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Score: 75%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (1 - 4 Online)
Genre: Arcade/ Classic/Retro/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Arrowhead Game Studios brings us a new take on Gauntlet, with, well, Gauntlet, which for the sake of clarity, will be heretofore referred to as Gauntlet 2014. The name isn't a mistake; the game is intended as a re-imagining of the original arcade game, as is readily recognizable based on the elements from that game, but despite the license, the game plays differently, with some of the characteristic elements of the game inexplicably changed.

Our heroes are back again: the fighter guy (Thor), the elf archer dude (Questor), the fighter girl (Valkyrie) and the wizard (Merlin). They're all visually a bit upgraded and even feature upgradeable costumes as you play through the different difficulty levels. Several sound effects will yank you right back into your past of playing Gauntlet in smoke-filled arcades, not the least of which are the familiar "I just got a key" sound, the sound of opening a gate or the sound of picking up coins. There is some familiar sounding music to be found, such as the music featured in the original arcade game when rushing around the treasure bonus levels frantically searching for the exit. What you won't find is the classic original theme, which has gotten stuck in my head on and off since I first played the game in the arcade.

The voice acting has been greatly built up in this game. There is, of course, the narrator - the evil / opposing wizard who has put you and your companions to the test by creating the Gauntlet in the first place. He has a whole lot to say this time around, being actually quite chatty, with a wide variety of ways to say, "Oh, you're still alive? Don't worry, you're not likely to live past this..." And, while that fits pretty well with the story, Gauntlet 2014 also gives (a lot of) voice to the protagonists as well, giving them a lot of personality that we were previously required to imagine on our own. This might be a good thing for those unfamiliar with the game, but those of us who have played the game from way back might not have imagined the wizard to be a lush or the elf to be, snarky and what... maybe Irish or Scottish?

Fans of the original are teased with the option of a "Classic" Visual mode, but rather than simplifying the graphics or using the original tile set or a similar approach, "Classic" Mode appears to add yet an additional filter on top of everything that simply pixelates (and blurs) the graphics. I briefly attempted to play in this mode, but gave up when I found that I couldn't differentiate between the various vases / urns and chests of gold with that mode turned on. I would have much preferred for the original game to have been included or even a more simplistic tile-based representation to have been used than to add another filter on top of everything.


I have a rule about evaluating games: review a game for what it is, not for what it isn't. That can be difficult when a game picks up the mantle of a classic, such as Gauntlet and then proceeds to be so very different from its original source material.

In the original Gauntlet, everyone had a ranged attack. You didn't have to get right on top of the enemies to kill them. There was an interesting dynamic, where the reload time was based on how far your axe, arrow or whatnot had to travel, but that was just because you had to wait until it hit something or reached its maximum distance before you could fire off another attack. In Gauntlet 2014, the fighter, Thor, has no ranged attack. He cannot attack enemies from a distance in any fashion, unless you count running rapidly towards them and then attacking. Valkyrie does have a ranged attack, but it's not a straight-shooting attack; it's blatantly cribbed from Captain America (and even has a Mastery called "Captain's Special"), whereby her shield can be thrown such that it attacks a series of enemies in a row, then rebounds back into her hand. This can be an awesome attack, but also leaves her without a shield until it has returned to her.

In addition to the fact that there is one character who simply has no ranged attack, you may begin to think that the characters have specialized attacks and attributes that differentiate them quite a bit and can take some practice to make good use of them. You'd be right, and you haven't even heard all of the different attacks that the characters can do or the fact that the control schemes are different for the different characters.

What? Yes, you heard that right. In fact, the most amazing of the control schemes is the one dreamed up for the wizard. You are given the ability to cast 9 different spells... each with their own cool-downs. All you have to do is use a two-button sequence of the upper three action buttons to select one of your nine spells (which remains selected until you change the selected spell) and then fire the selected spell off by using the Right Analog Stick to aim toward your target. Well... that's if you're using a controller. The keyboard and mouse option takes you further away from the classic Gauntlet feel and gives you a mouse pointer-controlled cross-hair for aiming, which gives you much better accuracy, while removing the last shred of a resemblance to the original game.

There is one "Campaign," if you will... the Gauntlet. You can play through it alone or in a group of up to four players, either locally (just like the original) or online. Funtionally, multiplayer gameplay is the same, whether it's local, online or a hybrid of each. Do note, however, that when you die, you drop your gold in a pile and can't respawn for four seconds, so if you're playing with others, you can expect for your gold to get stolen from time to time, while you wait to respawn.

For the most part, Gauntlet 2014 is all about the gold. You want to collect the gold you see, destroy the environment to find gold you didn't see, kill the enemies to take the gold they're protecting, collect the potions to fuel your artifact power-ups that help you kill the enemies and collect their gold and then spend that gold to buy more and better artifacts and upgrade them. Given that it's all about the gold, you can see why it can be a little frustrating to die and have one of your teammates swoop by and pick up the gold you left behind before you can respawn.


