GamingGauntlet: Seven Sorrows

Gauntlet took the traditional dungeon crawl style made popular by the pen-and-paper role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, and amped it up to an insane degree by tossing billions of monsters at four heroes from a top-down perspective. Your heroes, in turn, were armed with medieval weaponry that they hurled at ridiculous speeds, machinegun-style.

I've been a fan of Gauntlet since the game was in the video arcades. Ah, the good old days of the Barbarian, Valkyrie, Elf, and Wizard. Of course, no self-respecting guy wanted to be the Valkyrie, because…well because she was a girl. The Elf was nearly just as bad, especially when he shrieked in his prissy elf voice, "Oh no!" as he neared death.

Gauntlet introduced a lot of fantasy troupes that are routinely mocked today. It rationalized that when you eat food, you heal. Given that I'd prefer just sucking down a shake once a day to actually having to eat, I have difficulty imagining that food actually gives you that kind of recuperative abilities. Sometimes food was just sitting in some chest, waiting to be discovered. Other times monsters dropped it. It always looked delicious; a whole chicken on a plate with potatoes, a leg of pork, or some smelly cheese. It never made any sense and didn't have to.

Gauntlet was also known for the Dungeon Master (again, swiped from D&D) providing some obvious and not so-obvious commentary. My all time favorite is when the other characters accidentally destroyed food. "ELF SHOT THE FOOD!" booms the DM, encouraging every other player to smack them upside the head. About to die? The DM had some advice there too. "WIZARD NEEDS FOOD. BADLY!" When I get really hungry before lunch, sometimes I hear that voice too.

Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, attempts to update the hack-and-slash style of the original Gauntlet while at the same time providing the rationale for the characters' ridiculous "kill 'em all, let the DM sort 'em out" style of mass murder.

Our heroes are immortals, crucified (!) by some kind of Aztec-looking sun emperor. His seven advisors all turned out to be wretchedly evil. Since the heroes are immortal, they didn't die (and now we know why they keep coming back to life each game…it all makes sense now!). Filled with regret, the emperor (taking the role of the booming DM voice guy) guides our heroes along the path to redemption by encouraging them to kicking the living snot out of his former employees.

A lot of thought went into Seven Sorrows. The generators that spawn dozens of monsters are still there, but they create enemies with a magical flourish. The environment is beautifully rendered in three dimensions, allowing enemies to be knocked right off precipices (my favorite tactic). In addition to all the running and the killing, there are occasional quests where our heroes go and kill more monsters, find a key, then run back to the door and open it. Gauntlet was never a deep game. Each hero has been updated with a wide variety of moves, including magical powers that replace the potion-bombs from the original Gauntlet. The Elf can stun enemies, the Valkyrie shrieks and tosses bad guys into the air, etc. Each hero has a logical ranged weapon too; the Valkyrie shoots energy lances from her blade, the Elf pulls out his bow and fires, the Barbarian hurls hand axes and the Wizard shoots bolts of energy. All four heroes are highly individualized; the Valkyrie's "jump back" maneuver is actually a series of backflips while the Wizard teleports all over. Overall, the graphics are impressive.

Unfortunately, Seven Sorrows is far, far too short. My wife and I have come to the conclusion that we are now advanced players, so starting a game on normal difficulty no longer suffices. We should have set it on hard but didn't; in retrospect, I'm not sure if that would have helped. We ended up beating the game in the span of just a few hours.

It's ironic that Seven Sorrows is probably most like the original Gauntlet game. That's not a compliment though; in a crowded market of Gauntlet-clones, Seven Sorrows doesn't sufficiently distinguish itself from all the other sword-swinging, axe-hurling, bow-shooting, magic-blasting games out there.