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Gauntlet

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Gauntlet

Atari Games / US Gold (1985)

Synopsis

You must choose a character to lead you through a path of wanton mayhem and destruction, ploughing through wave after wave of undead armies. Can you reach the end of each level... before Death reaches you?

What sorcery is this?


Graphics

Pros:

Character selection and loading screens are beautifully designed.


Cons:

In-game characters are a little bland.





Sound

Pros:

Loading screen music is da bomb - great synthesised sounds!


Cons:

In-game effects are few and far between.





Gameplay

Pros:

Levels get progressively harder at a good pace, with level hops as an option, so you'll want to keep coming back for more.


Cons:

Only if you don't like being ambushed!




Graphics

Pros:

Character selection and loading screens are similar to the C64 but more vivid in colour and shadowing. Better looking in-game characters.


Cons:

The character selection screen does seem a little bit over-saturated with colour.





Sound

Pros:

Loading music plays great for the CPC.


Cons:

Doesn't hit the lofty heights of the C64's synthesised track though.





Gameplay

Pros:

There's many levels to keep you glued to the screen. All play superbly.


Cons:

Unless you're adverse to some intense action then there are no cons!




Graphics

Pros:

Very nice loading and character selection screens.


Cons:

Some of the maze designs look a little crude.





Sound

Pros:

Erm...!


Cons:

The loading screen music is as tuneful as Jedward.





Gameplay

Pros:

Plays just as brilliantly on the Spectrum as it does on other systems.


Cons:

Limited monochromatic colours means you might have trouble distinguishing your character between enemies in a mass attack.



Into the Labyrinth!




In the 1970s there was an unusual abduance of brown and beige clothing hanging from people's waists and shoulders. It was pretty unsightly and it had to end. And that's where the 80s came in, where everything seemed a whole lot more colourful and upbeat. Think MTV, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, and Colin Baker's Dr Who costume. The latter pretty much summarises a lot about the era - a man wearing make-up in a wacky period-piece costume!


However, there was still a crack elite squad of beardy and weirdy people operating in the 80s who probably couldn't accept the style change, and it wasn't the A-Team! It was the men, women and children all over the country who were still playing Dungeons & Dragons!


Time to get slaughtered!

Role-playing games were still thriving behind locked doors with a coven of wannabe wizards, goblins and elves living out their spellbound fantasies, and that's where Gauntlet comes in. Gauntlet is completely of its time, where swords & sorcery fantasies were still highly thematic, and this imagery is visible in movies of the day such as Masters of the Universe, A Nightmare on Elm Street III, Conan, Krull, Willow, and so on.


Gauntlet treats you to a standout of a loading screen depicting two battle-ready barbarians of opposite gender armed with a sword and mace. The Amstrad CPC makes the most of this screen with some effective shading and spectrum-esque colouring broadening out the detail of the titling. The Spectrum loading screen is good but it makes you wonder if someone forgot the small paint brush for all of the fine fills.

Death will stick to you more rigidly than a man to a yellow Solvite board!

The character selection screen is similar in style, but this is perhaps where the Amstrad's vivid colours obfuscate the detail a little when compared to the Commodore 64's more toned-down palette. From this screen you, and an optional second player, can select one of four characters: Thor, Questor, Thyra or Merlin. As you might expect, each character has particular skills that sets them apart from the others. The usual scenario is that they have a special talent in magic, strength or speed.


An Unfair Balance?

You navigate your player through 8-directional movement along various mazes of top-down perspective, fighting off armies of demons. How many levels there are in Gauntlet seems to be untold. Some say the levels are never-ending with either new or rehashed mazes of elevated menace. Whichever is the case, with some great perseverance, you'll end up well within the three-figure bracket.


What's immediately obvious from this port of the classic arcade cabinet game is the exclusion of the audio call-outs such as, "Warrior needs food, badly!" or "Elf shot the food!" Maybe the home computer game would have suffered with the inclusion of all of that speech eating away at that precious memory. Or perhaps, like the arcade version, it would just have gotten a bit grating after a time! If they had included the speech then one wonders if we would have been extolling its virtues right now.


Your primary objective is to reach the level exit, preferably with all of your health completely intact due to the long journey ahead. You begin your quest at level 1 with 2000 health points, which trickles away by the second due to your constant need for sustenance. You could say that this is Tamagotchi in its infancy! Food items are a much needed source of energy bringing about an extra 100 points to your health total. However, be warned that there's a few items of undetectable poisoned food laying around to prematurely reduce your health.


The labryinths also contain items you can pick up that will make your enemies wish they'd never been born. The most powerful of these items is the magical potions, which can kill everything visible on the screen aside from yourself. Of particular note is that this potion can kill Death, because Death will otherwise stick to you more rigidly than a man would to a yellow Solvite board. You can also pick up shields to protect you a little more from the onslaughts brought about by the numerous enemies.


Not a ghost of a chance!

Gauntlet is a game that definitely falls well within the 'classic' category with its simplistic gameplay and longevity. The 2-player co-operative option also provides an extra element to the game that works exceptionally well. That is, only if your player-two can remain co-operative after the point where the game allows player shots to hurt one another!


This is not a game to be missed on any of the available platforms. It was once a more than welcome addition to my game collection, and it still has plenty of staying power.




Graphics

In-game visuals are not startling by any means, however it's difficult to imagine what else can be achieved using a top-down perspective. Character selection and loading screen designs are gorgeous.


Sound

Apart from the loading screen, music is limited to short bursts on level openings. Otherwise sound effects are in short supply.


Gameplay

Just one more level, go on! You'll want to keep progressing to see what the next level holds, that's how addictive this game is. Two-player co-operative gameplay adds a brilliant dimension to evaporating the marauding masses.


Overall

It's another one of those games where gold and silver were such close calls, however the Commodore just pips this one. Even though the Amstrad CPC version is totally playable, its scrolling just wasn't quite as smooth as the C64. The Spectrum port is also nice to play, however the title music is appalling and the level design is sometimes uneasy on the eye.



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Platform Winners

Overall Ranking

93

3rd Place

Our highest rated game of 1985

Our only hack 'n' slash game review

Screenshots

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ROMs

Amstrad: download
Commodore: download
Spectrum: download

Video Review

Pixel8Games'pick of 1985

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