Gauntlet (1985 video game)
2 Bit Systems Replay
|Platform(s)||Arcade, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Macintosh, Commodore 64, MSX, Master System, NES, Genesis, ZX Spectrum, MS-DOS|
|Genre(s)||Hack and slash, dungeon crawl|
|Mode(s)||Single-player, 4-player multiplayer|
|Arcade system||Atari Gauntlet|
|CPU||1 x 68010 @ 7.16 MHz|
1 × 6502 @ 1.79 MHz
|Sound||1 x YM2151 @ 3.58|
1 × POKEY @ 1.79 MHz
1 x TMS5220 @ 650 kHz
Gauntlet is a 1985 fantasy-themed hack and slash arcade game by Atari Games. It is noted as being one of the first multiplayer dungeon crawl arcade games. The core design of Gauntlet comes from Dandy, a 1983 Atari 8-bit family dungeon crawl, which resulted in a threat of legal action.
The arcade version of Gauntlet was released in November 1985 and was initially available only as a dedicated four-player cabinet. A total of 7,848 units were distributed. Atari later released a two-player cabinet variant in June 1986, aimed at operators who could not afford or did not have sufficient space for the four-player version.
The game is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes where the object is to find and touch the designated exit in every level. An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase the player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points, and give magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.
Each player controls one of four playable fantasy-based characters: Thor, a warrior; Merlin, a wizard; Thyra, a valkyrie; or Questor, an Elf. The characters are named on the cabinet artwork, but in-game they are referred only by the title of their classes. Each character has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, the warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the wizard has the most powerful magic, the valkyrie has the best armor, and the Elf is the fastest in movement. The characters are assigned by control panel in the four-player version, whereas in the two-player version each player selects their own character at the start of the game or while joining during the middle of play.
The enemies are an assortment of fantasy-based monsters, including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers, and thieves. Each enters the level through specific generators, which can be destroyed. While there are no bosses in the game, the most dangerous enemy is Death, who can only be destroyed by using a magic potion—otherwise Death will vanish automatically after it has drained a certain amount of health from the player.
As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingness of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently. While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, health also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit. When a character's health reaches zero, that character dies. The character can be revived in place with full health by spending a game credit—inserting a coin in the arcade—within a certain short time window after it died. This allows even the least proficient players to keep playing indefinitely, if they are willing to keep inserting coins. However, each player's final score will be divided by the amount of credits they used to play, resulting in an average.
Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which is produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. The TMS5220C speech was encoded by Earl Vickers. The narrator (voiced by Ernie Fosselius) frequently makes statements repeating the game's rules, including: "Shots do not hurt other players, yet", "Remember, don't shoot food", "Elf shot the food", and "Warrior needs food, badly". The narrator occasionally comments on the battle by saying, "I've not seen such bravery" or "Let's see you get out of here". When a player's life force points fall below 200, the narrator states, "Your life force is running out", "Elf needs food", or "Valkyrie is about to die".
The control panel for the four-player cabinet is wider than other standard uprights in order to accommodate four people at the same time. Each player has an eight-way joystick and two buttons: one for "fire" (ranged attack) and one for "magic". The "magic" button also starts the game. After Gauntlet's release, other games started using this design, so it was a popular conversion target for newer games after it had its run.
Originally called Dungeons, the game was conceived by Atari game designer Ed Logg. He claimed inspiration from his son's interest in the paper-based game Dungeons & Dragons and from his own interest in the 1984 four-player dungeon crawl for the Atari 8-bit family, Dandy.
The game's development spanned from 1983 to 1985, with a team being led by designers Ed Logg and Roger Zeigler. The working title became legally unavailable in April 1985, so it was renamed Gauntlet in May. Based upon some of the most elaborate hardware design in Atari's history to date, it is the company's first coin-operated game that features a voice synthesizer chip.
