Gauntlet originally hacked and slashed its fantasy-themed action into arcades across the US in 1985. It was an incredible gaming revelation at the time allowing up to four players to play simultaneously in a D&D inspired world of mazes and monsters.
Apparently the game’s original designer, Ed Logg (who also co-created Centipede, Super Breakout and Asteroids) was inspired by his son’s paper and pencil adventures with Dungeons and Dragons. Logg took some of the basic character and mapping concepts and morphed them into a cooperative multi-player arcade sensation. I can tell you from a personal anecdote that my brother and I, who also played D&D together, would literally levitate when we saw Gauntlet in an arcade.
Beyond delivering a tough yet addicting and fun quarter-muncher, Gauntlet also provided an incredibly awesome (and one of the first?) voice synthesizer chip which to this day people quote for fun. Things like, “Valkarie needs food,” or “Elf is about to die!” And the Amiga, folks, uses the exact same sound as the arcade. It gave me chills the first time the game spoke to me through my Amiga’s speakers; it sounds exactly right.
The original arcade cabinet was quite large compared to most as it accommodated four separate joysticks each with their sets of buttons for attacking and using magic. Players could pick from one of four characters, each with their own original color assignment and unique weapon and magical abilities: Questor, an Elf (green), Merlin, a Wizard (yellow), Thyra, a Valkyrie - a Norse female warrior (blue), and Thor, a Conan-look-a-like warrior (red).
Each of these characters have their pros and cons.
Thor is by far the strongest and can dish out powerful damage with his battle axe. His shot power is rated “Excellent”, which is the best and twice the normal power. His hand-to-hand combat is also rated excellent and can destroy generators. Generators are little huts or homes that spawn the various “Villains”. His armor is his “Tough Skin” which absorbs 20% of damage received. Thor’s magic power is awful; it’ll damage most monsters but doesn’t hurt generators at all.
Thyra has the best defense out of all of the characters. Her shield eliminates 30% of damage. Whenever I only play a single-player game, she’s generally my first choice. When she is played side-by-side with Thor, you’ve got a terrific combo. Her shot power is poor, but her hand-to-hand combat is good. Her magic power is rated moderate, which means it’ll wipe out most monsters and generators.
Merlin has no armor at all (wizards never do, except their mighty beards). This means he takes full damage when he hits monsters and you can watch his health fall like a lead anvil dropped from a building. His shot power is good, but his hand-to-hand combat is frighteningly bad. He’s only got his bare hands (not even a staff!), so he can’t even bash generators out. But his magic power is really good and can pretty much wipe the screen clean.
The Villains are as follows:
Ghosts: You really need to shoot these and not run into them. If you do they’ll disappear, which is nice, but they’ll take a ton of damage along the way.
Grunts: Grunts will run up to you and try to bash you with giant clubs. You can either move your joystick into them to do hand-to-hand combat or shoot them.
Demons: These guys can bite, but ultimately their fireballs really kick your ass.
Lobbers: These are little guys that growing up I always assumed were evil little dwarves chucking rocks at me. The annoying thing about these guys is they can lob rocks at you over walls. So they can attack you while you can’t get to them - sort of like little catapults on legs.
Sorcerers: These annoying villains can turn invisibly every other step. Shoot ‘em when you see ‘em.
Death: These guys totally suck, and by that I mean suck the life right out of you if they touch you. You can only kill them magically. Run!
Super Sorcerers: These guys can teleport. He’ll appear, shoot and you then appear somewhere else. And it will never stop until he gets shot by you. You can use magic on them but it only stuns them.
One year after Gauntlet hit the arcade scene, Guantlet II came out. It was released on the Amiga in 1989. Gauntlet looks and feels identical to the original but offered some new twists like moving walls, invisible walls and moving, fake exits.
Gauntlet II also introduced the ‘IT’ Monster which is a spinning disc, that also kind of looks like a big fireball of sorts. If you get hit by it, you become “IT”, which makes all monsters attracted to you. This only matters during multi-play because all of the monsters are after you in single-player mode anyway. But if you’re it, everything comes to you unless you finish the level you’re on. That breaks the spell. Or, more interestingly, you can go touch another player and the monsters will change direction and run after them instead. Thanks, pal!
There is also the ‘THAT’ Monster: It looks exactly like the IT monster, but if it touches you, you either lose a special power you’ve gained (e.g. bouncing arrows) or a potion (oof!) or 100 health points.
And there is an additional monster Green Acid: you can’t shoot it and magic only stuns it. It doesn’t chase after you, but its movements are so erratic chances are you’re going to walk into some. And when you do, you’ll think one of Ridley Scott’s aliens must have left it behind because it is nasty stuff.
As an arcade conversion, Gauntlet II is certainly one of the best ports to ever find itself on an Amiga. It looks great, it feels great and it sounds great - especially the synthesized voice. The voice sounds perfect.
Yet, this game begs for multi-player action. It’s simply too hard to play alone and frankly you just won't get very far.
As a two (or three or four) player game if one character dies he can re-spawn as long as the other player is still alive. So, using the buddy system, you can virtually live forever (unless you run into a maze where the puzzle is too challenging). It takes a bit of evil sniping combined with helpful cooperative play. Truly - this is one of the most enjoyable multi-player games out there. It makes single-player feel flat and frustrating until you get 2-player going.
Although when there are two players there is a definite race to the food!
One very cool thing about Gauntlet II is that it allows each player to pick the same characters - it just changes the color. In other words if you both want to be Thor, you can be. In the original game you each player had to be a unique character.
All in all, Gauntlet II is a fantastic effort. If anything, the lack of a Continue option when you die makes the game feel a touch unfair. Had I played this version in the arcade I probably would have dropped at least four quarters into the slot along side my big brother. At home, all I can do is go back to Level 1. And ask my son to play with me (and use him as bait!). Multi-player really is the way to go with this absolute gem.
This game was played off an original floppy disk on an Amiga 1000 on KS 1.3 with 2.5MB RAM at 7.16 Mhz. This game - it appears - will not run on accelerated hardware. However the game plays very responsively and quickly even when the screen is half full of villains. An excellent piece of work to be sure.
The original floppy can not be copied via conventional means. Therefore the supplied ADF on this page is not a copy off an original disk like we usually try to do. As such - the crack provides game cheats our copy did not - like a Trainer mode.