Gauntlet is a fantasy dungeon crawler and shooter developed by Atari and published by Tengen for the NES in 1987 with a PlayChoice-10 version released in 1988. Unlike the original arcade game which plays forever, the NES port has a rudimentary story and ending. This game is part of the Gauntlet universe.
My brother and I got this game used and played it through nearly to the end, however, we missed several of the secret rooms, so we could never get into the final stage. I thought it was pretty cool when I was younger, but I see a huge amount of flaws in it now.
I stumbled upon a useful bug in this game. If you get stunned, the countdown continues to count even if you press select to see your stats, and by the time you get back to the game, the countdown is over, but the enemies don't get a chance to hurt you.
I own this game, but I have not beaten it. I've played nearly every level in the game, but I've never found access to all the secret codes.
- Overall: 4/10
- Best Version: NES
— This section contains spoilers! —
- The game competently takes most of what was good with the arcade version and brings it over to the NES, but creates an actual victory condition.
- The game has fantastic music composed by Hal Canon.
- Being able to choose a character from a group of different choices is always nice in any game.
- The various permanent power up potions are a great idea.
- Giving each world its own look and feel was a nice design choice.
- Basing a player's level on the amount of treasure they've collected is an interesting touch that actually makes it worthwhile to grab the loot, unlike many games where score is unimportant.
- Having health restoration being based on a successful exit of the treasure room is a good idea as well. Players need to balance their greed with their desire to survive, just like in the common trope.
- Most of the maps have hidden tiles that can be uncovered when shot for a minor bonus or secret exit. This adds replay value to the game as pleasant surprises keep getting uncovered in subsequent play throughs.
- The game has wonderful cover art.
- The game is much longer than it needs to be, and you'll be pretty bored of it by the end. Many of the levels feel the same, in fact, many of them are the same, just with a different tileset.
- Death is an obnoxious enemy. While he is sometimes cleverly kept at bay by walls and doors that you must avoid opening, there are many instances where he's entirely unavoidable and exists simply to drain your life.
- The invisible walls in world 4 are overused.
- Reflective shot is a burden to get when you're only allowed one shot out at a time.
- The locked chests are a good idea, but putting bad items in them like poison and death is a kick in the teeth.
- The item alcove with no entrance in room 56 is pretty mean.
- Other than treasure rooms and secret rooms, the game randomly assigns the music. The designers missed the opportunity to add more atmosphere to specific levels because of this.
- Finding the entrance to each of the secret rooms and finding the secret exit in time is very difficult. To beat the game without cheating or hints, you're essentially forced to shoot every single wall and unlock every chest in every block adjacent to a question mark block on the map until you find the entrance. Once inside, you must find the hidden secret block and the exit within the time allotment to get the code. If you fail to enter, find the clue, and exist a secret stage, for all of the question mark blocks in the game, you lose any chance of winning and might as well restart from your last password, but you won't know until you've passed all adjacent blocks! This is terrible design, and the game never should have shipped like this.
- The teleporters rarely send you where you want to go, so you end up wasting a lot of time, and thereby your life, hoping they'll send you where you want to go. This is extremely frustrating, and they should have been changed.
- The world 4 and 5 treasure rooms are so absurdly laid out that it's just not possible to see the entire map and find the potential exist in time. Refilling your life is just a matter of luck.
I love this game's box art. Each of the four characters is prominently featured and competently painted, and there is a sense of dangerous adventure seen in their poses. The unlicensed box art is essentially the same, only with the left and bottom edges covered over in flat gold. The painting looks a bit unfinished, but it still looks great.
Nintendo Power, part 1.