1-4 players, vertical game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
$39.95 (Out of Stock)
No, you're not mistaken. GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER is not a Lynx adaptation of any of the GAUNTLET arcade games. Instead, this was originally a similar game developed by Epyx called TIME QUESTS AND TREASURE CHESTS. When Atari bought the rights to the Lynx, they gave it a quick name change in hopes that the GAUNTLET title would enhance its market appeal.
In any event, the game pits you and up to three companions against the demonic hordes of an abandoned castle. Players can choose to be one of eight characters, each of whom is rated differently in speed, strength, fighting skill, and health. Your objective is to fight through a dungeon of 40 maze-like levels, and retrieve a mysterious Star Gem of immense power. Along the way, you will find food, treasure, keys, magic potions and scrolls, and computer terminals(!) which offer information and sell supplies. You lose health from time and attacks, and die when it disappears. The action is seen from a scrolling overhead map, along with a second window that provides a first-person view of the action.
One new twist to the gameplay in GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER is inventory management. Everything your character finds is carried along until used, though there is a limit to how much you can tote. It's possible, for instance, to drop pots of gold and "build" a protective wall to shield your adventurers from nearby threats. The game itself is fairly difficult, as survival depends on both minimizing your damage and on managing your food supplies. There is also quite a bit of creativity and variety throughout -- opponents include multiplying slime creatures, falling stalactites, and robots, and your character choices range from cowboys to pirates to nerds.
Unfortunately, these points are counterbalanced by a number of criticisms. Since levels are presented in a fixed order, and the location of their contents never change, the game becomes static and predictable. The arcade frenzy has slowed down a bit, due to monsters who will not attack until you either strike first or approach close enough. Worse, if a creature touches your character, the monster disappears, reducing the overall difficulty. Progress can often be made by standing still and holding down the attack button, which reduces the strategy needed and increases the repetitive atmosphere.
The orientation of the game is worth a few extra words. Used properly, vertically-oriented games can add to the fun, giving a taller viewing window into the action. Here, it feels more like a gratuitous demo of the Lynx than an aid to gameplay, as the display could be rearranged for a horizontal setup with no loss of data. Worse, the bright backgrounds used in some levels have been known to cause eyestrain and headaches in some players when played for long periods.
The sights and sound of GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER are pretty average, neither highly appealing nor truly repulsive. Game graphics are small but varied and clearly recognizable, though animation is at a minimum. Scaling is used in several places, but not to great effect, and the first-person- perspective "action window" does little to enhance the game. Sounds are also short and varied, consisting mainly of clips indicating the attacks used by the monsters and your players. A low-key background tune plays throughout the game as well.
This cartridge offers some good points and some bad points, coming to rest as an average game. Several more refinements would have been welcome, but as it is now, whether or not you should get GAUNTLET: THE THIRD ENCOUNTER depends on whether you can tolerate its weaknesses.
GAMEPLAY: 5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 5.5