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DoctorSpuds Reviews Things - Gauntlet (Answer Software)


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Where to even start with this one… Well how about the name? Gauntlet, which in retrospect has caused a lot of confusion over the years, yes there was a Gauntlet on Atari but it isn’t Atari’s Gauntlet, same name different game. Even the company is shrouded in mystery, mainly because I can’t find a decent shred of info on them anywhere, all I really know is that they were a mail-order only company, they programmed three games but only released two, and that a majority of their games exist only as loose boards with no cartridge shells, seriously if anybody can direct me to so good info on these guys I’d be really grateful. The only info I can find about the actual number of Gauntlet cartridges is from a 2014 thread where Rick Wies an owner of one of the carts said there were three that he knows of, and I’m willing to take his word for it, unless any more have been found of course.

This is actually a very complex game on both a surface and technical level; I’m actually really impressed with what I’m seeing here. The only game I can really compare it to is Journey: Escape, which I have compared to Gauntlet in the past so we’ve come full circle. It is a top-down avoid-it game, where you must navigate your way past obstacles to… uh… keep avoiding obstacles, and my goodness what obstacles we have. Rocks, logs, trees, arrows, flippin’ tomahawks, and even a pillar (?) will harry and hinder on your quest, and honestly they all look pretty good. Of course the more basic items like the trees and rocks are single colored, but the trees and tomahawks are both three and four colors respectively, which is pretty darn impressive when you take into consideration that they’re all whizzing past you at high speeds while not flickering in the slightest. Seriously this game looks good on just about every level I can even think of, actually the only part of the game I think could have been tweaked was the color of the borders, because I really don’t think blue was the best color to have, perhaps a dark green or brown.

The sounds are alright, they are a little scarce, which isn’t uncommon for graphically complex game such as this one, especially when you take into consideration that the entire game was squeezed into a tiny 4K chip. Most of what you’ll be hearing are thumping tribal drums to act as a backing track to the sounds of you running, and running into things. Running is just a basic white noise effect but running into something plays the shortest rendition on the Funeral March I’ve ever heard, it’s so fast as to almost be comical. There are a few more basic sounds for when you water and old man or douse a flame, or when you just get thirsty and take a drink, but they’re pretty much the same sound, as well as for skidding to a stop and ducking, but those are just basic beeps.

As stated earlier in the graphics section Gauntlet is an avoid-it game, where you must avoid obstacles to get to an overarching goal. Gauntlet actually has a somewhat unique premise, where you are a fearless explorer attempting to gain the respect of some nondescript group of people, so you must therefore run the gauntlet, and douse a bunch of ceremonial fires that have been set up along the way. ”How can you douse these fires without water?” I hear you ask, well it’s simple, you just carry a couple of glasses of water along with you as you run headlong into danger. Each of the cups of water act as lives, but you don’t lose an entire cup if you trip up just once, you actually get seven chances per cup, you can lose water by either running into an obstacle, watering an old man for points, or if you just stand around for a while you’ll take a swig, so you basically have 21 lives. Also your cup will be filled after you douse a flame so really good players could likely keep going for a long while. That’s all just the premise and the lives the real question is how this game actually plays, and honestly it’s a bit of a mixed bag. You have the ability to run, jump, and duck, also this game isn’t an autoscroller so you do have the ability to stop, your maneuverability is fine, if not a bit sluggish, and slowing down is easy enough as long as you have sufficient distance to come to a stop, my main gripe is with the jumping and ducking. There is almost no indication while jumping of whether you’re in the air or on the ground since the guy only raises up one pixel, you also lose all control while jumping and it’s also hard to actually time your jump since sometimes it just doesn’t work. You’ll probably never actually duck in the game since the only obstacles you need to duck for are the arrows tomahawks and thrown stones, which you can pretty easily run past even at the higher speeds. The real problem with the game is the collision detection, not a single pixel of your character sprite can make contact with any part of any obstacle, and later on the game just loves to put trees really close together at the narrowest portions of the stage, but thankfully you get a brief moment of invincibility after you get knocked down so you can disentangle yourself from the tree you just ran into at 25 miles per hour.

Overall this is a pretty fair game, that’s fairly low on the bullshit meter, there are a few things that might make you raise an eyebrow, but there’s nothing that’ll make you want to throw the game out the window. AS I said earlier there are three known copies of this game (in 2014), and I don’t have any concrete sales information on them, but I do know that there are double enders that contain both Gauntlet and Answer Software’s other game Malagai for 100bucks on Ebay. If I had the money I would buy the double ender but not the actual cart or even any PCB’s that may be out there.

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