Sequels, in the great swirling mystical scheme of things controlled by the Big Beardy One in the sky, aren't usually much cop.
Beach Head II? Agent X II? US Aliens? Cobblers. Every one.
Which means that when a game like Gauntlet II comes along, you're pretty relieved just to find that it's not too bad at all.How do you follow Gauntlet - easily the biggest selling game of last year?
It's been over a year since it came out, and since then we've seen an incredible number of similar games, each boasting a new handful of features over the last. So many you begin to wonder, after such a long time, if the old formula could possibly have any depths as yet un-plummed.
The Gauntlet-style of games (Gauntlet, Druid, Dandy, Into the Eagle's Nest. Ranarama etc) followed the following lines: big over-viewed scrolling dungeon with one figure (or two) rushing about firing spells/arrows/guns at hundreds and hundreds of enemy troops.
Though the graphics were smaller and not as finely tuned as many games of the time, the vast numbers of animated characters, loads of levels and the scale of the action made the games incredibly popular.
Gauntlet II is basically a jazzed-up Gauntlet. There isn't actually any progression as such in the game's format, merely enhancements and tweaks.
So what do you get? Well, there are four characters, each - he says for probably not the last time ever - with their own attributes. Some are good at shooting, some have good armour, or maybe special magic powers. The idea is obviously to pick two characters which together present the strongest team. Then it's off into the dungeon.
There are upwards of one hundred levels, each a smidgen more choc-a-block full of nasties than the last.
There are ten things in all which it is best to avoid. Among the more interesting are Lobbers, who will hurl objects over walls on top of you. This reduces the chances of you being able to find yourself a blind-spot from the bad guys, forcing you out into the combat once more.
Then there's the IT monster which is great. It appears and jumps on to a player, which will then become IT. Every monster in the dungeon will instantly chase straight for this player and kill him. The only way to lose your IT-ness is to touch another player, who then becomes IT, and so on.
You'd be amazed at the objects you find lying on a dungeon floor. It's almost as if a large percentage were created just to help you out. There's Extra Fire Power, Extra Armour, Keys (allowing you through the exits and thus on to later levels). Transporters and there are even bottles of cider - poisonous or otherwise - to be used to your advantage.
It's being a bit picky but the graphics are a bit workmanlike. They do thieir task, and I suppose when you're dealing with such numbers, and as a result sucj small scale, there isn't much room for artistic flair.
A corker. Fast action and superb gameplay make Gauntlet II - with MASK II - probably the first sequels worth the cash.