So, on the RETRO REBOOT, I've covered some early SHMUPs, a few of the OGs of fighting games, and role-playing games. May as well be as good a time as any to throw a review at one of the originators of the hack-n-slash genre, and one of the quarter munchers of the mid 80's, Gauntlet. 

Whereas I mostly indulged in the Tengen NES release of the game, Gauntlet was more ideal to play in the arcades. It was developed and released by Atari in 1985. Selecting one of several classes, it's a top-down action slasher/dungeon crawler, and has strong similarities to Harry Lafnear and Bill Dunlevy's Time Bandit, despite Time Bandit releasing before Gauntlet was released. Coincidentally, both games have a striking resemblance to Konami's Tutankham, which was released in 1982.

The premise of the game is incredibly simple; proceed through the labyrinthine dungeons by clearing out waves and waves of respawning enemies. As a kid, it looked incredibly daunting. My older brother and cousin were aces at Gauntlet, I was impossibly bad at the arcade version. As an adult, it's certainly nothing special, but not without throwing the occasional curveball at you on some stages. 

Choose between a Warrior, Wizard (personal favorite), Valkyrie, or an Elf, each with their own special traits, such as Warrior naturally hits hardest, the Valkyrie has the highest constitution, and the Elf is the quickest. I don't know if the arcade game has an endgame, but the skill level certainly escalates the further you proceed. It's a straightforward style of play that is a good time killer, yet the experience can get a little repetitive. This one is easily best played with multiple players, which is one of Gauntlet's strongest qualities. The more humans play, the more enthralling it becomes. Suddenly, the waves of enemies can be more exhilarating to mow through. 

The graphics where stimulating at the time, it's always impressive to see a ton of active sprites on a screen with zero slowdown. Gauntlet's stages may lack visual creative design, but there's something about it that's quite memorable to me. It's simplistic in detail, and in a couple of ways is a grandfather to what would become MOBAs or Diablo. At this point in my life, I almost kinda wished there was more pomp and flair to defeating enemies. Mind you, I was desensitized to Konamisplosions at a young age. Gauntlet just needed to...pop more.

I'll play it occasionally on my PS2 Midway Treasures copy, Gauntlet overall is pretty good and influential, but also a product of its time. That's no real knock against the classic, it just so happens that the home console market was exploding and game design was becoming more elaborate. Gauntlet was a cool game to play if you had ten minutes to kill at your local laundromat.

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JULY 27th


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