VOYAGE INTO THE LAIR - THE LASERDISK GAME by Richard Karsmakers
Many, many months ago, the computer press (obviously hinted by
Microdeal) was so free as to publish the first articles about
what might become "game of the century" on the ST system: "Voyage
into the Lair" (also known as "Dragon's Lair"). According to the
press, the screen images were 'utterly brilliant', animation
'incredibly smooth' and the music 'quite superb'. The secret to
these phenomena was soon explained: The game was supplied partly
on a laser video disk.
The final game was actually published last summer, and first
thing I did was, of course, requesting a review copy at
Microdeal's (this was now necessary, as review copies weren't
shipped to everyone as was usual with regular programs); I had
high hopes at arranging an interactive video disk player and
considered it a nice opportunity for an ST NEWS exclusive review
of this mega-game. Oops. Nearly forgot (what is happening to my
brain?!). THIS IS A DUTCH EXCLUSIVE REVIEW!! AAARGH!! (Sorry,
folks, I really let myself go once in a while. Please remove
excessive humidity from the inside of your screen using a soft,
dry and lint-free cloth).
Where was I? Uh....ah! The exclusive review.
On a certain sunny, Lothlrien-like morning, I received an
unusually large package from Microdeal's St. Austell, Cornwall,
Software-Intimidation-Plant (this is meant nicely, guys!).
Actually the postman rang me out of bed - but my morning's bad
temper is reversely proportional to the number of cubic metres
volume of the package for which the aforementioned human
interrupts my dreams. Anyway, the same day I received this
package, someone called to say that the video disk player would
not be available.
My mood, that had experienced such a monumental sense a bloom a
mere few hours before, now suddenly decreased to an unexpected
point of depth - anyway, definitely a point far below zero.
It was then that I started my Quest. The Quest to find the One
Video Disk Player that would enable me to truly experience the
wonders of this wonderful game that I had at my fingertips (but
I will not trouble you with the hardships I had to go through;
it suffices to tell you that in the end I found someone who had a
video disk player - be it not an interactive one (small grunt).
It's about time for a small technical remark. Here be it.
Many people think that the ST is boosted up to some kind of
superb Genlock-like system using tons of hardware add-ons,
allowing the video screen to display TV-quality pictures (even
containing 512 or more colors) - even in monochrome. But in fact,
the ST is only used as an intelligent terminal that sends certain
control codes to the laser disk player using quite a simple
interface which it 'understands', according to the player's
instructions. The disk player, in its turn, displays the pictures
or complete parts of a film (in this case, a cartoon) with sound
and all on a regular TV screen. The video disk player is attached
to the DMA-and MIDI ports.
This also explains why the game can be played using a monochrome
End if Ye Technical Explanation.
The chilly, windy morning on which I chose to visit the
aforementioned acquaintance formed a sharp contrast with the
Lothlrien-like morning of old I earlier mentioned. Clouds were
threatening to let go their fluids upon my poor and throbbing
head, and a plastic bag containing the video disk was dangling at
After about an hour in the heaviest weather conditions, I
finally arrived at the place I wanted to be. Several seconds
after I put my trembling hand at the door bell, a smiling face
appeared in the doorpost. I welcomed his gesture for coffee with
a deep sigh (in spite of the fact that I don't particularly like
After having re-installed my regular body temperature, I started
watching what was on the laser disk.
The story in the game is that of Dirk Daring, struggling his way
through many Dungeons and other obstacles in the strangest rooms,
after which he eventually is to arrive at the Dragon's Lair where
the beautiful Princess Daphne is captured in a Magic Bubble.
I looked at what happened on the screen, and every moment more I
watched, my amazement grew at what I got to see....
At first, some of the Arcade Hall machine texts assured me that
it was indeed exactly the same disk the people used there. Some
'ROM tests' flashed by, a "Starcom '83" copyright message and
some screens that requested the player to insert certain amounts
of coins to start the game or to go on on a further level
(several levels of difficulty are also possible on the Microdeal
Next came the brilliantly animated (it's a cartoon, remember?)
leader. A narrator tells the intro story of Dirk, and you get to
see some of the enemies you're likely to meet: The Giddy Goons
(nasty purple monsters), the Crypt Creeps (skeletons that pop out
of their coffins) as well as the Smythee (a stone monster that
tries to separate a certain vital part of your body off your
shoulders). After that, the actual game sequences start. On the
disk, each scene is built up of four parts: First is, of course,
the start. Dirk enters a new situation and is put before a
choice. Second, the 'good' alternative is brought. When the
player makes the right decision, this part is played and Dirk
leaves for the next level. Third, one or several scenes are
stored that show what can go wrong when Dirk is performing the
wrong actions (smashing into a massive pillar, getting eaten by
fire, dropping quite a distance to meet certain death, etc.).
Fourth (and this is the same with every sequence), you see Dirk
actual Death - he transforms into a skeleton and to dust he
During the game, Dirk has to perform rides on legless flying
horses, he has to select the right doors, he has to fight
skeletons and various other monsters, and he has to avoid being
killed by horrible creatures. "Save me! Save me!" the voice of a
lady in distress often can be heard, urging Dirk not to prolong
her rescue for too long. Everything moves with incredible
reality, and the player really doesn't have a hard time getting
to feel in Dirk's shoes. The artists have displayed an enormous
sense of fantasy with the realisation of the strangest scenery
thinkable, varying from obscure caverns with boiling potions to
enormous halls and complexes of waterfalls and vortexes,
volcanoes out of which muddy monsters erupt and surrealistic
rooms where danger can literally be hidden under (or in) a
differently colored tile on the floor.
All these cartoons are supplied with suitable music (I really
liked the romantic music at the end when Dirk eventually slays
the Dragon and gets the trophy...Princess Daphne!). Some of the
sound effects, however, return many times and this is one of the
weaker points of the audial presentation of the game.
I have seen 21 minutes of splendid cartoon material, where 31400
pictures were used to create 33 totally different challenges for
the player. Some are quite intricate, and some or a bit more
simple. I am sure, anyway, that "Voyage into the Lair" will
supply the player with many hours of joyful playing - it should,
as the 99.95 the game costs are quite hefty (and that excludes
the 19.95 interface cable). The game combines excitement and
suspense with some very lively humour (though 'black', most of
the time). It is very much worth buying if you have a suitable
Video Disk Player (Hitachi 9550, Magnavox 8040 or Pioneer
LD700/900 models), but I am not sure I would recommend the
purchase of a video disk player for the sole purpose of playing
this game. Sure, it's a great game that leaves no wishes for the
dedicated arcade adventure freak, but it's no bargain!
Since I have not actually played the game, I consider it unfair
to give a game rating. My impressions were good to VERY good,
although I have heard that the user interface to the game slows
the action down quite a lot. Also, I find Microdeal's user
interface quite clumsily programmed - this could have been done
better, especially if one thinks of the price the consumer has to
pay for it.
All in all, "Voyage into the Lair" lives up to the expectations,
and was surely worth waiting for. But I find it rather strange
that Microdeal chose to publish a game that only works with a
video disk player (these devices cannot be called a raging
success - not in Holland anyway).
For additional info, contact:
Cornwall PL25 4YB