Dragon's Lair logo

Ciaran Brennan risks all for the love of Princess Daphne.

THOSE of us who misspent the best part of the early eighties in our local arcade will have fond memories of Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair, the most spectacular laser disc driven coin-op ever to hit these shores. The gameplay wasn't up to much, but it was worth your while just to see the Disneyesque cartoon plot unfold.

An 8 bit interpretation of the concept followed in 1985, courtesy of Software Projects, but it has taken until now for a more accurate conversion to appear - thanks to Canadian company Readysoft, which has managed to harness the massive power of everybody's favourite 16 bit machine - albeit across six discs.

The plot follows the fortunes of a brave knight, Dirk the Daring, as he attempts to rescue his lady love, Princess Daphne, from the evil dragon Singe. Five joysticks or keyboard driven moves (left, right, up, down and fire) guide the brave swain through a series of movements which are fluid and entertaining, if a little limited.

THE effect on gameplay is highlighted in one scene where Dirk is steered through a full 10 seconds of animation, including examining the decor, killing one of the dragon's henchbeasts and escaping from the room - all by a single press of the fire button. The necessary movements never vary, so that the game ends up as nothing more than the learning of a strict sequence of key presses.

Hardened Dragon's Lair fans may be put off by the fact that this version also fails as an accurate conversion of the original coin-op, including only a fraction of the original's many scenes. For instance, where are the bouncing skulls, or the ghostly horsemen? Lack of memory is hardly an argument in this case - after all, is there any real difference between six discs and eight? Perhaps so. The original game offered 800 decision points or nodes. Emulating this in ram would take megabytes.

The game must always be resumed from the very first disc if your three lives have run out. This becomes especially annoying at the later stages where the puzzles become slightly more difficult and the necessity of having to play through the by-now pedestrian first levels is nothing more than a chore.

Hard disc users won't face this problem, but only the rare Comspec had drives are catered for. The program access the hardware directly, so the programmers contacted all the hard disc manufacturers for the details they needed to write drivers. Only Comspec came up with the goods so only Comspec products are supported.

Since no one sells suitable drives in the UK it is unlikely that anyone will use this feature. I know that I would not be prepared to devote five megabytes of disc space to one game, even if it did work.

When you are only shelling out a couple of quid and only playing the game for a few minutes a game like this works. At home where you want to play for many hours the appeal starts to pall.
As a demo it succeeds in showing us what we already know - the Amiga is really capable of great things. Hopefully it will inspire budding programmers to animated heights that they never dreamed possible.

I enjoyed playing it at first, but tired when I had mastered all the moves. Dragon's Lair is a program your best friend should buy. Go round to his house. Play it, enjoy it but save your money.
I may have tired of playing it now, but when you first enter a new room the thrill of seeing a load of new graphics, the fear of impending death and a very real feeling of involvement made the action electric.
If you pass it by you will be missing out, but in the long run the expense is hard to justify.

One day, when people begin to write games specifically for the Amiga we may yet see one which combines the breathtaking presentation of Dragon's Lair with the playability and invention of something like The Sentinel or Head Over Heels. I can't wait.

DRAGON'S HISTORY
CINEMATRONICS is usually credited with bringing the world's first laser disc game to the arcades. But the company was only a marketing front. The real work was done by South Californian Starcom under the auspices of ex-Disney animator Don Bluth.
After six years of coding and drawing Dragon's Lair was launched at the Chicago arcade show in the spring of 1983. For a game which started in 1977, it is remarkably modern. Now it is ready to take on the Amiga.