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July 8, 2002

Running the Gauntlet

My sister Stinky K and her hubby-type Stinky S are "looking after" an XBOX for a friend. They offered us the opportunity to play it.

Needless to say, we immediately rebelled and said, "XBOX is the foul get of Microsoft. Our anti-monopoly position is the cerberus that guards us from the temptation of the many games available, especially since the Terrible Trio and my folks are gone this long weekend... We will not sink so low as to... what? You say, 'House of the Dead 3' will be made available, and they have 'Gauntlet: Dark Legacy'? Let's go rent some games!"

The AlKiMe household decided over a year ago to wait before we bought one of the insidious time-sinks known as a videogame device. We're waiting specifically for the point where we all have jobs, and where we can't just suddenly look up and realize we've been playing 'House of the Dead' for seventeen hours straight and boy, are our thumbs tired! (True story.)

We're of the generation where things like Nintendo are actual reasons marriages have dissolved. My mother can't understand it: she doesn't know how we can sit and play the same game over and over for however many hours it takes. It's insidious. It's not something you can easily explain except to say that the time it takes is not measured in your head, but in your efforts. It's like when you go off to the grocery store to buy some whipped cream because you forgot it for the banana splits you're making. To you, the trip takes hardly any time at all because you're active throughout...but to the person at home waiting for that final non-dairy spritz it's a very different length of time.

Or something like that.

We rented three games, of which I'll review two. "The Elder Scrolls III:Morrowind" we're just going to have to get for the PC, first.

Gauntlet: Dark Legacy

An improvement in many ways over the arcade version, including its lack of a time-penalty feature. It was one of the things I hated most about the original Gauntlet: there was no time to look at anything because your time would run out and you would die-please-insert-another-quarter. As the options added up, and the graphics got better, this was more of a disappointment. Now, while there are time-oriented challenges (special levels that grant you access to special characters) you have the time to go back and look around at things, if you should so please.

What is the attraction of Gauntlet? Nostalgia, and plenty of it. Even a couple of days ago, I quoted, "Wizard Needs Food...Badly." If you've never played any version of it before, the basic gist is a dungeon crawl, complete with "wizard," and "warrior" classes as well as all the variety in the middle. Each class has its plusses and minuses, all built along the same attributes. Some are faster, some are stronger, some have better distance weaponry, etc. You kill creatures and "generators" that create creatures. You eat food to heal, and as the versions have advanced, pick up special items, like keys to open chests, potions to kill great groups of creatures or the Death character, and various other fun puzzle-solvers.

What I liked? The controls were fairly easy. We never did figure out how to get into our inventory to choose our special items, but we never did RTFM, either. I was able to blast my way through four levels, easy, becoming an 11th-level witch...when apparently playing a sorceress was one of the "advanced characters" of the game. [Um, "easy mode" is exactly that.] The LintKing of course played a Jester, and we worked well together... it's set up well for playing it cooperatively versus competitively.

What I didn't like? Some of the graphics were still a bit choppy, leading to some guesswork on items and how close you could get to them without activating them (like poison food). Some of the camera angles were difficult, especially when fighting gargoyles. The Blockbuster rental didn't come with an instruction book, only some notes on the back...

Will we be buying it if XBOX wins the console wars in our household? Yes. Will we be playing it a lot? I expect so...we might even rent it again next time.

Posted by Meera at July 8, 2002 4:07 AM



I had thought about adding it, but I haven't finished anything yet. So now I have to finish FFX, and review this spectacular game.

Posted by: Julia at July 8, 2002 1:30 PM

Oh, we often quote at home, by the way, "Elf shot the food" and "Elf's liveforce is running out" followed by the warning whump-whump sound.

Posted by: Julia at July 8, 2002 1:32 PM