Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
When Atari launched this four-player coin-op back in 1985 it created a new arcade craze. People of all ages - and both sexes - could quickly master Gauntlet's easy to learn display, controls and tasks. An arcade sensation was started.
Everything is kept simple in Gauntlet. Choosing between an elf, wizard, valkyrie or warrior character - you wander round a maze searching for treasure and the nearest exit. Enter this exit and its onto... yet another maze. There are 128 maze levels to master. Like most mazes, each is populated by monsters, tasty treasures and secret passages.
But boring it is not. In each maze you discover horrible beasbes, ghoulies and demonies out to decrease your health rating. If this reaches zero, you're history. You keep the beasts at bay with your bow and arrow, sword, axe or wand - depending on the character you've chosen. You can also fight by hand - but this takes time and isn't as healthy. Help comes in the form of collectibles like magic potions to stun the suckers, food to boost your health, and keys to unlock gates. Don't be too greedy though, pigging out on the pick-ups can seriously damage your health. Every so often, you visit a treasure room - collecting as many cash chests as possible within the time limit.
Gauntlet graphics are displayed in a slightly off-beat overhead style. The screen scrolls smoothly in eight directions and a status display on the right shows your score, health and what collectibles you're carrying. Sprites are small but highly detailed. Sound supply is standard spot effects.
Two players can simultaneously play Gauntlet. You can either assist or hinder your colleague. If you want a laugh, do both. The Sega Master version contains a few changes to the coin-op. Instead of individual player speeds you get differing rates of fire, and the thief has been replaced by potion penalties. So what? Sega Master Gauntlet is an accurate conversion of a fun fantasy shoot'em-up. Go grab yourself some maze.
Despite its age, Gauntlet can still cut it. USG's Sega Master implementation is the best conversion on any home machine. The scrolling is fast and smooth, the sprites are colourful and detailed. Sound is slightly disappointing - most of the sampled speech extracts have been left out. I really miss the 'Wizard you're about to die' warning message. The simultaneous two-player option is a real bonus. Gauntlet has the right mix, put it on your Sega shortlist.