Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows Review

Gauntlet has made periodic appearances in various guises since it first introduced the arcade world to simultaneous four-player multiplayer gaming in the 1980s. The latest incarnation, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, attempts to meld the arcade original with modern action-RPG gameplay. Is the result a new instant classic or an unholy union? Thatís what Iím here to let you knowÖ

They keep coming and coming.
Since all good action-RPGs start with a good story, letís start there. Seven Sorrows tells the story of an emperor who, upon some bad advice from his advisors, stole the immortality of the empireís four heroes. Soon after doing so, the emperorís advisors decided he was no longer needed and so they killed him and took over the empire. Fortunately the heroes still live, and it is up to them to slay the seven advisors and regain their immortality, saving the empire in the process. This story is relayed at the beginning of the game and in between levels through static pictures and the voiceover of the emperorís ghost, but thereís not much to it Ė youíre basically told to go here and kill that. Iím not one who feels that the story alone makes or breaks a game, but in this case I think that I would have enjoyed the game a bit more if the developers had put a little effort into the story. Thereís so little to the story here that it makes you wonder why they even bothered with the static pictures and voiceover.

The four heroes mentioned in the story correspond to the four playable characters in the game, which in turn correspond to the four from the original game: warrior, wizard, elf, and valkyrie. I was a bit disappointed to see that the various characters introduced in other Gauntlet games have been abandoned and that youíre only left with four to choose from, but it was even more disappointing to find that the four characters play basically the same way. In the original arcade game each character was slightly different in terms of speed, strength, and attacks, but youíll be hard-pressed to notice any real difference between the characters in Seven Sorrows that is not merely cosmetic. This certainly hurts whatever replay value you could get out of what is in reality a pretty short, linear, and repetitive game.

The original game was filled with mazes and sometimes part of the challenge lay in just trying to find the exit. In Seven Sorrows, however, the levels are about as linear as they come. There are some locations where a switch must be thrown or a batch of enemies defeated to continue on, but the amount of backtracking is minimal and there arenít any mazes or even branching pathways to be found. The camera is even fixed in place for each segment of the path so you canít even check out the action from different camera angles. The environments themselves generally look nice, although they donít feature much in the way of interactivity outside of the aforementioned switches, some basic traps, and the ubiquitous chests.

The gameplay adheres to the hack and slash format thatís a hallmark of the series. Youíll be attacked by waves of enemies and will need to destroy their monster generators if youíre to ever stop them from coming. A few enemies will attack you with projectiles, but for the most part itís all toe-to-toe head bashing in the game. Each of the playable characters has a ranged attack with infinite projectiles, but this is not of much use unless youíre attacking the occasional random enemy deliberately placed out of your reach. When this happens itís a bit of a pain to take them out as the game seems to constrain your throws to the eight basic directions so you have to take little steps back and forth until youíre in the right spot to align your throw.