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When you hear the title, Gauntlet, it might jog your memory of a time when dungeon crawling was unheard of, when young minds weren’t dirtied with the bloody battles within the dark levels of Diablo or Torchlight. Gauntlet dates way back to the 80’s, when it truly made a name for dungeon crawlers, but the latest version on PS4, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition, is better than it ever has been.
Gauntlet was the first installment of the hack n’ slash series and it was released on the Atari in 1985. Being on the Atari, you can imagine the difference in graphics compared to today’s games. But Gauntlet: Slayer Edition on PS4 is by far one of the most enjoyable dungeon crawlers I’ve played in a long time. Check out the trailer.
Arguably, Gauntlet was one of the first real dungeon crawlers in the video game world. If you don’t already know, a dungeon crawler is a game where the gameplay is comprised of exploring a number of levels with rooms of gold, items and waves of enemies. The point is to explore deeper within the level to find rarer items and more gold. Dungeon crawlers typically feature upgradeable weapons, armor, abilities, etc. with a leveling-up system.
The gameplay in Gauntlet: Slayer Edition is short, but enjoyable. It’s even better if you have someone to play with. Unlike many co-op games currently on the PS4, you can play with someone in the same room (local co-op). Going into the game, you have four classes to choose from: Valkyrie, Elf, Warrior and Wizard. The Valkyrie is probably one of the most popular classes wielding both up-close attacks and ranged attacks. The Elf is a ranged attacker that shoots a bow and arrow and is by far my favorite class to play with. I’ve always been more drawn to ranged attackers because it falls in line with how I approach a battle. I’m the type of person who runs in guns blazing, shooting everywhere. I’m not a strategy player, that’s for sure. So I avoid classes like the Warrior because you have to get close to the enemy to kill them by swinging a large ax, and I usually get pinned against a wall in those situations. The final class is the Wizard and he may not be so strong physically, but you can guess his magic abilities work better when attacking an enemy.
The enemies in Gauntlet: Slayer Edition are surprisingly difficult. One enemy in particular was horrifying: Death. You’ll come to dread the whooshing sound effect of Death manifesting in your room. He flows around surrounded by a ring of dark, shadowy energy and even just one touch will kill you regardless if you have full health or not. So while you’re in a room fighting off enemies, you also have to run away from Death as he slowly chases you and your team. You can catch Death in action below to get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
One slip-up could mean the end of your life whether it’s getting stuck on a corner or pinned by an enemy. And it’s very easy to get stuck. Another irritating enemy is actually a force that comes from the environment. In certain levels, you’ll see a red ring appear on the ground indicating something is about to blast the area. Sometimes it’s a bomb. In this case, it’s a fireball sailing in from the surrounding lava. And yes, these will kill you with one hit. I can’t tell you how many times I was fighting enemies and was hit by one of these. And they get more frequent as the level becomes more intense.
There’s another game mode called “Colosseum” and it’s the online multiplayer arena where you and three others battle against waves of enemies—and it’s not easy, especially when you are paired with a team of new players. Although, it whets an appetite for more gameplay once you’ve completed the campaign.
Gauntlet: Slayer Edition has an interesting resurrection system. Your team has a certain number of Skull Coins and each skull coin is a chance to get revived after someone dies. If your team finds you are out of coins, it’s up to the last player to fight enemies to build the meter for another Skull Coin. I enjoyed this system because as long as you kept the meter full for coins, you could almost always respawn. The only time you’d have to start all over was when everyone on your team died, and that only happened once or twice.
The controls for Gauntlet: Slayer Edition are simple and easy to understand if you are a first-time player. Every ability has its own button, but ranged attackers like the Elf shoot with the right analog stick pushed forward. Typically, shooting in a game is controlled by the upper right trigger (R2 button). So you not only shoot by pressing forward on the right analog stick, but you also aim with the same button. It was a little difficult to get used to at first, but once I got it down, it was simple. Although because of this, aiming wasn’t always as precise. But in a game like this, it’s not entirely necessary to always be precise.
It’s a thrill to play through Gauntlet: Slayer Edition with friends to collect gold to upgrade abilities and appearance, but I have a few issues with the game itself. Having played other dungeon crawlers like Torchlight and Diablo, I went in expecting every single weapon and ability to be upgradeable. But I soon found out that the bow and arrow that I used as an Elf could not be changed. I could upgrade abilities surrounding the bow and arrow and increase the speed of shooting, but I could not actually change my bow and arrow, which saddened me. Finding new and more intense weapons is something I really enjoy in games like this.
Another aspect I wish I could change about the game is the length. The campaign is so incredibly short! Just me and another played through as an Elf and Warrior and we beat it in two days (and that’s lazily going back and forth when we had free time). The map works kind of like a Super Mario Bros. map where the next level opens after you beat the current level. Sometimes even a couple bonus levels open up, too, and we beat them all. Maybe that’s how past Gauntlet games have always been. In Diablo or Torchlight, you discover new levels of the dungeon within the game and it feels like it’s endless. The more you explore, the more rooms you find. Maybe that’s just me and my new-fangled generation of gaming talking. But I just wish there was more to the game, more that I could do.
Overall, Gauntlet: Slayer Edition is too entertaining to put down. It holds true the famed reputation of its successful predecessors on the PlayStation 2 and Atari with a very unique gameplay experience within the hack n’ slash dungeon crawler category. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a quick local-co-op game, to someone who has experience with dungeon crawlers and enjoys the true nature of slashing your way to victory. The game is $19.99 right now in the PlayStation Store.