Darby the Dragon
At long last a Quandary review of Darby the Dragon. Despite our promises over the years to have a look at it, it's taken all this time to fall into our hands.
I'm happy to say it's lived up to the many glowing reports. It's as cute as can be, so colourful, and a great choice for a starting out adventure game for children around pre-school/early school age. It has some bright sing-along snippets, a cast of well drawn characters, and a thrilling story line set to challenge and amuse young adventurers.
One bright, sunny day Darby the Dragon Prince has a stroke of luck when he finds a lost magic wand lying on the ground. He takes it home to the castle in Dragonland and shows it to his big sister, Princess Sparkle. Sparkle wants the wand, of course, and she is bigger than Darby. A scuffle ensues and Darby is on the losing end. In desperation he wishes his sister were small ... and so she is! Alas, the wand has run out of magic so brother and sister must set out to undo that wayward wish.
It's so easy to play, all point and click. A large arrow indicates screen exits and a green hand cursor points when there is something to do. Sometimes it might be an item to pick up and use, at other times it's simply an animation. For instance point to the minstrels and they will sing and dance and so will the fairies, the posters will come to life and the chess pieces will do a highland jig. When it's an item to be taken it automatically zaps into the inventory. Click on any inventory item and Darby will say what it is and maybe give a clue what's to be done with it.
First up the Dragon King has some good advice and sends Darby and Sparkle to the library in search of the wizard's spell book. There they meet the Queen, their mother, who will read them some story books. These are delightful. The words on the page are highlighted as she reads and are enhanced by sound effects and some excellent character voices. The stories give some background to the game and introduce characters and clues that might come in handy later.
The game is extremely helpful and friendly. Not only do the King and Queen have some good advice but many of the characters will offer hints; there is a clump of bushes with enlightening anecdotes, and for a gold piece the minstrels will sing something useful. Hence there is little chance of kids getting frustrated and stuck.
Armed with the spell book it's time to find the wizard who will have a shopping list of three items to gather in order to concoct the spell to reverse Darby's miscast effort and make Sparkle big again. The fun continues. Each character Darby and Sparkle meet will have a favour to ask and something useful to contribute when they are happy. If young players remember the stories they will know how to placate the bees, and they'll be sure that the feuding trolls get together again. Along the way there are some activities to play with in The Mask Maker's Booth and Amanda's Amazing Puppet Theatre, as well as a couple of picture composing screens and one that tests colour recognition ... and more chirpy singing as well.
Darby the Dragon is, indeed, delightful, so much so that what a shame more replayability wasn't built in with the ingredients for the spell changing so that different games would have different problems to vary the play slightly. It might also have been good to include text captions throughout, but especially for the catchy tunes so that kids might follow the words and sing along.
It's not an overly long journey, but there's enough happening to keep young children busy for a good few hours the first time through and they are sure to want to play it again. Despite my criticisms (which are really suggestions) it's very friendly and playable. As well as having enticing graphics (256 colours only ... this game is a few years old), lively music and excellent voice acting, it has some entertaining challenges ... finding the magic water, the polka dotted fruit and the swamp oyster is a whole lot of fun.
Darby the Dragon plays directly from the CD. It performed perfectly in Win 98.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2003.
All rights reserved.
Windows 3.1 or 95, 486 33MHZ or faster, 8 MB RAM, 1.2 MB free hard disk space, 2x CD ROM, mouse.
Mac and Power Mac, System 7.1 or higher, 33 MHZ 68040 processor or higher, 8 MB RAM, 1.2 MB free hard disk space, 2x CD ROM, mouse.