This 8-bit interpretation of the much-loved laserdisc arcade game was developed and published by Software Projects in 1986 and it is an exercise in frustration from start to finish.
Dragon’s Lair is actually a conversion of a Coleco Adam game that was published at the tail end of 1984. Software Projects acquired the license to convert it to home systems in the UK and made two games out of it.
While the Commodore 64 version of Dragon’s Lair is obviously much-loved by some people it has to be said that the game is archaic and unforgiving and the love this game gets is mostly from a position of nostalgia, rather than admiration of a great game design.
Dragon’s Lair consists of nine different stages that try to mirror the feel of the arcade game. In the first stage Dirk the Daring must jump onto a falling platform then avoid being blown off it by ghostly heads. In the second stage Dirk must survive bouncing skulls and skeletal grabbing hands in a hallway of many doors. The third stage sees Dirk swinging on ropes along a burning pathway. Part four is another dodge and hack stage where Dirk must avoid death in a display room. Stage five is an isometric platform game with patrolling monsters. Part six is a battle with large snakes in a green dungeon. Part seven is another falling platform with blowing ghosts, just like the first stage but with slightly different colours. Part eight is a battle with the dark knight on a chequerboard floor, where Dirk must avoid his electric bolts and get close enough to hit him multiple times with his sword. And the ninth and final part is a confrontation with Singe the dragon in a deadly game of dodge-the-fireball.
In the majority of the stages the aim is to time it right and hit the correct sequence of moves to either dodge meanies or hit them with your sword. In the rope-swinging section it’s a case of timing your jumps correctly. In the isometric platform stage you have to get your jumps right and hit the monsters with your sword – and move quickly because the platforms are disappearing behind you. The game is basically a collection of extremely difficult minigames that have little room for error, and every time you mess up and lose a life there’s an intermission screen showing Dirk reduced to bones then resurrected again – just like in the arcade game.
If you know what you’re doing (and maybe use quicksaves) then you can blitz through Dragon’s Lair in less than twenty minutes, although most people will probably give up playing after the first stage. A much better sequel to this, called Escape From Singe’s Castle, was released by Software Projects in 1987.