Classic arcade game Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp is back for the iPhone in all its retro glory. True to form and stunning as always, this fantastical iOS adoption shimmers with the work of former Disney animator Don Bluth.
Old-time gamers will recognize Dirk the Daring and his quest to save Princess Daphne from the clutches of the evil wizard, but for those new to the Dragon’s Lair, this isn’t your typical gaming adventure. This is more like an interactive cartoon coupled with a test in reaction times.
The controls still include your typical direction pad on the right and a sword fight button in the lower left hand corner, but instead of deciding where Dirk the Daring goes and how quickly he does it, Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp is all about reacting to bright yellow flashes quickly enough to avoid impending death.
In a way this feels like a Simon Says setup, except instead of using memory, this is a game of reaction speed. If the light flashes left you hit the left button, if the sword flashes Dirk the Daring slays an enemy, and when a yellow light flashes over a treasure you have to grab it as quickly as possible.
If you’re too slow the game takes you back to the last checkpoint, or, if you choose 3 or 5 lives intsead of infinity, can even take you straight back to the beginning. Stylistically, because Dragon’s Lair 2 features such a wonderfully distinct animation structure, it’s difficult to imagine the game playing any other way.
The quick tapping can get addictive, but I felt like the demand of quick tapping distracted from the Disney style animations like a foreign film with a dialogue that moves too fast. Despite the fact that players can change the size of the controls, it still took a few plays before I felt like I really got a grasp of the details.
All said and done, Electronic Arts did well with this retro adaptation but the lack of physical buttons is glaringly obvious and unfortunately an inevitable detriment to the fun.
Still, there’s a lot here for nostalgic gamers (including an alternate Director’s Cut ending) and newbies to the Dragon’s Lair cult can bask in the alternative game style and stunning animations.
Bottom Line: Dragon’s Lair 2: Time Warp’s incredible animation style and retro appeal is enough to capture nostalgic gamer’s hearts, but the reaction-based controls don’t make the iPhone the best device for Dirk the Daring’s quest.