Review: Dark Chambers (Atari 7800)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out a dungeon crawling action game for the Atari 7800. This game is called Dark Chambers. We find out if this particular game is worth trying.

Dark Chambers was released in 1988. It was originally released as “Dandy”. Dandy was the main inspiration for the much more well known game Gauntlet. Gauntlet (as released on the NES) is basically Dandy with a few tweaks.

You are basically an elf with a fireball attack. You can only fire one fireball at a time. Still, if the enemy is right up close to you, you can fire numerous shots in a second. Unfortunately, if you miss, and there’s nothing behind that enemy, you have to wait for your shot to disappear before you can attack again.

In most levels, there are a number of enemies that appear at the very beginning. If the enemy is a blue one, then one shot will kill it. If the enemy is a ghostly white color, then it will take two or three shots to kill it. Orange is the next level up from that and black is the highest I was able to see. As monsters take damage, they devolve to the less powerful version until they are the one hit to kill blue monsters.

Some monsters are produced through what appears to be “generators”. These generators can be boxes, bones, potions, or even pyramids. Attacking them will have a similar effect to shooting a monster. If it’s the blue box, then it’ll only take one shot to destroy. If it’s a higher level generator, then it will devolve to a lesser form. If you let a generator you shot a few times, the generator will produce the corresponding monster until it is destroyed. There is an exception to this. The generator that is basically a ladder with a red flashing circle cannot be destroyed and will produce random monsters. The only option is to simply walk over or around it before it produces too many baddies.

Along the way, you can collect items. I haven’t been able to figure out if most of these items actually do anything other than adding points to your total score, but I do know that you can collect smart bombs. The only way I’ve been able to use smart bombs is shooting them before collecting them. If you shoot one, it will clear all the enemies off of the screen. Additionally, you can find keys for opening doors. There are hearts found in this dungeon, but the only thing I could figure out with them is to shoot them. Shooting them reveals an indestructible generator, so I left most of them alone once I discovered this. The only other items that seem to do anything different are the different kinds of food. Food will boost your health when collected until you have full health. From there, you can’t collect any more. Also, shooting the food will simply destroy it.

There are also traps including temporary pits and poison. Walking over these will reduce your health. Still, after you walk over it, the trap will disappear after, leaving you with one less nuisance on the screen.

To advance to the next stage, you need to find the ladder that leads down. Levels are denoted by a letter of the alphabet. There are 26 levels throughout this game (A-Z). Z contained no enemies when I got to it – only food and items.

While the layout of the mazes are always the same (with respect to fixed walls), items and locations are somewhat randomly located. So, if you go through a level at some point, then replay the level later, then you play that level again, things like the exit have moved. I thought this was an interesting aspect of the game.

Another interesting aspect is the general variety of the dungeons you pass through. Some levels have large rooms and wide hallways while others have very small rooms and narrow hallways. The walls are nicely varied in that some are square while others are a sort of simulate diagonal look while others still are seemingly swooshing and gradually curvy. Most levels have their own look and feel to it even though the monsters you encounter are generally the same.

I thought that this was one of those games with potential. Unfortunately, I found out that after you complete level Z, you are simply transported to level A to start over again at a slightly harder difficulty. Because there was seemingly no real ending to this game, I found little motivation to continue much farther than that because I felt that this is might be one of those infinite loop style games.

Graphically, while there was a huge variety of textures with minimal repeat involved, the graphics you got were merely average. There are games out there with worse graphics, but there were games out there with better graphics. It’s good that there’s nice variety, but that is only enough to elevate this game to a passable grade here.

Contrary to what others have said about this game, this game does have music. The intro has some nice music going for it. Beyond that, there isn’t any music in this game. This does impede the enjoyability of this game a little because you’ll likely encounter moments where there are no enemies on screen, leaving you with a silent game as you travel throughout the dungeon. There is also a decent set of sound effects that work well with what action causes them to play. Unfortunately, there is a somewhat limited library of sound effects. It isn’t unbearably small, but I felt that more could have been put into this one.

Overall, this game was actually much more interesting than I anticipated. Some say this game was a horrible game, but I would say that this was actually a decent one to play. I’ve played my share of games that warrant a failing grade and this game doesn’t warrant a failing grade. It’s not super amazing, but it did entertain me for a while. Overall, a decent game that doesn’t do much beyond being a decent game.


Furthest point in game: Completed every dungeon and stopped at D after it looped around to the beginning.

General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 60%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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