Gauntlet Versus Dandy Dungeons

Paul Blazeby finds the original Gauntlet

 

Issue 28

Jul/Aug 87

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Gauntlet versus Dandy Dungeons? Who, has ever heard of or seen Dandy Dungeons?

For the benefit of the unenlightened amongst you let me give you a bit of background information. As most readers probably know Gauntlet has been the smash hit of the arcades for the last year or so the ultimate two player game! Dandy Dungeons is very similar, in fact the gameplay is almost exactly the same. HA! So it's just a rip-off of that old favourite Gauntlet, eh? Well, no. To be more precise Gauntlet is just a rip-off of that old favourite Dandy Dungeons!

Many years ago APX (Atari Program Exchange), then a division of Atari Inc., released a game by John Palevitch, who also wrote Deep Blue C. This game was Dandy Dungeons. The idea of the game was simply survive as long as possible, collecting, shooting, and using various items whilst avoiding numerous foes. Many years later Atari Coin-Op converted this almost forgotten game into the classic arcade machine Gauntlet. The rest, as they say, is history.

GAUNTLET

Many moons ago U.S. Gold announced the 'imminent' release of the arcade classic Gauntlet on various home computers. Gauntlet fans rejoiced everywhere. In somewhat 'Sinclair style' the release of the game was delayed although a few, bug-ridden, versions did reach the shops. (US Gold denied this but then withdrew the game to make some 'minor alterations'). Eventually the game was re-released and at last Gauntlet gurus everywhere could sample the real thing at home! I wasted no time in getting the game, this was one game where I felt money was no object!

I booted up my disk and waited...and waited...and waited! The game takes simply eons to load as whoever did the protection on this really went to town! My disk drive chugged, grinded, and grunted for what seemed an age with only a simple message on screen informing me that Gauntlet was loading. Eventually I was greeted with a good title page and some fine title music. I chose the wizard and the disk chugged once more. Finally a message appeared telling me to flip my disk. After completing this task I was finally greeted with the dungeon and my wizard. There I was! Me, the wizard, in my very own dungeon! Yeuugh! It was vile! The wizard was indescribably blocky and yukky whilst the dungeon was almost totally lacking in any interesting detail at all. There was nothing but the wizard on the screen so, foolishly, I advanced. Animation of the wizard was reasonably good and I decided that maybe Gauntlet wasn't as bad as my first impressions had lead me to believe. Soon I meet my first hoard of ghosts. I ran and shot at them as they jerked after me(yes, JERKED!). Regrettably the game grew worse as it went on.

You start with so much energy that you can last for so long that the game gets boring. The graphics are only average, colours are a bit off, the ghosts and other meanies jerk around the screen in 'Spectrum' fashion, whilst the player begins to wonder what the point of it all is. Most importantly the gameplay is poor. The collision registers seem a bit dodgy and movement is sluggish. Even on a two player game things get no better. Sound effects are almost non-existent. At least the title music is quite good.

I am afraid in my opinion the 8-bit Atari version of Gauntlet is a non-starter. By the way, if you insert the disk on the wrong side you are greeted with a message telling you to flip the disk and press the 'START' key. This is accompanied by a spinning animated disk which is clearly the best animation in the whole game!

DANDY DUNGEONS

So this is the game that Gauntlet was based on? When I first saw it I never gave it a fair chance. After booting up I took one look at the graphics and movement, decided that it was no good and never tried it again. Sometime later after I had heard that it was the game that Gauntlet was based on I re-booted it with renewed vigour. This time I gave the game a fair run. The graphics are blocky but colourful. The animation is poor. The sound is almost non-existent. There are no different characters, only players 1 to 4 (yes 4) which are simply static shapes of a man with a large number (1-4) on. They jerk everywhere. Believe it or not I was hooked!!

What sets Dandy Dungeons apart is the gameplay. It is almost identical to Gauntlet in the arcades which shows how closely Gauntlet was based on Dandy Dungeons. The game is simplicity in the extreme, and it works superbly. On the multiple player modes Dandy Dungeon is almost unbeatable and there is also a very big bonus a dungeon editor! This means that the user can create new dungeons when he/she has completed the ones provided and they are incredibly easy to make. You can have an infinite number in one game by disk swapping (26 is the maximum on one disk).

To me, there is simply no competition between Gauntlet and Dandy Dungeons. Despite all the advances in graphics and sound and the `technique' of modern Atari games, Dandy Dungeons is so far ahead in playability it is unbelievable. Gauntlet retails for about 8.95 on cassette and 12.95 on disk. Dandy Dungeons may be hard, verging on impossible to find but if you are lucky you may be able to get it at a bargain price. There are a few places selling APX games for as little as 1.50 each!

I know I have been hard on Gauntlet but I had expected so much after playing the arcade games that I felt so disappointed by the Atari version. The arcade Gauntlet is still the best for me, although I have great hopes for the ST version however I have a feeling that I may never hear those immortal words "The Wizard is going to die!" on my computer!.

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