If you mix together the humor of Terry Jones, the puzzles of Discworld, the story of a Saturday Morning Cartoon and the voice acting of a Hispanic stoner, what do you get? Generally speaking, you get a videogame that nobody plays. More specifically, you get Blazing Dragons.
Blazing Dragons, a maneuver-and-press adventure title for the PS One and Sega Saturn (the phrase, "point-and-click" does not apply to console adventure games) feels a little bit Python, a little bit Threepwood, and a little bit Grimm. As the player runs around the land of Camelhot defeating knights and rescuing dragons -- yes, you read that correctly -- it's hard not to be won over by the title's charms, even ignoring its substandard graphics and abysmal sound quality.
Hit the jump to find out about the only game I have ever seen whose ad campaign proudly exclaimed, "...With voice acting by Cheech Marin," as if that were a good thing.
Take every medieval-themed story you've ever heard about knights versus dragons, and reverse it. That, in essence, is Blazing Dragons. As with so many works of children's entertainment (the Muppet movies come to mind), humanity represents greed and evil while the sentient, anthropomorphic animal-types whom the humans attempt to kill are pillars of heroism and morality.
The player character, Flicker, is an intelligent (albeit clumsy) inventor who wishes to marry Princess Flame, the most beautiful dragon in all of Camelhot. Unfortunately for Flicker, only knights can marry royalty; with this in mind, Flicker sets out on a quest to become a knight, win over Princess Flame, and defeat the evil humans Count Geoffrey and Merle the Wizard.
As the game's source material was created by Terry Jones, the entire game has a distinctly British flavo(u)r to it, despite being developed and performed by Americans. While it's not exactly A Bit of Fry and Laurie, the game has its funny, self-referential moments -- for instance, if you attempt to interact with a large, silhouetted object in the close foreground, Flicker exclaims, "What are you doing? It's in the foreground; of course you can't pick it up!" That said, however, a lot of the "witty" jokes and double-entendres do indeed seem to be aimed at younger audiences, and hearing every character speak in an abysmal English accent does tend to grate on the nerves after a while (especially given the fact that every single voice sample sounds like it was recorded in a tin can, and then combined with the noise of a strangling cat).
If you can look past those shortcomings, however, Blazing Dragons' storyline is fun and imaginative, but without feeling too innocuous or preachy. The fantasy world is well-defined, most all of the puzzles are solved using some degree of Fairy-Tale Logic (more on that later), and the game takes an almost perverse amount of pleasure in finding fairy-tale cliches and destroying them (Rapunzel is an obsessive-compulsive lunatic who habitually cuts off whatever hair she grows in an effort to keep heroes from attempting to climb it, the Pied Piper is a paranoid schizophrenic who constantly feels as if he's being attacked by invisible mice, etcetera). All in all, adventure fans won't be quoting Blazing Dragons as heavily as they would, say Sam and Max Hit the Road, but it's difficult not to enjoy yourself whilst playing through Blazing Dragons.
Pretty standard point-and-click fare, but with a fun, fairy-tale twist. As mentioned earlier, every puzzle in the game works on some degree of Fairy-Tale Logic which relies on the player's knowledge of classic Grimm Brothers stories. See an area with fertile soil? Put a bean in it. Can't reach a high area? Cut off Rapunzel's hair and use it as a rope. See an irritating frog? Throw a kiss at him, and watch as he turns into a perplexed-looking prince.
Beyond that, a few of the more interesting puzzles revolve around Flicker's inventions. At the very beginning of the game, the player finds Flicker's invention book, complete with diagrams for steampunk dishwashers, street-sweepers, and the like. As Flicker is never in a position to get all the materials he needs, the player is forced to improvise and find household replacements for Flicker's ideal invention materials (a copper diverting tube is easily replaced with a candlestick, an infinite steam source is replaced with a boiling teapot). Additionally, Flicker's inventions are sometimes not used for their intended purposes: after assembling the street sweeper, for example, the player must increaes the speed of the spinning, horizontally-oriented brushes in order to turn the entire machine into a makeshift helicopter.
The invention sections aren't exactly revolutionary and the Fairy-Tale Logic has been executed more efficiently in other games (Toonstruck comes to mind), but still: the puzzles are fun. They're easy enough so the player knows what to do, but not so hard that it requires you to second-guess the developers.
Oh, there's also the one (obligatory) badly-implemented, totally unnecessary action sequence in the game, a la Full Throttle. Granted, the "action" sequence revolves around mere thumb wrestling, but it's still quite interesting that damn near every adventure developer of the 90's felt it necessary to include a wholly underwhelming twitch-reflex sequence at some point in their otherwise consistent game.
Why You Probably Haven't Played It:
Based on a cartoon most Americans had never even heard of, much less watched.
That, and I remember the ads that ran in Gamepro made the game look much more adult than it really was; it spoke of lewd, audacious humor, and made quite a big deal out of the presence of Cheech Marin -- a name which, even in my younger years, conjured up more images of ganja and low riders than it did swords and sorcery.
Shame, too; for while the game certainly has its flaws, it's an absolutely perfect adventure title for children. The puzzles can be figured out by anyone with enough persistence and imagination, the humor is acessible to children without being vile or slapsticky, and the fantasy world is ironically enjoyable. If Steambot Chronicles is My First Nonlinear Adventure, then Blazing Dragons is My First Point-and-Click Adventure Game. Enjoyable for adults, yeah, but perfect for kids.
Here's a half hour of the Arkham Origins Mr. Freeze DLC, if you want to watch that
11:45 AM on 04.15.2014