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Dragon's Lair 1&2, Space Ace

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 19, 2000 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Recently, a company named Digital Leisure contacted me to review their newest set of dvd-based games. I was suprised to hear that these were not DVD-ROM games, but games that you could play on your DVD player (although some DVD players will not work with these titles, according to the boxes. "Dragon's Lair" is not compatible with Toshiba 2107/3107, "Lair 2" is not compatible with most Samsung and Aiwa players and "Space Ace" is not compatible with Toshiba 2109/3109(although my 3109 didn't seem to have a problem with it during the parts of the game I was able to get to) and Samsung and Aiwa players.) Also, there are DVD-rom versions of the game for DVD-rom players. Instantly I had questions and mixed thoughts about this new level of interactivity. How easily would the viewer be able to control the game with the remote? How quickly would the game respond?

Although there are certainly limitations to using the remotes for current DVD players as controllers for games like these, I was extremely pleased with the response time of the action I took with the remote. There is a small pause before the game takes the action you have chosen on these titles, but the pause is only a slight moment before the game goes onward. Before you start playing the game though, be sure that you read the manual to learn how the game itself works. Although the controls with the remote are pretty simple (on my Toshiba 3109, the enter button swings the character's sword, while the direction keys move the character), without knowing these facts, I didn't last too long.

Speaking of lasting long, I was suprised with how challenging the game was - if you don't think quickly enough and swing the sword or move in a direction, that's it for your character. Luckily, you have more than one life. Where I got the hang of the "Dragon's Lair" games after a little trying, "Space Ace" moved a little too fast for me. Maybe I'm not the best video game player, but I thought these games were pretty challenging - once you make a choice, there's no turning back. Not frustrating really, but not easy either.

Moving on from my expectations, I'll talk about the stories as well as the history behind these games. The "Dragon's Lair" series was a new wave of arcade-based technology that hit in the 1980's, where the game itself was on a laserdisc, and put the viewer into more of an interactive movie than the arcade games that players were used to at the time. All three involve the main character trying to get his girl back - in "Lair", it's Dirk the Daring who has to rescue the Princess Daphne and in Space Ace, it's Ace who has to come to the rescue of his girlfriend, Kimberly.

The animation for these games was done by feature animation director Don Bluth, who did marvelous work recently with "Anastasia". The animation quality of all of these efforts are excellent for their time and wonderfully, if you don't want to play the game, you are given the choice of just watching the entire game play out as a film. All of these films have been remastered and the results are very, very good: colors are vivid and rich, and there are no visible problems that I saw. The audio is clear and clean with no problems, but it isn't intense or agressive.

Although there aren't many extras, the ones that are included on each of these discs are very impressive. "Dragon's Lair 2" includes a preproduction version of the entire game - viewers can watch the entire rough cut, and aside from a few small marks, it's in good condition. "Dragon's Lair" includes a lot of cuts of various footage that is either interviews with the animator, or news footage covering the game's release and new technology. There's quite a few clips that are included, and I found the interviews to be informative. I didn't get much of a chance to play this game when I was little(I'm more of a pinball wizard, actually. Speaking of pinball - that should be the next game - the fast forward and rewind buttons could control the flippers), but I certainly do remember seeing it in the arcades. "Space Ace" includes interviews with Don Bluth about the process of animated interactive games such as "Lair" and "Space Ace".I was pleased with the booklets that were included, as well. All of them give details about how the games work as well as how to use the remote to control the on-screen action.

I think that these three games are not without their flaws, but they also are what I think are the first step to a more interactive experience that can be had via DVD players. For a start, these games do offer gameplay that, with the limits of the remote control, is impressive. Although I found the games to be a little tough, I found a lot to like about the way that Digital Leisure presented all of them. The image quality on all three is excellent, boasting rich colors and few, if any flaws. The extras (especially the rough cut on "Dragon's Lair 2") add greatly to the experience - the interview footage on "Dragon's Lair 1" also gives a great deal of information on the background of the technology and process of putting a game like this together. There are little things here and there( the slight pause before the game moves on ) that will hopefully be improved as the technology advances. I always love to see companies making advancements in DVD technology and I really liked all three of these titles and I hope that as the technology improves, DVD will be able to provide even more advanced interactive games like these. I also hope to see more titles in the future from Digital Leisure, because I can tell that, although there are some limitations of the technology, a lot of hard work was put into all 3 of these games.

If you loved them at the arcade, you'll certainly love them on your DVD player. All 3 games are available separately.

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