Dragon Skulle is the fourth and final game in the Sir Arthur Pendragon series, from legendary publisher Ultimate Play The Game. It was first released in 1985 and actually received lukewarm reviews in much of the press at the time.
The negativity mostly stemmed from the fact that Dragon Skulle again used the same game engine as the previous three games, and by that point (they argued) it had become a bit long in the tooth. That said: with the benefit of hindsight I think the critics were wrong and that Dragon Skulle is arguably the best of the Sir Arthur games. Don’t get me wrong: these are incredibly archaic and difficult games to play now – compared to modern games – but they do have a charm and a level of challenge to them that still makes them worthwhile.
In this final game Sir Arthur is trapped on an island and must find a way to escape. Same as before: if you press a key it cycles through Arthur‘s abilities, and if you press the joystick button it then actions whatever ability is chosen. This time Arthur can dig (when he gets a shovel), fire a magic bolt, jump, and also use a magic cloak to protect himself inside rooms that are deadly (again: when the cloak’s acquired). These actions are all represented by icons at the top of the screen and a pointing finger shows what’s currently selected.
The gameplay emphasis is on exploration, collecting items, and using them at the right time. When you study this game it is essentially broken down into four distinct sections: explore the caves; collect a magic droplet to open the next skull door; beat the dragon boss; then shoot enough enemies across the river to open the bridge to the next set of caves. Rinse and repeat. I think four times.
There’s one section in Dragon Skulle – where you have to catch a white drop of water falling from the ceiling – that is excruciatingly random and difficult. It’s difficult because if you catch a drop of water that isn’t white, it will damage your health. And you need to catch the droplet to open the next skull door, so it’s not like you can skip it. Getting that magical white droplet can be a right royal pain in the arse. If you can figure out how to do it easily, you’ll plough through this game in no time. Otherwise: it’s a serious bottleneck…
One final thing: there’s a high score indicator this time, which is new to the Sir Arthur Pendragon series. Better late than never I guess. It does at least give some incentive to play Dragon Skulle more than once. 🙂