There are four different difficulty levels, and they do a great job of taking you from way too easy up through impossible. I found that I was finishing levels in Easy with full health and loads of extra food that I didn't need to eat. Normal provided a little more of a challenge, while it wasn't until Hard that I found myself in a situation where there was the beginning of the kind of numbers of enemies in the room that it was starting to feel like the original Gauntlet... and I only ended up in that situation after making several mistakes. The Unfair difficulty level, however, replaces food power-ups with solid gold versions, making for nice boosts to your coffers, but removing any possibility of replenishing health during a level. (Or does it? Look at the available artifacts for something that might give you a way to get some health back.)

One aspect that works really well, in my opinion, are the Masteries: essentially achievements that grant enhancements, based on doing a lot of whatever it is. Stay with me - an example should make this much clearer. It's important to eat the food and not to shoot the food. That should make sense, but it's amazing how many times an enemy will be standing right next to your food (and you miss) or you'll go to destroy a crate right next to some food (and you hit both). However, if you destroy a handful of health pickups, you will get the first tier of a Mastery called, "Eating Off the Floor," which will grant you a small percentage of the health, even though you destroyed it. Further, if you simply don't learn and you destroy a lot of food, you'll earn the next tier of the same Mastery, and you'll up the percentage of health you gain when you destroy food. It's still less than actually picking up the health, like you're supposed to, but making the same mistake a lot makes that mistake not quite as bad. This makes it a bit more forgiving.

The most difficult aspect of Gauntlet 2014 is that you can't save your game inside of the chapters; you have to complete a chapter to save your progress. This can be frustrating at times, but can be made easier to handle if you manage your food properly. Avoid shooting food (of course) and don't eat it when you don't need it, as you can quite often backtrack and eat food later. There are some gates that won't open back up once you've passed through them and some areas with jumps that don't have return jump platforms, but most previous doors reopen when the enemies in the current room have been eliminated.

When you get near to the end of the game, you will start encountering a lot of environmental hazards. At a certain point, I found myself worrying more about the environmental hazards than the enemies - and with good reason - the environmental hazards were taking out about as many enemies as I was, myself.

There are artifacts in the game that you can purchase - and upgrade - to give you new, interesting and useful powers. These artifacts are powered by the potions you pick up, and those potions aren't useful for anything else, as far as I can tell, so don't bother trying to destroy everything on the screen with one like you could in the original Gauntlet game.

Game Mechanics:

Ignoring the fact that this 2014 version of Gauntlet is radically different from the original arcade game, it has an interesting set of controls, and various upgrades that allow for a great deal of customization of gameplay. The keyboard and mouse control setup, with a bit of practice, can forge the wizard into a powerful player with highly accurate targeting, making him a valuable member of a team. His complexity, however, can make for a difficult single-player run through - especially if you try to mix things up and put all of his spells into play.

Then again, the usage-based improvement systems (the perks from the achievements) let you upgrade the power of the spells you use most simply by using them more, so you can do okay by specializing a bit, if you prefer that. This concept extends to doing things you're supposed to and doing things you're not supposed to, so essentially, the more you play, the better your character will get, with those improvements being based around what you do more often. Not bad.

The game seemed a bit short, in my opinion, with twelve "Chapters" each consisting of three levels. That's a total of 36 levels, but some of these levels (such as Death's Domain) are reused multiple times and some are "arena levels" that feature one large room with multiple monster generators that will spawn. Those can be really short, with zero exploration.

With a relatively short campaign and no differentiation between single-player and multiplayer (in the way of levels), the game relies almost solely on difficulty levels for replay value. Having made my way through the game once, I don't find that I have a lot of desire to play through it again. The multiplayer gameplay could have a draw for some, but I found that Quick Games aren't always readily available, so you might want to bring your own friends to the party and, if you want to play local multiplayer, make sure you use a computer with enough available ports to accommodate the USB gamepads you'll need. (I recommend four.) Finally, I only played a few online matches and found dropout to be a problem. (Your mileage may vary.)

In the end, there's fun to be had in Gauntlet 2014, but probably not enough to justify paying the full $20 USD price and doubtlessly not worth convincing three of your friends to shell out $20 each to play multiplayer with you. If your complaints about the original Gauntlet were that the graphics weren't detailed enough and there wasn't enough dialogue, then you might dig on Gauntlet 2014. If, however, you think of enemies filling the screen, Thor throwing his axe across the screen, simple controls and a magic potion that destroys everything on the screen... you won't recognize this game at all.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows Vista / Windows 7, 2.4 GHz Dual Core Processor, 4 GB RAM, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 9800 / ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT Graphics Card, DirectX Version 10 (included), Broadband Internet connection, 2 GB Hard Drive space available

Test System:

[Toshiba Satellite A665] Intel Core i5 M 460 CPU @ 2.53 GHz, 4 GB, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Samsung S22C300H 22" HDMI LED Monitor, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, Astro Gaming A30 Headset, Broadband Internet

Related Links:

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated