Possibility two: The targeting circle appears, and you press L1 or R1 to initiate the lock-on function. Once you're locked on, you can spew fire toward your enemy, which works reasonably well. Or you can fly alongside and whip the controller toward your enemy to ram it. This usually works OK, but there is a delay between your own motion and that of the dragon onscreen, so it makes the sideways bash rather unsatisfying.
The lock-on and auto-targeting function works with aerial enemies, as well as enemies on the ground. Missions often require you to lock on to a specific target to take it down, but as already mentioned, you can't select your own target. For instance, you may need to take down one of the elephantine creatures on the ground by locking on and hitting triangle, but you may end up getting a lone soldier instead, or a turret, or a dragon. Then, you'll need to struggle to circle around or try a 180-degree turn to head back, which requires you to pitch the controller upward and doesn't work half the time anyway. Amazingly, these ultraprecise mission objectives are coupled with a time limit most of the time, which just makes you feel that much more out of control.
You're not stuck in the air. You can land and set fire to ground troops, or eat them, or whip your tail around. Here, you use the analog sticks to move about, which is a welcome relief from all the gesticulating you'll be doing most of the time. Supposedly, tilting the controller moves the camera while you're on the ground, but it never seemed to do much of anything for us. The moments on the ground don't last long because as soon as you get used to the more intuitive analog controls, you'll need to switch your brain back and head to the skies.
You're fighting all of this madness all of the time, and it detracts from the moments that prove Lair could have actually been good in some alternate dimension. Sometimes you'll engage in melee combat with other dragons. During these times, the camera zooms in close, tribal music kicks into high gear, and you're teased with the momentary thought that, yes, this could be cool. But after some brainless button mashing, you kill your foe, the camera zips around in some ungodly fashion, and you're back to the struggle to retain sanity. There are some other context-sensitive kills, where Rohn hops off his dragon to perform some spectacular feat of derring-do while you shake the controller up and down or press the left stick in any direction you feel like. It's awesome to watch, but your part in the onscreen action is remarkably limited.
Alright, fine. Go left instead.
It's obvious that all the development effort went into Lair's production values, rather than into making it fun to play. It's often a stunner to look at, with environments that are huge and richly detailed. Its artistry is also dripping from every nook and cranny. Rolling hills, arid deserts, rocky seaside cliffs: All of these elements are rendered beautifully. When you throw in the splendor of distant aerial battles, undulating seas, and lovingly crafted dragons, you've got a gorgeous way to enjoy your high-definition display. But all this beauty comes at a cost. The frame rate dips and rises erratically--not enough to hinder gameplay usually, but it's an annoyance nonetheless. You'll also be treated to occasional screen tearing, seams in the geometry, and plenty of pop-up as objects get closer. The soundtrack is quite lovely, while the voice acting and sound effects are good too, so at least there is a lot here to please the senses. But the constant voice-overs reminding you of your mission objectives are repeated so often, you'll be screaming that yes, you know you need to destroy the navy ships, but you can't get your dragon to fly in the right direction.
But great visuals and sound mean absolutely nothing in Lair. Factor 5 should have made a movie--not a game. This is the ultimate example of how gameplay suffers when all the work goes into making everything look pretty. There is nothing fun about it, so forget the online leaderboards and don't worry about unlocking a few dragons in the stable or gunning for a high score. Forget Lair entirely. It really seems like the developers forced themselves to stick with a barely-workable control scheme just to make use of the PS3's flashy new tilt sensor support.