Review: Gauntlet (NES)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out one of the more famous action games released on the NES: Gauntlet. We find out if this old action/dungeon crawler game is worth a replay or not.

This particular game was released in 1987. It was a port that came from an arcade. The game would since have a small number of sequels tacked onto this series including one for the NES and one for the Nintendo 64. The game was inspired by another game released on the Atari called “Dandy” (later released as Dark Chambers.

The game starts you off with selecting one or two players, then selecting one of the four hero’s available to you. Each hero has their own characteristics that make them unique from each other. I chose red warrior.

From there, you enter the dungeon and try to survive the hoards of monsters that appear. There are a variety of monsters found in the dungeon with their own characteristics. Most, however, can be killed with a single blow (the reaper like monster seems to be an exception to this). Some monsters are generated on the start of the level, but most are created through generators. Some of these generators can be destroyed in a single blow, but others require two hits. Destroying the generator means less monster creation on the level.

Throughout the dungeon, there are chests of treasure. If you collect enough treasure, then you’ll be able to earn a maximum of more health each time you successfully exit the treasure room levels before the timer runs out. A screen will pop up to show you this when you’ve earned enough gold.

Another element in the dungeon are keys and doors. Keys can be scattered throughout, but overall, they can be collected and saved between each level. These keys can open one of two things: doors needed to get to the next part of the dungeon or chests that carry food.

Food is an additional component that makes this game more interesting. You are given a large amount of health. The unfortunate part is that it is always being drained (much like a timer). If you take damage, then the health drains substantially faster.

One final collectable component of this game I should mention are the occasional items that give you new powers. These include invisibility and reflective shots. Reflective shots allow you to bounce your weapons against walls. This can be useful in avoiding damage while firing around corners. Invisibility means that enemies won;t keep trying to move towards you. This allows you to run through parts of the dungeon at a much quicker and unimpeded fashion.

Along with these items are traps. The only one I encountered was the green slime which causes your character to stop moving for a brief period of time. This is bad because nearby enemies can waltz up to you and take a chunk of health out of you before you can move again.

Another important note is the fact that some walls are destructible. Simply attack walls that have cracks in them. Some of these walls are more obvious then others. Attacking these wall will destroy that chunk, allowing you to venture into more uncharted territory.

Generally speaking, I found the health timer thing an annoyin element of the game simply because some dungeons will cause you to retrace your steps. The impedes those that do not know the dungeon layout. If you memorize where everything is at, then you can simply make your way to the exit, taking every correct turn in the process. I thought the game could do without this element.

I also felt the game could be clearer how much more treasure is needed before “leveling” up. The only way you know you have enough for a level up is when the menu automatically pops up telling you you’ve earned enough gold. That’s it.

Still, I thought it was an interesting concept. This game made some small tweaks to the Dandy game. Some of these tweaks (such as the greater variety of monsters and the concept of gold being more than a point grab) were good. Other tweaks (such as the health timer) made this game worse to play.

Graphically, this game was pretty well done for a game of it’s time. There were issues of slowdown whenever there were a huge number of enemies on screen, but the graphics wasn’t anything to complain about otherwise.

The audio was decently done. The audio samples that are heard when you find food or take damage was a nice touch. The music worked with this game as well. Decent all around.

Overall, this game was a decent one to play, if a little short lived with the artificial difficulty of the timer. Having played the game that inspired this game, I know that it’s merely a tweaked version of the other game. Still, it was interesting how this game was able to apply it’s own twist to an already existing game concept. Good all around.


Furthest point in game: Level 11

General gameplay: 15/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 62%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

1 Trackback or Pingback

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: