Gauntlet (US Gold) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User

By U. S. Gold
Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #40


Gauntlet is the ultimate ten pence gobbler. I got hooked on it on a Sealink ferry. I thought I was being dead thrifty coming home from my holidays with my English "emergency" tenner still in sterling.

I almost made it too - until I spotted this curious coin-op with four joysticks on the cabinet and four slots all being pumped with coins by a party of French students.

It's sheer genius on the part of the arcade operators. Four players all playing simultaneously on the one machine - each with his own slot. The Gauntlet is not behind the door in asking for more dosh either. When a player is about to die it shouts out something like "Merlin is about to die". An extra twenty pence has the most amazing health-giving properties.

US Gold have noticed the bankrupting potential of Gauntlet and put it to clever use in the advertisements for the home version. Instead of £9.99, it reads 100 x 10p in the price box.

If ever there was a game worth a tenner to play at home it's got to be Gauntlet. It's going to save me a fortune in ten pence pieces.

In case you've been locked in a time warp for the last twelve months or missed our Gauntlet Special in the October issue let me put you in the picture.

The game stars four fantasy characters: Thor the Warrior who downs his nasties with an axe, Merlin the Wizard armed with fireballs, Questor the Elf who is quick of foot and accurate with his bow, and the beautiful female warrior, Thyra the Valkyrie, armed with strong armour and a sword.

The action takes place in several hundred scrolling levels - each one roughly about six screens by six.

The game crams in just about every evil fantasy character you can imagine. There are ghosts, ghouls, leprechauns, lobbers, evil monks and even Death itself haunting the land of Gauntlet.

What makes thiese nasties different in Gauntlet is their sheer numbers, because that is the essence of the game - sheer, dogged, backs-to-the-wall scrapping. Slog it out with the hordes of adversaries until you can make an opening for yourself to escape. The programmers have certainly done that. It's chaos!

One of the most obvious ways in which this conversion departs from the coin-op is in the lack of a four player mode.

All four characters can take part - but only two at a time. There are only two joystick ports on the C64 and there's not much even the best software engineers can do about this basic fact.

There is of course, a one player option - but this is just not as much fun.

Gauntlet is at its best in the two player mode. The first few levels are a breeze but once you get into the game, those ghouls start coming at you thick and fast. You have to start fighting together, planning and helping each other out by sharing food and potions.

The simplicity of Gauntlet hides a wealth of strategy needed to become a good Gauntleteer. You've got to know when to stand and fight and when to run.

Many of the nasties are produced by generators which can be destroyed by several direct hits. There is no point in trying to eliminate all of these - you would run out of health first. The secret is to know when to close down a source and when just to cut and run.

There is a large element of maze solving in Gauntlet which is why if I were forced to put the game in a pigeon hole I would call it an arcade adventure.

The items you collect are only slightly adventure-like. True, keys open doors and exits lead to the next level but the hidden potions are really more like smart bombs, killing anything that moves, and treasure grabbing is really only for the points.

If the bond between fellow travellers is ever put under pressure it is when you stumble across food. In theory the one who is lowest on energy should should get it but I can tell you the air was blue in the CU office when one Ferdy 'The Elf' Hamilton downed a yellow flask of wine just twenty health units before Eugene 'The Wizard' Lacey expired.

But that is part of the challenge of Gauntlet. No-one really wants to be a passenger - though sometimes you have to protect each other.

Transporters are essential if you are to find the exits on some of the advanced levels. These shift you from one zone to another - often enabling you to escape the nasties.

Some of the walls can be destroyed by firing at them, enabling you to blast your way into an exit chamber.

They even put in the Treasure Rooms where you can charge around upping your score and searching for potions unhindered by the nasties.

Regrettably one part of the game that the team could not get into it was the speech. Gauntlet made famous phrases like "We've not seen such courage" "Elf shot the food" or "Valkyrie is about to die". The speech is quite fundamental to the atmosphere of the game so it's unfortunate that you only get a handful of sound effects. These are adequate though you get no music. Only between levels.

There is another slight question mark about the cassette version. We reviewed the disk version and it was noticeable that each new level was being read from disk. This probably means some sort of multi-cassette load.

But these are mere quibbles. Gauntlet is definitely the most exciting coin-op conversion ever for the C64. For sheer fun and hours of entertainment value per £1 this game is the best yet.

Eugene Lacey

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