Gauntlet has been a classic for decades. Since its release 30 years ago in arcades it’s been available in some form on everything from the Apple II to the PS3, and now the latest version has made its way onto the PS4. A port of the PC version that released in September last year, The Slayer Edition comes with a number of improvements such as new moves and skills for your characters, as well as some fresh game modes.
For the inexplicably uninitiated, Gauntlet is a cooperative dungeon crawler for up to four players. Gameplay consists of fighting monsters, dodging their attacks, and collecting gold as you fight your way deeper into the dungeon. Enemies are the usual skeletons/zombie/mages fare, but there is also the invulnerable grim reaper who, on certain levels, slowly follows the players around to kill them, a bit like the ghost from Spelunky without a time limit.
There are four classes to choose from, the Warrior, the Wizard, the Valkyrie, and the Elf. Each character exhibits a different style of play, such as the Warrior who is a powerful melee character, while the Elf plays more like a twin stick shooter, aiming and shooting your bow with the right stick. Picking a class isn’t just what kind of skills you want, it verges on changing the gameplay entirely.
Each class is quite well designed. My main was the Valkyrie, a female warrior with a shield, sword, and spear. The shield can be used to block until you throw it, at which point you will have to wait for it to return. It’s a risky move, trading defense for extra damage, as if you’re caught without your shield you can easily become overwhelmed.
When you’re playing cooperatively only one player can use each class. This might not be so bad when playing with friends and building your characters up together, but if you’ve been playing as the Valkyrie and you’ve customised her to your liking, you may well not get to use her online as much as you might like to if you can’t find a server where she’s free.
Each character also has customisation options that you can purchase using gold, which you collect while playing. You can change weapons, armour, relics, though you won’t get any too early as they’re a little expensive. Relics have been changed this time around, as rather than being powerful attacks that use a potion, as they were in the PC release, they are utility moves that have their own cooldown.
Your classes have their own gold, so if you earn a tonne of gold with one class you can only spend it on upgrading that class. If you are forced into another class, you can’t customise it until you have earned enough gold, and any gold you earn can’t be used on the class you actually wanted to play as. Using a ‘stock’ character isn’t too much of an issue as weaponry and such is all preference rather than hard upgrades, but often not being able to use your class and not being able to contribute to it is a bit of an issue.
If you are looking to upgrade your weapon you are going to need a certain amount of gold, and the only way to get that gold is by picking it up in-game. If you are not quick enough – or the other players are quicker – you are going to miss out on a lot, extending the time it takes to upgrade. As you get used to the character you will start using its attacks to get around, but it can still be a little frustrating for newcomers.
As far as graphics go, they do their job. They’re not bad, but they’re not really good either. Some of the game’s menus also seem to be lacking polish, while there were a couple of graphical issues I noticed in the dungeons. In one room, once the doors open, a wall slides down. This leaves a large hole that looks a lot like the way to the next room, but is in fact an invisible wall. Not a big issue, but one that almost got me killed the first time I saw it.
There are moments in Gauntlet: Slayer Edition that shine. Whether it’s successfully taking out a room full of enemies with your three co-op partners or, even better, single-handedly, because your friends already died and now they owe you a debt. These are the moments that people will play for despite its repetitive nature, but that repetition is ultimately the deal-breaker and the other issues only serve to reinforce that there are other games in the genre that do it better.
Version Tested: PS4