Version tested: Retro
The fathomless scope of Gauntlet was a miracle to behold, leaving the four simultaneous players feeling quite insignificant when plunged into the cavernous dungeons and endless multitudes of savage antagonists. Coupled with the sheer size and weight of the mammoth cabinet, Gauntlet was a dominating giant of a game that demanded solemn, coin-operated worship.
Crashing through the established barriers of Dungeons 'n' Dragons, this labyrinthine quest stripped away the steady pace and prohibitive complexity of its spiritual grandfather to create a tense, dynamic fantasy of nonstop action and the first ever hack'n'slash dungeon crawler; the founder of what would become a prolific cult genre. The size of the mammoth cabinet was more than just a practicality for accommodating four companions on a quest for carnage, however. It was the perfect, megalithic symbol for the enormity of the game's endless number of sprawling levels; a menacing, dolmen tomb door for the vast armies of ethereal hordes and demonic fiends inhabiting Gauntlet's leviathan maze.
Unlike most shooters (a genre Gauntlet isn't far removed from), these endless packs of cruel enemies pay no heed to formation or considered attack. They swarm and stampede, desperate to claw, maim and devour the Thor, Merlin, Thyra and Questor, whose only hope of survival is cutting a savage trail through the throng of ruthless adversaries and closing the portals which continually spawn them.
Inspired by an Atari 800 game called Dandy (no relation to the comic), Gauntlet's immortal creator, Ed Logg, made use of the coin-op's power to fashion a game that was as talkative as it was deep. A constant (and ultimately irritating) narration followed the players around the dank maze, warning gamers about all manner of on-screen events. The voice of Gauntlet is remembered every bit as much as the awesome gameplay, and proved the importance of atmospheric effects when crafting a truly classic game.
8 / 10