Garrison II with limitations

Gauntlet 2 logo

WITH a mighty chop and heaving hack, the rabid sequel was upon the hapless journalist. No, no, he cried, but to no avail - his fate was sealed, his doom set, the disc was in the drive the monitor flickering alive.
You may be wondering what could inspire such fear in a hardened journo. It could, in fact, be only one thing - another Gauntlet variant. Hang on though, this is Gauntlet II, the official one from US Gold.

You might be tempted to ask how we can have a Gauntlet sequel when the original game was never released on the Amiga, and the answer those chappies and chapesses up in Birmingham would give is that this the conversion of the coin-op Gauntlet II.

It isn't that the original was never programmed for US Gold - it was - it's just that the freelance programmer who offered to do the job found the task completely beyond him and the project was abandoned. Not that Amiga owners complained too vociferously. The other versions of Gauntlet were, without exception, dismal.

Gauntlet II throws four friends - if you have either the Microdeal interface or the US Gold one, otherwise it's two players only - into a dungeon in search of treasure, fame, points, the satisfaction of bragging that you made to the 100th level.

Each player can be an elf, warrior, valkyrie or wizard, in any combination. Thus you could have four wizards if you so chose, and that isn't too bad an idea.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, but the elf is virtually all weaknesses. The trouble is that after a few levels you find that the number of shots needed to kill the monsters increases from one to four, making the poor elf a certainty for a monster's dinner table.

Anyway, on into the dungeon and the short term objective of finding the exit to the next level. Before you get to it though, make sure you collect all available treasures, keys, useful potions and medallions.
The potions can have any effect from a smart bomb like detonation, to...
Medallions don't allow you to bare your chest and pose - unless you're playing the warrior, of course - but add strange abilities like limited invulnerability, limited invisibility, limited bouncing shots and limited xxxxx. If this all sounds a bit limited to you, don't worry, you're in good company.

Lining up on the opposing team are lobbers who lob things at you then run when you get close, small fire breathing things which breathe fire and small invisible men who you don't see much of.
Then there's the lovely ghosts, muggers, Death, the thief, the It Monsters and the acid pools. They're horribly green and slimey and chase after you. Upon contact they inflict an unpleasantly large amount of damage and emit the most disgusting squelchy noise. Ugh! They might have you shouting Acieed, but this is one house you'll want to get out of in a hurry.

Death is always a problem. Contact is accompanied by an horrendous noise as your health points start to disappear at a frightening rate. A smart bomb, sorry potion, will solve your problems.
The It Monster is a barrel of laughs when tehre's a few of you playing. When it touches someone it disappears and that character becomes It.
All the monsters on that level converge on the luckless individual like he was Salman Rushdie in a mosque.
The only recourse for said individual is not to instantly apologise but to either touch someone else, thus nominating them as It, or get the hell off that level in a hurry.

The graphics are pretty good, but not as good as Garrison II because the playing area is smaller and the scrolling isn't as good. That said, the use of samples throughout is impressive. Though why they had to be from the coin-op and not freshly recorded I don't know.

If it comes to a straight choice between Garrison II and Gauntlet II then Garrison II wins. But if you have the interface and three friends who want to play too, then Gauntlet II is the choice for you.

Gauntlet 2 logo CU Amiga Super Star

US Gold
Price: £24.95

What do cavemen, blobs of jelly and skeletons all have in common? They all live in dungeons of course. I have no idea why - or who built all these dungeons, or even what for, but they are always there anyway. Gauntlet has the original arcade adventure dungeon and US Gold have here succeeded in maintaining its reputation as the original and the best. Everything you could ever want from a dark hole in the ground is here, and more. In fact, there is a massive 512 levels - so this is a very large hole in the ground indeed. Gauntlet II is light on superfluous scenario and heavy on action. Let us face it, you do not have to have all this explained to you, do you? FIND THE TREASURE AND STAY ALIVE. Which means collecting food and drink to keep you alive, amulets with stranger powers than Mystic Meg and potions to assist your magic power, amongst others.

You can choose from four distinct characters: Warrior, Valkyrie, Elf and Wizard (in descending order of muscle and ascending order of magic). This comes in particular handy, as you have the option to play with up to four people if you interface with the printer port. A handy feature if you have that many joysticks and can fit that number of people round your monitor.

The monsters are reasonably various and the lesser ones often have to have generators destroyed to stop them regrouping to cause you more trouble next time you pass that location. The 'it' monster is a nice touch. If you have the misfortune to come into contact with this glowing sphere (which you almost certainly will) all the nasties on that level will become attracted to you. The result being that they steam into you like a Wimbledon team which has not been fed for three weeks. You can transfer this affliction by touching one of your companions, making them 'it'. Needless to say, it does wonders for group loyalty as all other objectives go to the wall as you furiously chase each other around.

Graphically, Gauntlet's dungeon is excellent. Effortless omni-scrolling, well-defined sprites and all manner of walls and floorplans to make each distinct from all the others. The on-top view means you are limited to a view of the top of your character's bonce, but this pales into insignificance against the virtue of crisp definition, which Gauntlet II has to the highest level. The same goes for the sound - at last it is all there and sampled from the coin-op, too.

Since the first Gauntlet has never been available on the Amiga, this is the obvious choice if you want to buy one definitive arcade D&D game on 16-bit. For unabashed playability Gauntlet II is unbeatable.