More animation than you can shake a stick at!

Dragon's Lair 3: The Curse of Mordread logo

READYSOFT * £34.99 * 512k * Joystick/keyboard * Out now

Anyone who has experienced the previous Dragon's Lair games will no doubt be familiar with the story, which consists of the fairly standard nasty witch/wizard kidnaps beautiful princess/maiden, holds her random for no apparent reason and cackles evilly as the kingdom rallies round in panic-type tale.
But for those who aren't clued up, I'll tell you more - because, unusually, the story is a major part of the game in this particular instance.

Daphne (the princess type) found herself kidnapped by some warlock geezer named Mordroc - Lord only knows why, but there you go. Anyway, Dirk the Daring (that's you) sets off on a dangerous rescue mission. The reason? Daphne is your sweetheart and you're going to get married.

Well, Mordroc must have some reason for his purloinment of the princess, and it's unreasonable and rather native to believe that he would simply hand her back to Dirk without a peep..
Which of course he doesn't - in fact it is only Dirk's quick-witted cunning that enables him to divert the warlock's magic onto the man himself, allowing him to rescue his betrothed and sweep her back to the enchanted (surprise, surprise) forest where they resume a life of happiness together.

No-one seems to live in towns in these games, do they? But it isn't that easy. Mordroc had a sister, Mordread, and she's none too chuffed that her sibling has been killed. Black magic runs in the Mor family it seems, and Mordread swears to avenge the death of her brother by condemning Dirk and Princess Mrs Dirk to the Vortex of Eternity, where they will never grow old and never die. Hey, real punishment - we should introduce her to Walt Disney.

So the Vortex of Eternity it is then, and again it's up to Dirk to perform the suitably heroic deeds that will free him and the missus from his terrible fate.

The game is split into 20-odd levels, which are actually only single animated sequences, so packed with colour, detail and effects that it takes about half a dozen to fit them all in.
Dirk is faced with a problem in each sequence, related to the trouble conjured up by Mordread, which he must obviously solve in order to progress.

Having booted up the machine and loaded the game, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the brilliant animation of Don Bluth (last seen in Guy Spy, for the curious among you) that virtually leapt out of the screen at me. My God! This was going to be brilliant!
Or so I thought. As it transpires, the gamer is not in total control of Dirk in true arcade style - there are a limited number of moves he can make, and instead of initiating the action you must take note of what happens around you and respond to it.

Unfortunately, and quite unbelievably, your responses are limited not only in terms of movement but also in terms of the time at which they must be carried out.
Whereas pushing back on the joystick or keys would normally - obviously - move your character backwards, Dragon's Lair for some reason insists that your move is carried out at the exact time the programmers intended it, otherwise Dirk will simply not respond.

The obvious moves are not always the correct ones to make, and even if you do choose correctly, then unless it's timed just right you'll lose a life, and may quite reasonably think that you made an incorrect choice.
If this sounds laboured I apologise, but unless you have actually experienced the frustration of this as I have then it's difficult to understand just what how ridiculously unplayable the whole thing is, which is a real shame as the presentation is absolutely superb.

Dragon's Lair 3 resembles a high class running animation demo more than a game, but even as such is rendered close to useless because of the difficulty in accessing the later levels.
After being treated to the stunning level of detail, I am genuinely disappointed by this game as it offers nothing in the way of gameplay and is far too expensive to purchase just as an animation package.

If the playability came even remotely close to the presentation then Dragon's Lair 3 would be a worthy winner of a Gamer Gold - as it is, unless you desperately need to see some beautiful animation and have plenty of cash to spare, I just can't see any reason to buy it, which is sad.