Ed Logg, the co-creator of Asteroids and Centipede, is credited with the original game design of Gauntlet in the arcade version, as well as the 1987 NES release. After its release, John Palevich threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was from Dandy, a game for the Atari 8-bit family written by Palevich and published in 1983. The conflict was settled without any suit being filed, with Atari Games doing business as Tengen allegedly awarding Palevich a Gauntlet game machine. While he is credited with "special thanks" through 1986, Logg is entirely removed from credits on later releases and as of 2007 Logg claims no involvement with the NES game. Dandy was later reworked by Atari Corporation and published for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, and Atari 8-bit family as Dark Chambers in 1988.
Although NES version, which was released in 1988, states "The #1 Arcade game!", there are many differences between the Arcade and NES versions, with the NES version featuring new levels, a story structure and elements introduced in Gauntlet II. It omits the voiceovers, though the sound effects of players getting hurt or enjoying food can still be heard. Gauntlet was among the first NES games to be developed in the United States, as well as anywhere outside of Japan. There are two different Gauntlet cartridges for the NES, a grey version licensed by Nintendo, and a black unlicensed version, published after Tengen's lawsuits against Nintendo. The game program is identical, and both have the same box art by Joe Chiodo, which was used on other ports as well.
Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons
Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons is an expansion pack for the original computer ports of Gauntlet with 512 new levels. It was released in 1987 by the British company U.S. Gold in the UK and Europe, and Mindscape in the United States for the Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum ports of Gauntlet. It was developed by Gremlin Graphics.
Many of its levels were entries in a competition throughout Europe in which ten winners were awarded prizes, a Gauntlet T-shirt and a copy of the program for their computers. The contest was announced in the instructions of many of the ported games. The levels are presented randomly and its artwork is the side panel artwork of the arcade cabinet with only the main characters shown. The enemies were removed from the image and replaced with a pink background.
Reviewers noted that the levels were much harder than those in the original game, although the consensus was that it was not quite as good as the first game or the newly released arcade sequel.
The game was highly profitable upon its November 1985 launch, reportedly earning one San Mateo, California, arcade operator US$15,000 in sixteen weeks and another Canadian operator US$4,500 in nine days. In Japan, Game Machine listed Gauntlet on their March 15, 1986 issue as being the second most-successful upright arcade unit of the year. Atari ultimately sold a total of 7,848 Gauntlet video game arcade cabinets. At the 1986 Golden Joystick Awards in London, Gauntlet won Game of the Year, and was runner-up in the category of Arcade-Style Game of the Year. Entertainment Weekly picked the game as the 14th-greatest game available in 1991, saying: "There have been sequels to this game, but nothing matches the original Gauntlet, an innovative, fast-playing mix of mazes, monsters, and magic spells."
The Macintosh version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon No. 150 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game four out of five stars. Compute! praised the Macintosh version's sound effects. Computer and Video Games praised the accuracy of the Amstrad version, and said that it had "great graphics, good sounds, and perfect playability." Crash praised the smooth and fast scrolling, and the longevity, with Avenger being listed as the only alternative. In their Master System review, ACE said that people of all ages could quickly master the controls and tasks. The Spectrum version was the biggest-selling game of 1986, and was voted number 38 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time.
More than a decade after release, the Official UK PlayStation Magazine noted that they "spent many a night hunched over a fag-stained Gauntlet machine", but said that the limitations had become apparent in the late 1990s. Next Generation, while not including the game in their "Top 100 Games of All Time", noted in the intro that "for the record, Gauntlet was number 101."
Sequels and legacy
The arcade original was followed by a 1986 sequel, Gauntlet II, which was followed by further sequels on home platforms, including Gauntlet: The Third Encounter, Gauntlet III: The Final Quest, and Gauntlet IV. The arcade series was revived with Gauntlet Legends in 1998, which itself saw the sequels Gauntlet Dark Legacy and Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows. The original Gauntlet arcade game is included in Midway Arcade Treasures (2003) for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Microsoft Windows.
The game was rebooted in 2014 on home platforms as Gauntlet.
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