The past six months have not been kind to mega-publisher Acclaim Entertainment. Record losses and large stockpiles of unsold games have placed the future of the once mighty publisher in serious doubt. Although the company blames its misfortunes on the market's transition to 32-bit consoles, I suspect that the true reason for the company's woes lies in its practice of flooding the market with poorly programmed platform games based on motion picture property rights. Even though Acclaim's president promises to stress quality over quantity in the future, the gaming community must contend with the likes of DragonHeart today.
Loosely based on the film that wowed moviegoers last summer, DragonHeart follows the adventures of a medieval dragonslayer named Sir Bowen in his attempt to rid the world of an evil King. Along the way, he befriends Draco, the very last of the mythical creatures. (Never mind the fact that Sir Bowen has just finished off Draco's entire "Friends and Family" calling circle). Together, man and beast join forces to destroy the king's army and rescue the obligatory damsel in distress.
With a plot this rich in gaming potential, you would think that Acclaim would choose to produce a quality RPG, adventure title, or even a nice "Panzer Dragoon" style shooter. Alas, all we get for our $40 is yet another hastily designed platform game.
On the subject of gameplay, fans of the popular "Shinobi" series will feel right at home here. Using only your wits and a little fancy swordplay, you must single-handedly defeat countless soldiers, skeletons, and other minions before confronting one of nine "boss" dragon waiting at level's end. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Unfortunately, even this tried and true concept is marred by a poorly implemented control scheme. Not only is there a slight delay between the pressing of a button and the corresponding action, but your character possesses all the athletic dexterity of a sofa. In fact, Sir Bowen's slow speed and lead-bottomed leaping make even the easiest of obstacles almost impossible to navigate.
To make matters worse, not only does Sir Bowen posses the leaping ability of a schoolgirl, but he has the fighting abilities of one too. Swinging your sword more than four or five times will cause Sir Bowen to drop his weapon and heave like a chain-smoker in a marathon. This "feature" is just about the most frustrating thing I have ever seen in an "action" title, and I suspect it was added at the last minute to increase the overall difficulty of the game.
In conclusion, DragonHeart represents Acclaim's latest attempt to capitalize on the publicity surrounding a major motion picture by releasing a mediocre platform game with the same name. Fortunately, however, most gamers are savvy enough to know that it takes more than a license to make a good game - and Acclaim's balance sheet is beginning to reflect that harsh reality.