Gauntlet 3 logo

Oops. Big mistake. Someone's let the Lord Of Decay escape from his secure hospice. And now he's done a runner to the quiet island of Capra, and is currently hiding there, making life miserable for the residents.

What's this got to do with you? Well, you're a swash-buckling hero, you've survived two other Gauntlet games and now you're back in glorious 3D. So it's your job to pack your weapon and take the next ferry to Capra, where you'll be asked to chop up the minions of Mr Decay before tracing him to his lair and slipping him some cold steel. It's a frightening prospect (for both of you).

No more heroes
After choosing your character, you start off in the middle of a forest. You've got eight-way scrolling, but it's made pretty clear which direction you're supposed to head off in. Making things much more interesting are the marauding aliens. These take the form of ghosts, but once you get further into the game you run up against guards which patrol in strict patterns. These come in many forms, but the humanoid orc-lookalikes are the most common (and the worst).

To progress, it's necessary to destroy the centres from which the ghosts spring. This doesn't take much, as both baddies and generators take only a hit or two. In fact the only thing that keeps the combat playable is the sheer number of attackers, but it gets confusing when your characters disappear underneath a seething mass of them.

Once you've cleared each level you're free to wander around it collecting pick-ups such as food and treasure which add to your strength and wealth. Exploring the levels isn't quite as exciting as it should be. Wherever you travel, you'll have to eventually go along the same route programmed into the game, so short-cuts are impossible.

There isn't a vast amount of variation in what you see, and the overall playing area is larger than it seems (ideally this should be reversed). What is noteworthy is the music: It's atmospheric, it's good to listen to and it's well written by Tim Follin (writer of rather good pop-tunes as well as the Ghouls 'n' Ghosts soundtrack). But heroic though it is, it doesn't rescue Gauntlet 3, which is certainly playable, mappable and big, but could have been a really special game with the addition of more exciting (and colourful) graphics and slicker gameplay.

The Hall of Heroes
Gauntlet 3: Thor Thor. From the Volcanic Kingdom, he carries a large number of axes. He's also President of the Volcanic Kingdom Film Club, so see him for membership details. Gauntlet 3: Questor Questor. He wandered down from the Tree Kingdom a while ago to escape its flesh-eating plants, and hasn't found trousers strong enough to protect him should he venture back.
Gauntlet 3: Dracolis Dracolis. The lizardman, knows the swamps like the back of his scales. He doesn't need to stick to the paths in the swamp regions and scorns those who do. Gauntlet 3: Blizard Blizard. One cool dude from the Ice Kingdom, he is a large and very powerful man and was the original 'Refrigerator'.
Gauntlet 3: Petras Petras is rock hard. Literally. He hails from the Mountain Kingdom and would kill just to get a good night's sleep on a posturepaedic bed. Gauntlet 3: Valkyrie Valkyrie. The only female, and she is as strong as any of the men but doesn't suffer from any of the personal hygiene problems that they do!
Gauntlet 3: Merlin Merlin casts powerful spells to get his way to the Lord Of Decay. He's getting on a bit now, and seeing those ghosts aren't doing his heart any good. Gauntlet 3: Neptune Neptune of the Sea Kingdom might well be a little 'out of his element' up on dry land in the forest, but he can still prod the nasties with his trident.

Gauntlet 3 logo

Jedes halbwegs erfolgreiche Spielchen kriegt heutzutage schon eine Forsetzung verpasst, was macht man da mit den richtigen Knallern? Ganz einfach: Man geht in die Serienproduktion...

Der dritte Teil des Sammler- und Monsterjägerspekakels hat mit seinem Urahn aus der Spielhalle allerdings nicht mehr so wahnsinnig viel gemeinsam. Vor allem das Aussehen hat sich grundlegend geändert, das Geschehen ist nun aus einer 3D-Perspektive zu sehen - nicht umsonst wurde das Game während der Entwicklung unter dem Arbeitstitel "Gauntlet 3D" geführt.

Egal, schreiten wir zur hoch-wichtigen Hintergrundstory: Die Insel Capra, eigentlich ein absolutes Paradies, ist in die gierigen Hände des Bösewichts Capricorn gefallen. Wo früher gar liebliche Vöglein friedlich miteinander schnäbelten, verbreiten jetzt garstige Unholde Angst und Schrecken.

Wie gut trifft es sich da, daß die Ur-Helden (Merlin, Thor, Questor und Thyra) noch am Leben sind und auch gerade ein bißchen Zit zum Monstervermöbeln haben! Zudem erhalten sie diesmal Verstärkung von vier weiteren Recken: Mit von der Partie sind der Steinmensch Petras, der Eidechsenmann Dracolis, der Eismann Blizzard und schließlich noch Neptun, der Wassermann.

Jeder hat eine andere Waffe und andere Fähigkeiten - der Magier Merlin z.B. Bedient sich immer noch seiner Zauberkunst, wogegen Schlägernaturen jetzt auch mal mit dem kräftigen Petras in die Schlacht ziehen können, usw..

Während die Heldenschar also zugenommen hat, sind die ursprünglich gut 100 Level auf auch Welten zusammengeschrumpft, die wiederum auf je fünf Unterabschnitten bestehen.

Natürlich geht es in erster Linie wieder darum, so-viele Monster wie möglich zu plätten, darüberhinaus müssen aber auch ein paar Rätsel gelöst werden. Beispielsweise gilt es, eine Reihe von Schlüsseln zu finden oder bestimmte Gegenstände an ihren vorgesehenen Platz zu schleppen. Übermäßig anspruchsvoll sind diese Knobeleien aber nicht, wer sich dabei trotzdem mal verfranst hat, kann sogar auf eine Help-Funktion zurückgreifen.

Selbstverständlich darf man wieder zu zweit lostigern, und auch die üblichen Extras zum Aufsammeln fehlen nicht: Schatztruhen bringen Punkte, magische Tränke sorgen für Schnellfeuer, Unverwundbarkeit, etc., und Lebensmittel spenden frische Energie - es sei denn, sie wären vergiftet...

Man muß U.S. Gold zugestehen, daß hier die wichtigsten Elemente des Originals (Geister, Monster, Generatoren, Labyrinthe) sehr geschickt mit den neuen Zutaten (3D-Perspektive, Rätsel und frische Monster wie Mumien und Zombies) kombiniert wurden.

Die Grafik hat recht verschieden gestylte Level und ein ruckelfreies Acht-Wege-Scrolling zu bieten, nur die Farbwahl wirk manchmal ein bißchen eintönig. Auch Sound und (Stick-) Steuerung sind prima, insgesamt wurde aus der leicht angestaubten Idee herausgeholt, was eben drin war. Wer also gerne auf Monsterpirsch geht - auf Capra wäre gerade Jagdsaison! (Kate Dixon)

Gauntlet 3 logo

US Gold's latest coin-op licence, erm, isn't. Instead, it's a home-grown sequel, never seen an arcade in its life.

It sounds really exciting, doesn't it? After all, Gauntlets I and II were massive smash hits in the arcades thanks to their four-player action and endless levels, and US Gold's conversions were a big success too. So, thrilled at the prospect of reviewing a big-name arcade licence, I nipped out to my local amusement arcade (Krazy Kevin's Koin-ops) eagerly clutching a fistful of 50p's in order to try out the original and draw up a few comparisons.
'Ain't never 'eard of it,' Kevin told me.
'But you must have it. Look - I've got the Amiga version right here.'
'Nah. You've been 'ad, mate.'

It transpires that Gauntlet III isn't actually an arcade conversion at all. It's more of an attempt by US Gold to wring the last possible drop of mileage out of its aging Gauntlet licence, and perhaps stir and some interest in its back-catalogue.

And there's nothing wrong with that, even though Gauntlet III bears only a passing resemblance to the originals (and even that's only in the name, to tell the truth). What really matters is whether it's anywhere near as good as the first two games.

So - is it? Erm, well, no, not really, but it's not too bad all the same. The trouble is that it takes all the features that made Gauntlet the hit it was (four players, millions of cunningly-planned levels, simple but compulsive gameplay etc.) and throws about half of them away. It then messes about with what's let a bit, and ends up with something that doesn't quite feel the same, somehow. Having said that, it's a perfectly good game in its ow right, with a couple of interesting features.

Gauntlet III isn't actually an arcade conversion at all

Gauntlet III's main departure from Gauntlet is, as you'll doubtless have spotted, that it's in 3D. No more little coloured blocks with all the spaces in between crammed with baddies jostling to get you. Instead each level is drawn in attractive, isometric 3D which lends more of an adventurey than an arcadey feel to the game.

And that's the other things. It does have slight adventure overtones, although thankfully not enough to obscure its roots as an arcade game. Rather than simply shooting your way to the exit through level after level, you've got tasks to perform.

To complete the first stage, for example, you've got to find a bucket, take it to a well to get a key, take the key to the altar in the church and then leg it back to near your starting points within a time limit, where a bridge to the exit will have appeared. Each step is clearly explained, so there's no actual thinking to do, and it all works pretty well. (The next stage is a bit crapper, though).

There's also some excellent but very repetitive music, where perhaps some sound effects might have been more useful. I mean, what's Gauntlet without the occasional cry of 'Blue Elf shot the food' or 'Red Warrior - your life force is running out'? And.... Oh dear - I'm starting to pull it to bits already. Right, seeing as we're on the subject, here goes:

The main snag is that it's incredibly easy. You tend to accumulate life force much quicker than you loose it, even if you're as useless as me. That means completing the thing will be more a test of endurance than skill.

It has its faults, but Gauntlet III's too good to dismiss

Then there's the fact that exits are two-way. No problem in itself, but if, after emerging on a new level, you inadvertently flip the joystick in the wrong direction you go back to the previous one, with the 30 seconds of disk accessing that entails, and then another 30 seconds to get back again. Er, what else? Well, each level is several screens wide and several screen high, but you can only tell if you've reached the edge of the playing area when the scrolling stops and you can't go any further - there are no walls or anything.

