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Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy (Game Boy Advance) review


"In fact, nothing moves quickly. It's hard to be intimidated by enemy generals — gigantic warriors capable of unleashing powerful close-range attacks — when they're plodding towards you with the speed (sans menace) of a George Romero zombie. And the thought of Death draining my life or experience wasn't that terrifying after I realized he was less the grim reaper than a cranky old man with a cane."



The primary appeal of the Gauntlet franchise always has been its multiplayer aspect. Going solo gets tedious, as the games are pretty simple and repetitive; but with multiple players, things change in a heartbeat. The action gets tense as everyone competes over kills, treasure and life-restoring food items. In the olden days, life meters would descend as time passed, making the competition for goods all the more crucial. Many recent Gauntlet releases, such as home versions of Dark Legacy, eliminated the "constant life draining" thing, but added special powers and bonus characters to unlock.

In fact, I'd say I had a pretty decent time playing the PS2 version of Dark Legacy with a friend. We never completed the game, as its simplistic "hold down the attack button to rapidly gun down foes and the generators which spawn them" style of battling did get old after a while, but it definitely wasn't the worst afternoon of gaming we've had. With that said, I had reasonably high hopes for the title's Game Boy Advance port. With the handheld system's multiplayer capacity, I figured it could be a sleeper hit.

Instead, it put me to sleep. For whatever reason, Midway and developer Pocket Studios decided this would be the first Gauntlet game to be single-player only. That wound up being the nail in the coffin, as this port was uninspired and pitifully easy to begin with. Taking away the one thing which could possibly have provided players something resembling entertainment just made a really bad game worse.

When I went through Dark Legacy, I played as the archer. Fans of the Gauntlet games recognize her as a fast-moving character who is deadly from long range, but not so effective in melee situations. If she's the speediest of the four heroes, I'm very glad I picked her, as I don't want to imagine how slowly the others must trudge. In fact, nothing moves quickly. It's hard to be intimidated by enemy generals -- gigantic warriors capable of unleashing powerful close-range attacks -- when they're plodding towards you with the speed (sans menace) of a George Romero zombie. And the thought of Death draining my life or experience wasn't that terrifying after I realized he was less the grim reaper than a cranky old man with a cane.

My girl's bow regularly tore through foes great and small with ease. And, regardless of her supposed failings in melee situations, I didn't notice her performance suffering when creatures got in her face. The plentiful power-ups made things even easier (having arrows flying in multiple directions and bouncing off walls to hit enemies on the ricochet nicely says, "I'm sorry, my monstrous friends, but none of you shall survive this day!") and, if you actually take a substantial amount of damage, the game provides food with the consistency of an all-you-can-eat buffet. If you still don't feel things are dumbed down enough, the fine people who crafted this game were also "kind" enough to provide an auto-aim feature. All you have to do is stand still, hold down the attack button and watch your character alter his/her angle to take out nearby enemies and the generators creating them. It isn't perfect, but does its part to make things mindlessly easy.

As do the game's limitations. A cool thing about the retro Gauntlet games was that if you didn't take out enemy generators quickly, you were in trouble, as they'd constantly spawn foes until you were overwhelmed. Here, only eight or so monsters can be on the screen at any given time. This leads to fun activities like slowly leading a group of vainly pursuing monsters around a level while methodically destroying generators unable to spawn anything because the game and/or system can't handle another scorpion on the screen.

Adding to the simplicity, bosses are big goofs that barely move and have surprisingly little life. My favorite tactic was simply standing in front of them and shooting until they died. Did I take damage? Sure, but it didn't matter, as it wouldn't take long to come across a ton of food and refill my life. Really, if there was one aspect of Dark Legacy I found the least bit tricky, it was simply finding the 13 runestones necessary to open the gate to the final bosses' realm. To accomplish this, I had to meticulously explore each of the game's levels.

This wasn't fun. Not only is there no tangible challenge in Dark Legacy, but the level design is far lazier and more repetitive than one might expect from a game using names like "Cliffs of Desolation" and "Carnival of the Lost" for its settings. Each of the five worlds that compose the bulk of the "action" have four levels and a boss stage. The latter were short. I liked that. The regular ones, though, could be quite expansive. Not cool. I'd have to walk all around a bunch of long maze-like levels, destroying tons of generators and monsters because I had to explore each corridor thoroughly or risk having to re-do the whole ordeal if I was to finish the game.

This makes the game even easier. You get experience for killing critters and destroying generators and each level gained gives you an extra 100 hit points. By the end of the game, my life was up to 5800 and the toughest foes were barely able to remove 100 per hit, making Dark Legacy an exercise in soulless domination. Overmatched enemies are mowed down ruthlessly as your godlike hero slowly walks towards a finish line with no actual reward for his or her inevitable victory. And sadly, you can't even turn to a buddy and share a laugh at how amusingly pitiful it all is, or better yet, mutually make the decision to play something else.

Rating: 2/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 15, 2009)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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randxian posted July 16, 2009:

Despite the monotony, I've enjoyed Gauntlet for the most part.

I probably wouldn't mind an easy Gauntlet, but it sounds like everything in this game is ridiculously easy. Although I suppose you wouldn't have to necessarily exploit the game's inability to spawn more than eight monsters.

Even though I rarely find someone to play with, I have to agree removing multi player is a stupid idea, especially in this day and age. I could almost forgive this on the original Game Boy, but not the Game Boy Advance. Totally unacceptable.
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solarlord posted September 27, 2009:

Hi,

I'm an Italian fan: I'm sorry to disturb you but in these days I'm playing to Gauntlet Dark Legacy with my Gameboy Advance: substantially I agree with your reviews (with few euros I'd find a better game...) but in every case I'd finish this game so I wish to ask you how to pass the Maze of Illusion level in the Dream World because I haven't found any cheats about on the web: could you help me please? Thanks!
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overdrive posted September 28, 2009:

That level's the final one before the boss of that world, right? If so, it's a tricky one in that it's large with a ton of corridors that all look the same. It's really just a matter of going down each path until you find the exit. Since I don't have a map of the level, I really can't give much better advice, but I do recall it taking me a long time to find the exit. I could see an area above me that still had monsters (and so I hadn't been there before), but it took forever for me to find the path that led me to that area.

Oh, and with you being where you are in the game, make sure you got all the magic stones (or whatever they're called). If, after you completed a level, you see something that looks like a rock on the portal into it, you missed that level's stone (NOTE: not all level's have them). To fight the final boss, you need to get all the stones. And be aware of this: if my memory serves me correctly, the level with the fake final boss has one of those stones.

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