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Gauntlet

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Released: 1986

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Commodore 64

Publisher: U.S. Gold

Developer: Gremlin Graphics

Submitted by: Matthew Aston

If you didn’t already know, Gauntlet on the Commodore 64 is a port of the original classic arcade game from Atari.

Gauntlet was a classic on arcade, and with it’s four player mode, quite a social experience.  The Commodore port retained all of the main characters’, but due to technical limitations it could only be played by one or two players.

The object of the game is to lead one or two of the selected heroes out of the hundreds of dungeon mazes that they have somehow become trapped within. There are four possible heroes to choose from: Merlin the wizard, Questor the Elf, Thyra the Valkyrie and Thor the warrior.  Each has their own strengths and weaknesses.  Merlin is powerful with magic, Questor is quick footed, Thyra has strong armour and Thor is the best fighter.

Littered throughout these dungeons are various beastly creatures, that must be dispatched or their attacks will drain your player’s health, until they eventually die.  There are six breeds of marauding meanies: suicidal ghosts; baton-wielding grunts; fire-spitting demons; rock-throwing lobbers; disappearing sorcerers and finally, the most fearsome of opponents – Death. These horrors try to home in on you and their touch spells doom.  The enemies spawn from ‘generators’ which are dotted around the mazes, destroying these generators prevents more of these terrors from attacking the player.

Each player only has a finite amount of health which drains as soon as they enter a level, and drains even quicker when being attacked.  Health can be replenished by collecting food. Potions kill all, or most enemies on screen and keys need to be collected to open doors.  To reach the next level an exit must be found. Most levels contain multiple exists which lead to higher game levels.

The C64 version of Gauntlet is a fine port, considering the graphics and capabilities of the original arcade hardware.  The graphics are a little basic and quite blocky, but the game scrolls at very quick pace even when the screen is full of enemies.  Unlike the arcade and console ports, there are no floor graphics; all levels have the same plain grey floors which are disappointing, but understandable for the format.

There is no in-game tune; the only music to be heard is the title tune and a quick tune that plays in-between levels.  The in-game sounds aren’t anything to shout about either, consisting of nothing more than various forms of beeps.

Still, when I had this game back in 1986, I was only about eight years old and I quite enjoyed the C64 port at the time.  I also used to play it quite frequently with couple of my friends from school.  The only time I had a chance to play the arcade game was when I went on holiday with my parents, I don’t recall ever playing it locally.

The C64 version sometimes appeals to me purely due to nostalgia, it’s by no means the best 8 bit port, that accolade must go to the gorgeous looking Sega Master System port.