Running the Gauntlet: Atari's classic ... now and then

Food shooting N00bs


Dusting off the gloves

One aspect of Gauntlet that was recognisable as a throwback to the fundamental concept of Dungeons & Dragons was non-linear game-play, which gave the player multiple choices. Finally, I could choose my own path, searching for keys, treasures, food and transporters to take me to other levels.

Atari Games: Gauntlet

Devils you know

Just like the ever-present Dungeon Master, the narration followed me constantly, warning you and chastising you like your own personal Speak and Spell Dungeon Master. (This was the best four-player game before Goldeneye came along.)

I worried that they might leave out the vaguely paternal voiceover in the reboot when I heard some people complain that the narration was irritating... We are all hoping Arrowhead's romanticised reinvention won't omit that knowing wink to nerdvarna in the attempt to create a game that is familiar but also new.

Gauntlet reboot

New splash screen, same typeface

The preview footage I have seen immediately made me feel nostalgic, showing Thor rushing through waves of monsters, (who wait in that time-honoured pile by the door). This Dungeon crawler looks a lot like my firm fave dungeon-crawler Diablo, and that’s not a bad thing.

The new improved Gauntlet pays tribute to the simplicity of the arcade version of the game and is designed to be played as a four-player co-op. Each gamer plays a unique character, as there can only be one of each class active at any one time in a game.

Gauntlet reboot

Meet the new Boss

The same classes are available: the Wizard with powerful magical attacks, The Valkyrie with spear and hefty shield for awesome blocks, the Warrior filling in the role of tank and the nifty Elf archer picking off foes like Legolas. What strikes me as most familiar about these new characters is their movement, with leans and turns that make me feel all warm inside because they mimic the arcade game so intimately.

Team work is essential. Each character has their own health meter but must use gold from a central pot to restore it. Come over all n000b and your mates are going to have to pay up, so snarf as much loot as possible so you can pay your way. In the new Gauntlet, relics such as speed boots or a power orb work a lot like potions – offering stats and ability boosts – but need cool-down time after each use.

Gauntlet reboot

The graphics have come on a bit since 1985

The new Gauntlet has two types of floors to clear: Adventure and Random. By the looks of things, Adventure Floors feature pre-set layouts, while random floors feature constantly changing locations, enemies, layouts and loot to keep you busy and give some decent replay value.

A defining game of many people's childhoods and referred to with hushed reverence at the pub, Gauntlet deserves a reboot. From what I have seen so far, this game looks stunning, and the addition of boss fights – impressive massive mummies – and death-defying high jumps across destructible environments, shows Warner Bros is on the right track to preserve the original’s spine-tingling pace and simplicity.

So, in a scenario reminiscent of Stephen King’s It, it’s time to track down my friends from 1985 and spend this summer battling the overwhelming hordes of evil.

Gauntlet 2014 edition will be available from 3 September for PC for £15.

Released 1985
Developer Atari Games
Publisher Atari Games
Platforms Arcade + most home platforms

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