Kein is not a happy man. Seven of his best friends have been captured, and are being held in a maximum security prison. His mission: to rescue and lead them back to safety.
The game begins with the armour-clad Kein standing on the first level of the prison. As he travels through the maze of corridors he comes across barred prison doors, opened simply by blasting them. Behind these are either one of his friendso a guard, or more often than not an empty cell.
On discovering one of his friends, Kein takes charge of the weapon they are carrying. These include grenades, shuriken stars, disks, shock waves, boomerangs, cushion balls, and fire balls. Each character holds a different weapon, and once gained are displayed as icons which can be scrolled through and used as desired.
Sword, axe, and spear-wielding guards make their presence felt, and Kein loses energy points whenever they attack him. Bonus items are available throughout the dungeons including coins to boost Kein's energy level, keys to open doors, rings that increase shot speed, necklaces which speed up the player's movements, and diamonds that kill all adversaries on-screen. Also to be found are treasure chests, barrels, lamps, and crowns, which bestow a hefty points bonus.
Once all of the cells have been searched on a level, Kein must collect the correct key, and lead his freed companions to the exit. The next level is then entered and Kein continues his quest until either his energy runs out, or he has liberated all of his companions.
'There have been plenty of Gauntlet variants over the last few years, but unfortunately most of them have been pretty poor affairs. Shackled on the other hand, although not graphically brilliant, is at least playable. The dungeons are nicely drawn and although the scrolling is jerky and character movement slightly wooden, this didn't spoil my enjoyment too much. In fact, I found the game quite entertaining. It's not exactly the new Gauntlet - but it's better than most of the other imitators.'
'Gauntlet has spawned so many clones ft's hard to muster any enthusiasm at the prospect of another one, but at least Shackled has added the comparative sophistication of 3-D. Dashing around the mazes in a desperate attempt to find your friends and keep them sate (disorientated prisoners have a tendency to wander off) has a realistically frantic touch. The battles sequences themselves are reminiscent of a comic strip as and bodies disappear in a cloud of dust. The scrolling is jerky, and you don't get more sound for your money than one or two (admittedly atmospheric) spot effects. With a little more attention to detail this merely good game could have become an excellent one.'
Coming from US Gold this game is a bit disappointing. The tiny graphics and frustrating movements don't exactly make the game addictive. It's very similar to the rest of the Gauntlet clones that litter software shelves around the country, all of them exactly the same in graphics and ideas. Shackled does however have some fresh things in it: the way you rescue people from their bonds and then inherit whatever weapon they had is a new idea, but the two player mode is terribly frustrating when player two gets left behind and player one has to stop while he catches up. Shackled is well presented and has adequate sound effects but there are simply too many similar games on the market.'