Label: US Gold
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
Well, here we are then, the real thing.
After Dandy and Druid the Gauntlet surrogates, we have Gauntlet, the Official Licenced Version.
Both Druid and Dandy were good games (and Dandy particularly a very adequate Gauntlet substitute) and both were released around two months before this one. Does it stand a chance? Do you need to buy it? I'd say yes.
Things begin badly however, for various reason, when you're setting up right at the start. Partly because of Spectrum memory restrictions and partly because a Gauntlet Expander tape is planned in the next few months (US Gold needs to get some of that money back somehow) you have to keep stopping and starting the tape, making selections, number of players, which character you want to be and so on and then restarting the tape.
Worse. During the game after every eight levels or so you have to restart the tape to load in the next batch of levels. You'd better hope you don't get any problems with the hyperload...
Is it authentic? Yes very, although the graphics are simplified compared with the arcade original.
A good many of the mazes are exactly the same in layout as on the machine. I was very pleased to discover that one of my favourite sections, where a great mass of ghosts crowd the doorway just waiting for you to open it, was retained almost exactly. The shapes of the ghosts, the food supplies, the bottles, the bags of gold, all are retained from the original.
Better still, the gameplay is such that you can make use of strategies developed at great expense and over many hours on the arcade machine. As ever the monster generators are the key - get them first - and on some levels its definitely more feasible to go treasure hunting than others. Other times it's better to head straight for the exit just as fast as possible...
Like the original, it works best as a two-player game and the program provides for a large number of alternative arrangements for keys and/or joysticks so that the whole thing becomes logistically feasible.
The choice of characters at the beginning is the same. There's Thor who's like Rambo - tough but lacks the noddle to cope with spells. Thyra is pretty good at everything except shot power. Merlin is butch but is good at the magic stuff. And Questor who isn't much of a shot and can't take much punishment but is good at everything else. Well defended characters are probably best for beginners.
How does it rate? Personally I still prefer Avenger as a marginally more complex game but if you are an addict of the arcade game, and who isn't, I think even Dandy owners might not be able to resist it.
It's actually about as good a conversion as it could reasonably be hoped for. A relief for Gauntlet players everywhere.
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