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.

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.

Dragon's Lair logo Amiga Format Gold


First there was the laser disk game which spawned an arcade revolution; then there was the ST adaptation which created Atari revulsion. Now the Amiga version has reared its green fire-breathing head. Computer animation was never intended to be easy - otherwise everyone would be doing it - and Dragon's Lair offers the Amiga owner a costly but stunning insight into the fiendishly evil world of colourful Dragons and misshapen maidens.


What d'you mean you never played the arcade game? OK, here's the plot: That courageous and flat-footed hero, Dirk the Daring, takes to the Dragon's Lair like a duck to the roasting, skewer to rescue the sullen Princess Daphne. Given that he's about to confront fire-breathing Dragons and a castle in such an appalling state of repair that it crumbles under every footstep, you can hardly blame him that he looks decidedly unhappy.

The game starts with Dirk venturing off to the castle and marching blindly over a bridge riddled with holes which don't appear until he falls through them. Now dedicated Dirk is nothing if not strong. He clings onto the bridge with all his might, kicking at the purple tentacle monster about to wrap its loving arms around his neck.

This is your first obstacle and it's only by pulling out the sword at the right moment and moving up on the joystick that you progress any further. If you haven't played Dragon's Lair before then you're going to spend some time wondering how on earth you get any further but perseverance usually brings repeated death followed by eventual success - a bit like eating eggs!

After a bout of poisoning, Dirk enters a room populated by some friends of Singe the Dragon, who just happened to pop over to indulge in a bit of evening maiden-eating. But these chaps aren't too fussy and Dirk will do just as well. Being lovingly strangled to death just about bursts every blood vessel in his face - out pops his tongue and up pops the Remaining Lives message.

This is where your stamina is taxed pretty much to the limit. Other screens which follow are likely to take hours of play to master, especially the stairwall which looks damned near impossible. With only a single sheet as a manual you must go back again and again if you're going to resolve each obstacle. Once you've managed to overcome them all then devilish Dirk is in for a treat from the delectable Daphne.


With bottle of poison scattered around, weird blue-rinsed tentacles hanging across the moat and a whole army of crazy bats, the only sensible way to defeat them is to pull out Dirk's trusty sword. This might be okay but it doesn't tend to have too much effect if it's not drawn at precisely the right moment.

By pressing the fire button you're instructing Dirk to draw the sword, and you must then trust to his own aim. This is the way most of the scenes work. You don't have any command over Dirk until specific points when you're required to perform the right moves with the joystick. For example, when you wander into a room you cannot steer Dirk around except along a few predefined paths, and you can't pull out the sword until the Dragon gets close to you.

As you progress through a room, inanimate objects - usually doors - begin to flash. By heading towards these you can beat a path to the next level. However, if you see something flashing on one of the creatures then avoid it like the plague - it's a sign of instant death.

With only three lives you don't get much of a chance to negotiate with the monsters. Despite the fact that each level only requires a few simple movements of the joystick at the correct time, it's not an easy task discovering which moves to make and when. However, seasoned Lair players should find a welcome similarity to the original arcade game.


Although there's no ST version of Dragon's Lair planned, the game has already made an appearance on the Atari.
Early last year, Microdeal arranged a scheme whereby owners of a special video disc player could buy the Dragon's Lair disc and control the game from your ST. The laser disc player needed its own TV screen, and the ST connected to the player. At strategic points in the action the motion would stop and your ST's screen would ask you to press a key to left or right, draw your sword, and so on. Then Dirk would carry on - hardly gripping interactive stuff.


The animation is spell-binding. It's the sort of thing taht programmers would gaze at in awe and Granny Gertie says "I saw this on TV yesterday afternoon." The characters are animated so smoothly and with accurately moving limbs that you won't know you're not watching a conventional cartoon.
The game comes on six disks and claims to incorporate, in compacted form, a massive 130 Mb of brilliant action.
Monsters look great. Singe isn't exactly the most frightening Dragon you'll ever meet but since you don't get to see too many of the fellows whilst you're wandering around the Sainsbury's battlefield you'll probably find him an intriguing foe. With an extraordinary resemblance to the original arcade game you'll quickly find that it's a far cheaper way of locating the desirable Princess Daphne.

Sound is fairly extensive as well. With atmospheric background effects and a range of squeals and screams as duelling Dirk meets his end, it's the sort of thing which Mary Whitehouse would spend a lifetime denouncing.


The game is not exactly well-documented but that's largely because once you've learnt how to overcome a problem then it will never be a problem again. For example, in the poison bottle room, all you need to do is hold the joystick to the right as soon as you enter and you'll magically get through to the next room without any hassle at all.

Considering that the game is supplied on six disks, the number of disk swaps is not too bad. The game is arranged with about fifteen seconds of action followed by twenty seconds of disk access to load the next level. This can become tedious and certainly tends to reduce the addictive quality, but considering the amazing graphical animation it's hardly surprising.

Dragon's Lair is far ahead of its time and it's definitely like nothing else you've seen on the Amiga. It's the best argument yet for going out and buy the memory upgrade you need.

Dragon's Lair logo

Price: £44.95

Suspend your disbelief. These really are screenshots from an Amiga game. I think it is fair to say no-one thought this could be done, but Readysoft have come up with a faithful translation of the laserdisc arcade game. True, a few sections of the original have fallen by the wayside but by the large - and certainly where it counts - Dragon's Lair does the business.

Starting out on the drawbridge, Dirk the Daring sets out to enter the castle to rescue Daphne, the girl from the Listerene advert. Dirk may not be the brightest of boys, but immediately we come to one of the most serious flaws of this game. Every time he tries to cross the drawbridge he falls down the hole in the middle. Your participation inDragon's Lair is limited to the occasional move on the joystick. There are not many clues from the game to help you along and there is no feeling at all of real participation. That is the way it goes, right throughout the game. So you are left like one of Pavlov's Dogs to fumble your way through the beautiful animation by trial and error.

I said it was a faithful translation and that applies to the awful gameplay. If the gaming equivalent of one player snap even deserves the term. It also faithfully translates the enormous price, so before you fall in love with what you see, remember you need a Meg cartridge and £45. It is not worth it, not even for a brilliant interaction cartoon - for that is what this is. I found it nothing less than irritating and nothing more than pretty.

Some of the scenes will astonish you - the chessboard scene, for example, which actually involves some playing - but you can only be amazed once. Then, of course, there is the other big problem - six discs and back to the start every time. Dirk gets knobbled. Readysoft are in no way to blame for this, anymore than they are for Dragon's Lair' wooden gameplay. Compressing 130 megabytes of sound and graphics into any game is an amazing achievement. That is what Dragon's Lair is, but who wants to buy an amazing achievement. I would rather have a game if it is all the same to you.