The arcade game Gauntlet has already spawned one derivative on the Amstrad, Storm, and this is a second which really shows why the game was such a big hit in the arcades. It's an explore-and-shoot-'em-up that takes place on eight floors of a tower, infested with nasty monsters and other surprises.
You take the part of the druid who is trying to destroy four skulls created by the Princes of Darkness. The skulls are located on the last four floors of the tower, so you'll have to battle through four floors before you reach the first skull. The floors are connected by stairwells. Usually there's only one connection between floors but some have several connections for otherwise inaccessible areas.
You have to fight your way past the hordes of attacking monsters and find a stairwell down to the next floor. On each floor there will also be a number of treasure chests that provide objects and powers that come in very handy. Each floor is a maze of corridors and rooms; you'll need to map out each one to make progress quicker in future games.
The screen is composed of a window in which you view the action and a status area where seven counters and three gauges keep track of your progress. Three of the counters show you how many missiles you have of water, fire and electricity. The four other counters show if you have any of four spells that create a key, invisibility, a Golem or 'chaos'. The gauges show the druid's strength, a Golem's strength and your rating in the game.
You can have up to 99 of the three types of missile and choose which one you want to shoot. Each type will kill a particular monster quickly but if you're using the wrong missile on a monster it may take two or three hits to kill it. The missiles and the other spells can be found in chests, but having taken something out of the chest it cannot be re-used.
The four spells are essential to your progress in the game: the keys unlock doors, invisibility freezes the monsters leaving you free to move, while 'chaos' destroys all monsters on screen and replenishes your energy.
The Golem spell is the most interesting. It creates a character who can be controlled by a second player or move automatically. He destroys monsters by walking into them and thereby protects you. He can be commanded to follow, wait or send, or be freely controlled by the second player.
Contact with any of the monsters will deplete your energy, as will touching some other static features like water and chequered squares. If energy reaches zero the game is over and the druid collapses in a heap of cloak.
The Golem is also drained by hitting monsters but when he dies you can always create another one. Your energy can be replenished by standing in the middle of pentagrams, but the difficulty is in finding them before your meagre resources run out.
The graphics are excellent with a multi-directional scrolling window, well-drawn characters and landscapes, and great use of colour.
The gameplay is superb as well, having all the fast action and compulsiveness of a shoot-em-up, but also the tactical use of chests, weapons and Golem.
The variety of the graphics, monsters and mazes will keep you wanting to play, and the eight increasingly difficult floors will present an excellent challenge.
One thing that puts me off playing this type of games is the time spent loading. You can make a pot of tea, have a bath and take the dog for a walk. However this is a very minor point and does not detract from the exciting gameplay.
As clear as the light of day - no trouble spotting those wandering wailers!
P. Good scrolling window.
P. Eight floors of increasing difficulty.
P. Great graphics and colour for the landscapes and characters.
P. Good variety of features with different weapons, spells and objects.
P. Action is fast, furious but tactical too.
P. The Golem allows two to play.
N. Not true multi-player action of the arcade game.