PAX 2008: Gauntlet Hands-On

We stab things in Foundation 9's revamp of the arcade classic for the DS.

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We've seen arcade classic Gauntlet revived a bunch of times during the past few years. The game's simple formula of running around stabbing things with friends while collecting loot has had a primal appeal that's just never seemed to lose its charm. The latest take on the game from Foundation 9 offers a 3D makeover and an impressive array of multiplayer features that are shaping up to be a very cool showcase for the DS. We tried out a work-in-progress version of the game at Foundation 9's PAX booth, which had two systems available for single-player and multiplayer.

The game sticks pretty close to the standard Gauntlet formula. You'll choose one of four characters, warrior, elf, wizard, and valkyrie, each with his own unique attributes. You'll then set off to save the land, which involves much stabbing, shooting, and magicking whatever is in your way. The game's story keeps things pretty pure; you're just a hero out to save everyone one from evil. Your quest is a meaty one with 40 levels to work through on your way to confront ultimate evil.

We were able to try out the single-player and a bit of the multiplayer game in the Foundation 9 booth. You'll start both game types by choosing a character and picking a unique color for his outfit for some personalization. When you're in the game, you'll just work you way through the levels, exploring a bit to collect keys and items, as well as get to the exit. The action plays out from a top-down perspective and extends across both screens. Your basic attacks will vary per character depending on which you chose. In addition, each character will earn experience from killing enemies and collecting loot. When you earn enough experience, you'll level up and start unlocking different power moves that you can use to inflict mega damage on foes around you.

The gameplay should be a comfortable fit if you've ever played a Gauntlet game. The action plays out from a top-down perspective and actually fills up both screens. This might take a little getting used to at first, but it works well once you get into the action. Your attacks will be mapped to the face buttons with the shoulder buttons being used to rotate your viewing angle in 45-degree increments. The game appears to just have minimal touch-screen support; you can either use a face button or screen tap to trigger a power move, which is fine considering what the action is like. The multiplayer we tried worked fine for the most part, although there was the occasional hitch. While the demo we tried only allowed for two players to hack-and-slash together, the final game is apparently going to be packing a bucket of features. You'll find online co-op, both local and via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, for up to four players, as well as voice chat. In addition, the game will feature competitive multiplayer with modes that include Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Treasure Horde.

The game visuals are nicely done, with modest but good-looking character models and environments. The action moves along at a good clip, although it does bog down when too many foes are onscreen. There's also a decent mix of special effects thrown in to complement things, although the game's color palette in what we played looks to keep them a bit muted.

All told, Gauntlet is looking like a solid update of the old classic with some meaty tech features to showcase the DS. If you're a fan of the original game or are looking for a multiplayer game for your DS, you'll want to keep an eye out for Gauntlet when it ships this fall, published by Eidos, for the DS. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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