If you remember the first few Gauntlet games, they were the sheer definition of the term "hack-and-slash." You wandered from one room to the next attacking creatures, grabbing treasure, and hunting for the keys that would take you into the next dungeon, where you'd repeat the process all over again. It was pretty tedious, but with a few friends to play alongside you, there was excitement to be had in competing for items and trying desperately to avoid shooting at food. When Midway brought its revamped 3D Gauntlet onto console systems with Gauntlet Legends and Gauntlet Dark Legacy, it improved the design with more character types, more enemies, larger environments, and a few new power-up items. Most of all, however, every one of these new iterations has had multiplayer capability, so you and your friends could play together and overlook some of the game's more repetitive shortcomings. Sadly, the new Gauntlet game for the GBA is missing that all-important element.
Gauntlet Dark Legacy for the Game Boy Advance has the nine new power-up items from the recent sequels, and its visuals are somewhat modern as well, but everything else about the game hearkens back to the versions released in the mid to late 1980s. There are 32 huge levels to explore. Your job is to seek out the rune stones hidden throughout 13 of the levels and destroy all of the generators that are producing zombies and other monsters. There are four characters to pick from, including an archer, a warrior, a wizard, and a valkyrie, and their stats differ in terms of strength, speed, armor, and magic. Here's the catch, though: You have exactly two attacks, and they're identical across all characters. You can swing or throw your weapon and cast a magical explosion. To defend, you can block or strafe. That's it. The hand-to-hand combination attacks and the turbo ability from the latest console Gauntlet games are totally absent. Since the combat is so limited, the game turns boring really, really fast.
The absolute worst part, however, is that the game doesn't have any multiplayer support. Despite its looks, Gauntlet Dark Legacy is as repetitive as the original Gauntlet from 1985. Every enemy attacks in the same fashion, and your strategy is always the same. Without friends to accompany you, the only variety comes in the form of the bosses at the end of each area and the nine different power-up items. The power-ups aren't especially interesting either. They'll help you run faster, take less damage, toss more weapons, and so on, but they don't really influence what you see onscreen. Still, if you're absolutely certain that you enjoy playing Gauntlet solo, Gauntlet Dark Legacy is at least solid in that there are tons of monsters to kill, and you can revisit previous areas in order to gain experience and improve your character stats.
Considering all of the time you need to invest if you intend to play through the game, Gauntlet Dark Legacy presents itself rather plainly. The five different environments do indeed resemble mountain, cave, desert, ice, and dreamlike themes, but the backgrounds are flat and lifeless. The character sprites are pretty dead too, mostly because there isn't much to see other than creatures walking around and flailing their arms. Truthfully, the animation is quite smooth, but the murky colors and lack of movement don't make a great impression. As for the audio, there are a couple of different music tracks and roughly a half-dozen sound effects for things like slashes and explosions. If you listen carefully, you can also hear a scream whenever your character dies.
It's rather odd that Midway and Pocket Studios would choose to water down the concept of Gauntlet Dark Legacy into a game that's basically a modern revamp of the original Gauntlet games from the 1980s. That was a simpler time, and it just wasn't possible then to implement a lot of the gameplay features we're used to today. Still, even those old and dated games had multiplayer capability, something that is missing from this supposedly modern game. Gauntlet Dark Legacy is a fair adventure in button pressing, but that's as far as it goes.