Reviewed: November 10, 2010
Released: November 2, 2010
App Store Price: $4.99
This is my fifth time reviewing Dragonís Lair on just as many systems, which makes it surprisingly hard to keep coming up with fresh material, especially for a game that made its first appearance in 1983. This time our dragon-slaying hero makes his way to the iPad for his HD mobile debut and I have to admit, the results are most impressive and the game is still just as fun as it was in 1983.|
As an interactive movie, Dragonís Lair HD is right at home on the iPad, with stunning audio and visuals that look like your favorite Disney movie come to life. Controls are simple and configurable to some extent. You only have five possible actions; up, down, left, right, and swing the sword. Optionally, the game can prompt your next action with flashes of light overlaid on the colorful background art. These visual cues only allow for about one second of error so donít plan on winning by reflexes. Youíll need to memorize several patterns so expect to die a few times during your quest to save the princess.
The gameplay is as basic as it gets. You control Dirk, the hero, through dozens of animated action scenes. At critical points in the action you are given a small window of opportunity to interact with the game by tapping with the virtual D-pad or swinging your sword with the on-screen button. The action scenes are randomized each time you start a new game, so you never know which one is coming next, and each scene is also duplicated with a mirror image of itself, thus doubling the game's length. If you manage to make it through all the various challenges you will reach the Dragon's Lair and the gorgeous (at least until she speaks) Princess Daphne. You then get to participate in one of the most creative animated battle scenes in 80ís video game history.
My major complaint with every iteration of Dragonís Lair that has come before this has always been about disc access speeds and stuttering video and sound. With all 554mb of the movie stored digitally on your iPad access times are non-existent making this the most fluid and seamless presentation of the game EVER! Even those annoying clipped-off ends to some action sequences have been fixed.
Since the goal is no longer about taking all the tokens out of your pocket, Dragonís Lair HD offers infinite lives (or 3 or 5 if you want to stay true to the arcade), so you can easily beat the game in one sitting without having to start from the beginning after you die. You can also choose between the more casual Home version and the more intense Arcade mode, each with their own leaderboard to keep track of your score. Improving your score is now the only real reason to keep playing the game after you win it Ė that and showing off to your friends.
Don Bluth is a masterful animator and you can really tell that a lot of time and care went into the creation of this game. The colors are rich and vibrant and the characters are delightful. Even the scarier creatures have a humorous side that makes this game great for kids of all ages, and it has never looked better than it does on the iPad. The sounds and music are better than ever. The booming voice of the narrator gets you pumped up during the opening movie. Dirk doesn't say much other than a few girlish shrieks during some encounters, and the shrill seductive voice of the princess is one you won't soon forget.
Iíve played the HD and the BD versions of these on my TV but they pale in comparison to the crisp, clear, colorful visuals and seamless fast access on the iPad. Dragonís Lair HD is truly a work of art and a great memorial to a game that has become a timeless classic. Adults and kids alike wonít be able to resist the mesmerizing visuals and the memorizing gameplay of Dragon's Lair HD and this is the best version to date.