments are clean, but they lack the detail present in the cel-shaded characters.

The sound is pretty good.  The soundtrack consists of sweeping orchestral pieces, and the sound effects are straight out of a Don Bluth cartoon.  The voices are also great.  While Dirk’s vocabulary is fairly limited, he does omit the occasional battle cry.  When he gets hit he’ll make a monkey-like shriek or a wailing scream.  The other voices are very well done; Princess Daphne has a real ditzy damsel-in-distress quality as she gives you various hints on your way.

Dragon’s Lair 3D manages to be a pretty decent platformer, albeit a flawed one.  The graphics and style are remarkably accurate to the original, and the puzzles are great.  The rest of the gameplay is pretty dull, the camera angles are bad, and the painful controls are likely to turn some gamers away.  However, anyone who wants to revisit their old buddy Dirk should check out Dragon’s Lair 3D, even if solely for nostalgic purposes.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.5
The gameplay is pretty simplistic, but the puzzles are pretty tough and do a good job of retaining the feel from the original Dragon’s Lair.  The controls are pretty problematic; the game requires a lot of accurate platform jumping that is tough to accomplish due to inaccurate movement.


Graphics: 8.0
The cel-shaded graphics recapture the essence of the original game very nicely.  The animations are well done as the characters move like a cartoon.  If only the environments sported the same attention to detail as the characters.


Sound: 8.5
The music is appropriately orchestral and the sound effects are pretty nice and cartoony.  The voice acting is also well done.


Difficulty: Hard


Concept: 8.0
The game is extremely true to the original arcade game; the only fundamental difference is that you now have full control over Dirk.  Otherwise, the game’s feel and style perfectly mirror the original.


Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 7.5
Dragon’s Lair 3D is a fun title that stays very true to its roots.  The challenging puzzles and great graphics will entice old-school fans, although the poor controls and somewhat simplistic gameplay will likely turn anyone else away. 


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