This looks highly naff. And so does the collision detection for that matter. You sometimes have to hit a piece of food at just the right angle to be able to pick it up. Oh yes, and you can only have two players. There also seems to be a limitation on the number of sprites on screen at once, so you won't see screens brimming with baddies as in the original. Quite a list, eh?

So it has its faults, but Gauntlet III's too good to dismiss as a waste of money. I suppose I'm being ever so slightly generous (being an ever so slightly generous sort of person), but I still found it quite fun. In fact, I reckon it deserves a bit more than the 'low sixties' mark everyone suggested I gave it. So it can have a 'mid sixties' one instead.


So, Gauntlet, eh? One of the best things about it (and the sequel Gauntlet II) was all the baddies it threw at you. Individually they were mere cannon fodder, but when you got literally hundreds of them puring out of generators on all sides of you it was no laughing matter. (Unless one of your fellow players was trapped in front of you and took all the flak - that was quite funny.)

Load up a copy of Gauntlet III and you'll find yourself in a similar position. All our old friends are there, in slightly reduced numbers, from the humble ghost to Death himself. It's also got those wizard-types who keep disappearing and sneaking up on you, and the blokes with clubs who take ages to kill. And there are a few new additions to the family too. Sentries march up and down across doorways (making them an easy target). Killer plants spring up out of the ground and take cunks out of your leg. And there are probably quite a few others as well.

Gauntlet 3 logo

After successfully converting both Gauntlet and Gauntlet II onto home computer formats, U.S. Gold have teamed up with Software Creations and have created an original variant of the popular arcade quest.

Purposely avoiding the overhead view favoured by the first two games, Gauntlet III opts for a forced perspective view, with the game's colourful landscapes depicted in all their 3D glory. In keeping with the busy gameplay of the original games, all the old elements are there: ghosts, treasure chests, food rations, dragons, and good old Death in all his energy-sapping glory.

In addition, though, Gauntlet III sports more of a quest than its predecessors, and rather than simply blasting their way to the end of a stage, the player must collect special objects and return them to their rightful place before they can progress.

Opening with a stunning Tim Follin Clannad-esque tune, eight warriors are offered for your delectation. According to the scenario, the distant world of Capra and its many lands have rapidly fallen at the hands of an evil demon king. Starting with the Icelands and working through the Undersea kingdoms and Forestlands, one by one the planet's major cities fell, overthrown by the demon's spectral hordes.

Thus, expanding upon the original's four characters, Gauntlet III offers eight warriors, all of which are the chief of their particular land. So, after selecting from characters as diverse as Neptune, Thyra the Valkyrie, the Ice-King, and Merlin the Wizard, the battle begins...

Each land is depicted as a massive multi-directionally-scrolling area, populated by the ever-present monster generators of the first games.
In terms of graphical style, Gauntlet III is streets ahead of its predecessors, and somehow Software Creations have managed to incorporate the swarms of sprites associated with the original game with the extremely smooth scrolling. Additionally, it also sports more ground and background detail than ever before, adding to the game's appeal and atmosphere immeasurably.

As the two characters wander across the lands, the aforementioned tasks must be completed. The majority of these involve the collection of certain objects, and a disembodied hand will then appear offering valuable advice of what to do next. As these missions are duly completed, more of the game opens up to the player, and icy wastelands and swamps are consequently passed through - all of which are inhabited by suitably icy or marshy creatures and plants, and all of which can be taken out with each warrior's weaponry or an all-powerful potion.

Although Gauntlet III is a major advancement over the first two, both in the style and gameplay stakes, it still seems a little dated. The additions of the tasks does add a degree of urgency to the proceedings and gives the game more of a purpose, yet somehow it sill comes across as... well, bland.

There's no faulting the game's presentation as both the graphics and the sound especially are impeccable. However, in the all-important gameplay stakes, Gauntlet III seems to be lacking that certain undefinable something. Worth a look but by no means an essential addition to the collection.


Appearing in its arcade sometime in 1984, Gauntlet brought RPG adventures to the masses. With four brave adventurers - Thyra the Valkyrie, Questor the Elf, Merlin the Wizard, and Thor the Barbarian - a quartet of games players could join forces and take on the might of a castle's inhabitants. The game was basically an extension of the shoot 'em up theme, but also incorporated RPG ideas, such as Wizards possessing more magic power than, say, the Barbarian, whereas the Barbarian was better at hand-tohand fighting.

The main aims of the endless mission was to collect gold and jewelry as possible, whilst escaping the clutches of energy-sapping creatures which included Lobbers, Ghosts and, of course, Death. And even if the player's character did snuff it, a further cash injection breathed new life into the defeated fighter. A sequel appeared to cash in on the success of the original, but didn't really boast a great deal of additions over its predecessor. An excellent conversion of this sequel is available on U.S. Gold's Kixx budget label and is well worth a buy.