The Games of Summer: Gauntlet
We’re so spoiled as dungeon crawlers these days, aren’t we? All we need to do is log in to some multiplayer online game like Diablo III and we can form instant friends or cast all kinds of spells to make our problems go away. But do you know what we had to do back in 1985 for dungeon crawling thrills? We had to fight for them, throwing dozens upon dozens of projectiles while fighting hundreds of enemies at once.
But by no means are we complaining. When Atari released Gauntlet in 1985, it became an instant arcade hit, for a couple of reasons. First, its addictive nature made it easy to drop coins in for continuous play, as you vowed to get through just one more stage of ghosts, demons, keys and locked doors. And second, you didn’t have to worry about getting through the game on your own, as Gauntlet supported four players. At once. Nothing wrong with bringing a party, now is there?
The game lets you choose between four different classes – the Warrior, the Wizard, the Valkyrie and the Elf. Each one is thoroughly balanced, with no shortage of shots and each one being able to use magic equally. You needed all this ammunition, though, because creatures continuously came from generators. Not only did you need to kill them, but you also needed to destroy said generators so more wouldn’t show up. These included rogue wizards, ghosts, demons that breathed fire and other unspeakable monsters, each one getting progressively more difficult with each new set of stages.
But, hey, with the right amount of teamwork, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to survive till the next stage. And with that, you could also locate food to help power up your character, keeping their health from dropping to “000”. The only problem, though, is that your food could be destroyed by someone’s shot. This leaves the announcer, one of the more in-depth, memorable voices in a video game, to state, “Someone…shot the food!” Or remind you, in a rather stern voice, “Remember…don’t shoot food!” But of course, you shot it anyway, because, well, if you couldn’t have it, why should your comrades?
The thrill of getting through the game as one continuous unit made Gauntlet a huge hit in arcades everywhere, and it’s still one to this day, depending where you can find arcade units. But if you’re not up for that kind of hunt, the game has seen a variety of home releases. The NES and Sega Genesis both saw modified versions, and the original PlayStation saw the game as part of the Arcade’s Greatest Hits compilation.
As for current releases, it came out for the Nintendo DS, as well as Xbox Live Arcade, before Midway closed up shop and the game was removed from the service. (A lucky few of you still have it.) The sequel Gauntlet II appears on PlayStation Network, and is still available now for like five bucks, a decent deal for a decent sequel. But if you prefer to have them both, you can also buy Midway Arcade on iPad/iOS devices for just a few bucks, along with various other arcade classics. Smash TV, anyone?
If you prefer something more modern, you can also track down Gauntlet Legends for Nintendo 64 and PlayStation, as well as on the Dreamcast – the best port in our opinion. Gauntlet: Dark Legacy followed on Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, and Midway also released a newer game, Seven Sorrows, just a few years back. They’re pretty good, but nothing takes us back like the original.
Gauntlet is one of those games that remains completely timeless, if only because of its awesome dungeon crawling nature. Diablo fans and others would easily learn a thing or two from it – besides the destruction of food, obviously.
And we love that voice. “Warrior…is about to die!” And then the death groan when they finally bit it. So good.
See you next time on another Games of Summer!