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Gauntlet II (NES) artwork

Gauntlet II (NES) review


"The name Gauntlet couldn’t have been more appropriate. What we have here is nothing more than some palette-swapped dungeons that we force our reckless heroes through while being assaulted by a never-ending myriad of blood-hungry denizens. Gauntlet didn’t start anything revolutionary here folks; this concept of infinite monsters and randomly created dungeons has been around for quite a while before Atari added some spices to the mix. "



The name Gauntlet couldn’t have been more appropriate. What we have here is nothing more than some palette-swapped dungeons that we force our reckless heroes through while being assaulted by a never-ending myriad of blood-hungry denizens. Gauntlet didn’t start anything revolutionary here folks; this concept of infinite monsters and randomly created dungeons has been around for quite a while before Atari added some spices to the mix.

For one, no longer are the monsters never-ending; we now have enemy generators that you’re able to destroy which were also featured in the first Gauntlet. Most of these eight-bit monstrosities are composed of barbaric orcs or time-phasing magicians. Digging deeper leads us to fire-spewing hell hounds or shadowy silhouettes stalking us in our every move. Occasionally we’ll run across a monster that’s unable to be destroyed by conventional weapons. We’ll have to rely on the help of our handy magical potion that can be randomly found throughout the dungeons. Potions are able to damage regular enemies along with these ethereal beings alike making them much more useful in combat. Some monsters are better left alone, such as blood-sucking leeches that’ll bull-rush us, inflicting tremendous amounts of damage before killing themselves in the process.

We have quite an array of characters at our disposal to work our way through the dungeons with as well. The requisite brutish warrior that’s able to demolish any enemy unfortunate enough to get between him and his oversized axe is here. His speed leaves much to be desired, however. The Elven archer, whose nimble feet and small body frame allow him to evade attackers, easily makes up for the brute's slowness. The downside to him is that we’ll find ourselves spending lots of time trying to kill each beast since his arrows can hardly pierce the enemy’s hide. Even weaker still is the hoary mage who’ll have to rely heavily on potions to keep the flood of unearthly dogs and shadows at bay. The Valkyrie is more of an eclectic character, employing favorable aspects from the other three to create her own playing style. Strong in magic, high in defense, she’s probably the one we’ll find ourselves playing as the first few times through.

Gauntlet proves to be entertaining the first few times through; however, mashing through enemies and collecting keys to advance through dungeons can only hold its appeal for so long. Sooner or later, we’ll find that going through the first few levels to get to later ones is nothing more than an exercise in tedium. Playing through the later levels will still be exciting, but the desire to actually want to make it to that stage of the game will have dwindled away by this point. While the dungeons are randomly created, the all still follow a basic theme per each level. Sometimes a few sections might be switched around, giving us the illusion that it’s randomly generated when, in fact, it follows a code. We won’t get the exact same level, but we’ll get something rather close to it. The stages don’t cease either; they keep going on forever and ever until our life runs low and we die.

Dying is obviously the end of the game for us, but how we go about dying actually can take a long time. Each character has a certain amount of health at the beginning; we’re able to either increase or decrease this depending on how we play the game. If we’re reckless, we’ll find ourselves dead in a matter of seconds. Health slowly goes away with time as well, but it’s nothing to really be worried about. We’re able to get our health back by eating food found in treasure chest that are able to be opened with keys. The inverse can be stated as well: we can lose our health by eating contaminated food found in chests. Monsters can run into us, which takes away a lot of our power. There really isn’t anything revolutionary or exciting about this basic system other than it’s passable for this type of game. We’ll find ourselves wishing they might’ve implemented a system that’s a little more suitable for this type of game. Specifically, a system with maybe magic points so weaker characters don’t have the problem of having to rely strictly on randomly appearing potions. The stronger characters won’t have this problem but will still be bulky and slow, making us take heaps of damage since we’re not fast enough to get away.

Gauntlet shows tons of promise the first few times through, but then quickly denigrates into a boring dungeon game with seemingly nothing special about it other than its ‘randomly’ created dungeons. It’s pretty plain, and if you’re into old school games with such archaic game play as this then you might want to check it out. Other than that, I’d find it hard to recommend such a game to anyone already not interested in this genre.

Rating: 5/10

sclemmons's avatar
Community review by sclemmons (February 17, 2005)

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