Dragon’s Lair Trilogy Review

Sometimes, things are better left in the past, and Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is a prime example of that. First and foremost, the title of this compilation doesn’t really make much sense; implying that you’re getting three games of the same series, when in actual fact, you aren’t. Here, you’re getting Dragon’s Lair, Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, and Space Ace. That being said, all three of these games function in the exact same way, they’re all plucked from the early 80s/90s, and they all come with individual extras that don’t quite feel all that necessary.

These extras tend to revolve around the likes of videos that showcase playthroughs, some art, and so forth. Those that are interested in the history of each title may pull some value here, but between the low-quality presentation and the dull structure of each clip, I struggled to become too invested. Nevertheless, it’s hard to scoff at these additions, if indeed they come across as padding. Now to the main event. The game welcomes you in to a clean and concise menu, in which you’re able to select your desired game to dive into.

Each title allows you to adjust a few options before you play; cabinet art, amount of lives, hint toggles, the works. You’re also able (depending on the title) to alter the difficulty of play, and, the version of play. For instance, when playing Dragon’s Lair, you can choose to play via either easy or hard, and, via the arcade version or the home version. The differences between each difficulty usually consists of how many moves you will need to make from start to finish, and how swift your reaction time will need to be when moving.

Naturally, these sorts of options vary title to title, but the crux of play remains the same regardless. Irrespective as to which game you choose to play, they don’t tend to last longer than ten minutes per-whack on a flawless run. This means that, taking the compilation’s lack of replay value into account, you’re likely going to witness much of what the package has to offer within the space of an hour, and even that’s being fairly generous. With that in mind, if you’re here for easy achievements, you’re in luck; most will be yours in a single session.

With the fundamentals out of the way, what sort of experience do these games entail? Well, they’re all QTE (Quick Time Event) based. The sum of the gameplay’s depth amounts to simply pressing a button at the right time to elicit the correct outcome throughout each scene and scenario. That’s that. Drawing back to my point about somethings being better left in the past, that phrase couldn’t be any more true in this case here. The Dragon’s Lair Trilogy just feels absolutely pointless and completely flat in this current age of gaming.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re seeking a nostalgic hit, or, you want to check out a historic moment in arcade gaming, you’re likely to be somewhat satisfied with what’s on offer. However, even then, it’s hard to respect the package for what it is due to how dated and out of place it comes across. Whilst QTE-central games were fascinating back in the day, we’ve come a long, long way since then. In fact, we’re just this gen finally starting to shake off the need for QTE functionality following a massive overuse of the concept. It’s tiring.

To have not one, not two, but three games (despite their short length) focusing on this mechanic alone, it all serves as a stark reminder as to why evolution and innovation in gaming is so important. Now, I cant be too hard on this score, because let’s face it, it’s unfair to criticize any of these games for merely relaying a framework that worked well thirty years ago, but that’s exactly where they should have stayed, in the past. Playing these games in 2019 just feels needless, senseless, frustrating, and to a degree, fairly boring.

Whatever the case, each game arrives with a light story that tends to include the likes of saving a damsel-in-distress; a concept popular of its time. In Dragon’s Lair, you play a valiant knight that’s out to save a princess from the claws of an evil dragon. In Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp, you’ll follow a similar story structure, but with the addition of a posh time machine. Finally, in Space Ace, you take on the role of space hero Dexter, who sets off to save his female companion from the clutches of the evil and nefarious Commander Borf.

When all is said and done, each title offers a relatively similar affair. The gameplay itself, across each of the three games, remains totally identical. Each game serves itself as running cartoon that you’re able to interact with. They’re all broken down into several scenes, and you’ll need to constantly interact with each scene in order to make progress. To do this, you’ll be utilizing the D-Pad and the A button. The D-Pad will be your directional input, whereas the A button is what you’ll use to utilize an attack, or indeed, a defensive move.

You’re always given more than enough time to react to each scenario within, and the game attempts to give you the insight that’s needed to utilize the correct command. I say attempt quite loosely, because there are times in which the interface just doesn’t blend very well with the action. The small aforementioned interface sits at the lower of the screen, and regularly tells you whether you need to press up, down, left, right, or attack, moments before you need to key in the specific command. The problem? It can get lost in transition.

Several times I found myself keying in the wrong command simply because I couldn’t see the interface through it blending with the colors of the cartoon. I cant quite understand why the developer chose to go with yellow-colored prompts, when a fair portion of the action takes place among a cartoon that relays similar colors. How am I expected to realistically see that I need to press left, when the prompt is too blended with a fiery cartoon animation? It’s not a game breaker by any means, but it regularly takes your attention off the cartoon itself.

Regardless, that’s how the games play out. You have no direct control over any character, and instead, must simply guide them on their path by making the correct QTE choice, at the correct time. Should you fail, you’ll be played an animation that typically sees your lead role being comically killed before you’re plopped back at the beginning of the scene, ready to go again. Should you succeed, you’ll be shoehorned to the next scene, and rinse and repeat until you hit the endgame all but a handful of minutes later. There’s some depth, mind.

You’ll often find that you can make multiple choices, or even avoid choices to take a different choice moments later. This allows you to take varying paths towards the story’s end, but even so, most scenes are fairly similar to one another, and all routes lead to the same place regardless. Essentially, you have no influence as to how each story unfolds. You’re just sat in the midst of short bouts of animated cutscenes, with QTEs connecting each scene. The game makes a habit of repeating scenes, and even mirroring scenes too.

What I mean by that is that you’ll oftentimes come up against the same scene twice, but inverted. These moments play out exactly the same as the first time you encountered them, but with perfectly mirrored control inputs. Yes, it comes across quite cheap, but back in the 80s, I assume this was gold. There’s no real way that you can fail at the game. You’re given infinite continues and enough lives to make it through each bout on a single run. I was able to completely nuke all of the games in just under an hour, with little incentive to return.

I’ll credit the game for its sharp visual presentation. Each an every scene remains faithful, well detailed, and distinct. There’s a lot of comedy value to be had here; mostly through the sheer number of wacky ways that you can meet an untimely demise. Sadly, I cant quite credit the game for its audio. I found it to be quite sloppy and unrefined, which did tend to break what little immersion the game relayed. When all is said and done, whilst it doesn’t necessarily get that much wrong, it’s far too dated, far too boring, and frequently frustrating.

Conclusion

Sometimes, things are better left in the past, and Dragon’s Lair Trilogy is a prime example of that. The whole ordeal is far too dated, and comes with frustrations that are born through a few poor design choices and shoddy transitions. Whilst the animation on show is commendable even today, there’s no shaking the fact that this compilation comes across as totally unnecessary and utterly boring.

This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Artwork is decent, even by today's standards.
Bad
  • Not much replay value present.
  • Very, very short experience overall.
  • Some poor design choices throughout.
  • Feels completely out of place.
4
Poor
Gameplay - 4
Graphics - 7
Audio - 4
Longevity - 1
Written by
I've been playing games for as long as I can care to remember. Here at Xbox Tavern, I write news, reviews, previews and more. I'm a long time Final Fantasy fan, I can camp like you've never seen before in most FPS, and if I'm on a racing game, I tend to purposely trade paint. Feel free to add me - Gamertag: Kaloudz

1 Comment

  1. Use to play this on sega cd back in the day. Bought it after playing Willy Beamish on that shit. Dragons Lair is one of those games that should just stay in the past.

    Reply

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