Dragon’s Lair was always one of those games that I heard so much about and would look at screenshots of with utter awe in my younger years, but that I never got around to actually playing. In fairness, it’s the case with a lot of coin-op classics, but there was something about Don Bluth’s adventure that just made it seem all the more distinct and unique – plus, it just so happened to look like an interactive cartoon, which was a pretty appealing point when I was kid.
Now, more than thirty years later, I’ve finally got the chance to not only play through the original Dragon’s Lair and its follow-up but also the sci-fi spin-off in Dragon’s Lair: Trilogy. Bringing all three of Don Bluth’s classic adventures to the Nintendo Switch in one neatly remastered package, it gives gamers the chance to either re-live their younger years of pummelling coins into a cabinet to see Dirk the Daring’s adventure through to its conclusion or, like myself, experience the journey for the very first time.
The name might be a little deceiving, because there aren’t actually three Dragon’s Lair games to be found in Dragon’s Lair: Trilogy – whilst it does include Dirk the Daring’s escapades against the evil wizard Mordoc in Dragon’s Lair and Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, the third title is actually the sci-fi adventure Space Ace. Each game offers its own little story to tell, though they typically just involve defeating some vicious foe and rescuing a damsel in distress. Got to love the 80s, right?
The similarities don’t just stop at the narratives though, but also in how each game plays. You’re essentially tasked with completing a series of QTE events as a cartoon plays out in front of you – if you’re successful at hitting the actions on time (either the control stick in the right direction or the action button), you’ll see Dirk acrobatically make his way through a series of perils. If you miss though… well… he meets one of the many possible ends that are found throughout each adventure.
It’s a simple setup and one that most gamers would be able to get into with ease, especially since QTEs are pretty common place these days. Whilst they’re not always praised by gamers though, the QTEs featured in Dragon’s Lair: Trilogy feel a bit more charming. Seeing as the gameplay mechanic wasn’t so common back in the days of Dragon’s Lair (I think this was actually their first appearance in a game), it’s a lot easier to tolerate simply mashing buttons at the right time in order to progress. It’s surprisingly challenging too, with the window of opportunity to actually hit the buttons deceivingly short – it’s always clear what button you actually need to press, but believe me, doing it on time can be tough.
Thankfully, there are multiple difficulties on offer as well as the option to continue over and over until you succeed. Whilst Dragon’s Lair was guilty of eating quarters back in the arcade days, it’s certainly a lot more forgiving in allowing gamers to see the adventure through its conclusion here. Still, there’s nothing quite like nailing a perfect run through the game, so there’ll certainly be incentive to keep at the game just to learn how to hit those QTEs perfectly.
Of course, the games themselves only last around fifteen to thirty minutes each depending on how successful you are, so there’s not a whole lot to get through with them if you don’t decide to play each adventure again. There are a bunch of extras to check out too though, so it does feel like a substantial package – those who’re here for the games alone might find the experience is over quickly though.
I’d be remiss not to mention Dragon’s Lair: Trilogy’s visuals, which still manage to hold up well today. Don’t get me wrong, you can tell the animation has come straight from the 80s and there’s not the kind of detail you’d expect to see in more modern cartoons, but it has this undeniable charm to it all that managed to impress me throughout each of the three adventures. They’re creative and fun, whilst seeing all the ways that Dirk can perish brought a smile to my face on more than a few occasions. All of the visuals have been remastered to take advantage of modern technology too, so they’ll look a hell of a lot better than they did when you might’ve played the games originally.
Developer: Digital Leisure
Publisher: Digital Leisure
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC