Gauntlet / Rampart
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-03-06 GBA Compilation E (Everyone) DSI Games / EC-Interactive

DSI Games has a good range of combo packs for the GBA composed of classic games, with titles such as Klax, Rampage, Spy Hunter, Pong and Millipede. The one that called my attention was the Gauntlet/Rampart double pack.

Gauntlet and Rampart were both arcade hits in the late 80's. Gauntlet was especially innovative because it introduced synthesized voices for the first time in a game, combined with action-packed hack-and-slash dungeon crawler. Rampart was a mix between Missile Command and Tetris, combining shooting and puzzle, and it's something I've played over and over on the Genesis. I was initially really excited about this combo pack because of Rampart alone.

In case you are only familiar with the latest 3D versions of Gauntlet from the Dreamcast and on, here's the scoop. You pick from four characters (Wizard, Valkyrie, Elf and Warrior). Your health is indicated by a number that is constantly going down as time passes (and obviously, when you get hit). You can hold keys to open doors, and magic potions to kill everything on the screen or to get rid of Death. You progress from level to level, fighting hordes of monsters until your health runs out.

The conversion of Gauntlet to the GBA is very well done. It has dozens of levels, hundreds of enemies and the system can handle the large amounts of enemies on the screen without any slowdowns. The sound effects are spot-on and everything from treasures to food is there as it was in the arcade. The only thing that didn't make it from the arcade to the GBA was the multiplayer feature, so Gauntlet turns out to be a solo experience that eventually becomes tiresome after a while. A save feature would have made a big difference.

Rampart also lacks the multiplayer feature. Although it sounds and looks just like its arcade "ancestor", the emulation wasn't all that successful. There are quite a few bugs that turn the gameplay into a frustration fest. Remember how you could get extra cannons for each extra castle that you surrounded? On the GBA version, you are only awarded two cannons per round. And remember when you placed walls around an enemy tank on the field map they would disappear? Here they just keep shooting and destroying your walls, so the only way to "kill" them is to blow them up. Another thing that I didn't like was how the enemy ships seemed to enjoy staying half-hidden on the edge of the map, making it difficult to shoot them down.

But the worst bug of all is the puzzle-piece placement. In between rounds, as you repair your fortress, each time you place a piece down there is a delay of 2 to 5 seconds until the piece actually shows on the map. It's a slow and tedious process that gets in the way of repairing and sometimes ended up costing me precious time because I kept clicking on the same spot thinking the piece wasn't placed right or the game was locking up on me.

I was so excited about being able to play Rampart whenever and wherever I wanted, and in the end, I ended up having a lot more fun with Gauntlet.

Overall, it's nice to have two great classics on a handheld for the nostalgia factor (especially at a low price), but the developers should have preserved the multiplayer option for both games, since that's what made them so appealing in the arcade in the first place.

Special thanks to Alison Kain and DSI Games for providing a copy of this title.