“Ok, so let’s make something that’s just one big QTE.”
“Quantic Dream kind of did that already.”
“What if we add Kinect functionality to make it unique?”
“Heavy Rain had move support.”
“This is hard, shall we just crowbar Kinect into something from the early 80′s?”
“I love it. Lunch?”
Game: Dragon’s Lair
Developer: Digital Leisure
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Price: 800 Microsoft Points
First released in 1983 as a laserdisk title Dragon’s Lair is certainly eye catching. Visually it’s got a distinct 80′s Disney feel so it won’t surprise you to learn that Don Bluth was heavily involved. Even in 2012 it still looks decent and is almost worth checking out just to witness the beauty of the game, especially if you grew up with that era of animation. It’s a shame then that the menus haven’t tried to pay homage to that in some way. Instead they feel out of place and the character model of Dirk, the main character, used in the tutorials and on the continue screen is frankly offensive. It looks like something a novice animation student on 5 year old hardware might knock up and to have that wrapped around something so pretty is just plain wrong.
So Dirk. Dirk is a Knight, albeit a bit of a wimpy one, and he’s trying to save Princess Daphne, from the clutches of Singe the evil dragon. Singe has locked her away in a castle (not his own castle, the castle actually belongs to a wizard named Modroc, I think he’s just renting a room) and Dirk must rescue her by throwing himself around a living room. Oh wait, that’s you. You do that bit.
Although the game can be played with a controller and actually works a lot better with one, the main push here is the Kinect functionality. Aside from stepping left, right forwards and backwards, you’ve also got gestures for attacking and grabbing ropes. As icons flash on screen you need to perform the relevant gesture within the allocated time period or face the possibility of dying. Funnily enough dying is one of the better things you can do in Dragon’s Lair as it allows you watch the sometimes amusing death sequences, each specifically scripted for the environment you’re currently in. For the most part the controls are fine but it did seem to have trouble registering the gestures for stepping forwards and backwards. In the final scene you gain access to two new commands, but only after you’ve been pulled out of the game to go through the tutorial for them. A tutorial which is considerably longer than the time you spend using them in game. If that all sounds a bit much then don’t panic, you don’t actually have to play at all. If you want, you can just watch a perfect playthrough of the game through the menu…
A complete play through can be done in around 15 minutes if you’re rubbish and the only re-playability comes from the fact that each run starts in a different part of the castle, you’ll still play through all of the same rooms, but in a different order. Turning the difficulty up to Hard removes the luxury of unlimited re-spawns and replaces them with five lives and unlimited continues, which seems pointless, and it gives you slightly less time to perform gestures. You can also wrap an arcade cabinet fascia around the screen to give it that “classic” feel, but doing so moves the QTE part of the HUD off screen so you’ll spend the entirety of that playthrough unable to actually watch your progress through the castle. There is some fun to be had by turning off the QTE prompts altogether and playing just by using your instincts, it works well for directional movement, but less so for combat.
It is mildy fun, but there is just so little content here that 800 Microsoft Points is pretty insulting. Dragon’s Lair really is beautiful, but that’s not enough to save the game. Unless you have extremely fond memories of the original, I’d steer well clear of this. If you’re looking to spend some Microsoft Points on an Arcade Kinect title, buy Happy Action Theatre instead.