- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available: Dragon’s Lair, from Digital Leisure for PlayStation 3 or Blu-ray-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, not rated, $29.99. A high-definition makeover and an introduction on one of the formats aiming to replace the DVD allows this groundbreaking arcade game to demonstrate what made it a classic.

Back in 1983, masses of teens huddled in corners of malls and fed quarters into machines to help the brave knight Dirk the Daring on his mission to save perky Princess Daphne from a grumpy dragon named Singe.

Unlike the typical coin-op games of the time, which were still in their infancy in offering pixilated worlds and challenges, Dragon’s Lair offered beautiful hand-drawn animation from Don Bluth Studios (“The Secret of NIMH,” “An American Tail” and “Anastasia”) and a story-driven experience determined by the player.

Created to take advantage of laser-disc technology, it was a staggering achievement compared to the likes of Pac-Man, Zaxxon and Galaga.

Unfortunately, today’s gamer will not feel the same excitement as his 1980s counterpart as he works through this Blu-ray version, especially after playing some of the current generation of console epics or trying a DVD set-top game.

The reason to plod through this Dragon’s Lair is to enjoy the exquisite job done by the digital restoration team in bringing the brilliant colors and detailed animation from the original 35 mm print back to life.

As for the action, the player can set options to get five or an unlimited number of lives. At the unlimited setting, the player could finish the game in less than 15 minutes because even when a wrong move is made, Dirk moves to the next scene instead of repeating the level where he perished.

I was surprised by the incredible variety of Tex Avery-style death scenes played out because of my various mistakes. Dirk gets immolated, crushed, drowned, beaten, skewered, crowned, electrocuted and smothered, to name just a few, by cool villains that range from giant bats to water serpents to a black knight to ghoulish skeletons and nasty goo in numerous hues.

More important for the nostalgia buff, Digital Leisure has gotten together the original creative heads of the game — Don Bluth, Gary Goldman and Rick Dyer — to chat about its development. Viewers can watch them comment in a window while the game automatically plays through.

An extra 22 minutes of interviews explore the difficulty faced in bringing the game to market and the enormous tasks of merging technology with gaming and animation at the time.

Additionally, comparative scenes to highlight the restoration process complete the Dragon’s Lair package, which is a nostalgic celebration of the history of the video game and gives the Blu-ray revolution a nudge forward.

Night at the Museum: Special Edition, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, rated PG, $34.98. A family-friendly comedy starring Ben Stiller as a night guard who has an unforgettable experience in a lively natural-history museum arrives in this two-disc DVD set loaded with behind-the-scenes information and something special for the computer owner.

Specifically, residing on the second disc, PC or Mac owners will find the challenge Reunite with Rexy, which combines a bit of education with a scavenger hunt.

The player must find keys scattered through exhibits in the museum to finally chase down a living skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

As he clicks around the halls of Africa, Ocean Life, Egypt and the Diorama Room, he finds challenges such as picking out an animal that does not belong, putting out fires set by pesky Roman figures or figuring out how to lift a whale specimen to the ceiling of a room to unblock a door.

Players also get a bunch of text facts on the animals and time periods highlighted by the exhibits, a nice extra that perfectly ties into the movie.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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