Title  : Gauntlet Dark Legacy
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox
Publisher  : Midway
ESRB Rating  : Teen
Game Rating  : 7.2
Review by  : Ken Gagne

This age of video games is rampant with revitalized classics — oldies given a modern facelift. Some of them are surprisingly fun and innovative, and spawn sequels of their own. 

Midway's Gauntlet Dark Legacy is an example of such a phenomenon. Gauntlet was an old game that was made fresh a few years ago by the new Gauntlet Legends. Dark Legacy, however, is so similar to Legends as to hardly be worth noticing. Available for the Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox, this review is based on the original PS2 version.  

Gauntlet Dark Legacy is an action-adventure game in a Dungeons & Dragons-like setting. Up to four players can adopt the personas of 16 different characters, such as the Knight, Jester, or Medusa. Eight worlds of mazes and monsters, countless hordes of enemies, and many magical items and artifacts await brave adventurers. 

If some of those worlds appear familiar, they should: they were lifted from Dark Legacy's predecessor, Gauntlet Legends. Though the levels have been fitted with new enemies and items for the sequel, the actual designs are identical to the previous game, making this not so much a sequel as an upgrade or expansion that relies on its dark legacy a bit too much. 

Moving from world to world has changed a bit, though. Golden items and crystals (sometimes as many as a hundred) must be acquired to unlock gates to new areas. If you've finished the areas available to you and are ready to progress, you better have the required items. Otherwise, with no way of telling where you overlooked an item, you'll need to re-explore many previous levels for missed nooks and crannies — which is even more boring if you've already seen these levels in Gauntlet Legends. 

The world of Gauntlet is not entirely without changes. Featured in the controls are several new commands. A slow, strong attack and a weak, quick one are differentiated on the control pad. A strafe button is also available, but more useful is the "Robotron" controller configuration, which uses both analog sticks to separate movement and firing directions. 

It is no longer possible for players to store limited-use items for later use, or for sale between levels; all weapons are immediately accoutered and quickly depleted. This method of item use makes the game more challenging, but is an improvement to overall gameplay. In Gauntlet Legends, I knew a few pack rats who sold their spoils in exchange for higher stats, which struck me as ignoble. Now they'll have to struggle along like the rest of us, slaying goblins for experience points. Ha! 

Goblin-hunting on the PlayStation 2 looks better than it ever did on the PSOne or Nintendo 64. The characters are large, and enjoy showing off unique combat moves. Some tougher foes, such as dragons, are a bit stiff in their movements, and the auto-camera can be a bit disorienting, despite the help of a compass, but the general atmosphere is one of graphical delight. 

As with the previous Gauntlet, the music is outstanding, and fits the fantastical theme. While spelunking the depths of ancient catacombs, melodies that carry the player to foreign places are neither subtle nor obtrusive. 

If "works well with others" is one of your strong points, then invite some friends into the catacombs. The varying strengths and weaknesses of the different player classes can complement each other nicely, assuming the two to four of you can agree on covering each other's backs and choosing a direction in which to charge. 

Dark Legacy has plenty of fun moments, and it looks, sounds, and controls like a dream. Recycling levels from a previous game is a disappointing surprise that should have been advertised — perhaps the game could've been more aptly named "Gauntlet Legends v2.0". A further frustration is the number of gauntlets a player must run before accessing the next world. If you can overcome these challenges to a fun experience, then Dark Legacy is worth a shot.


This article is copyright (c) 2001, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 11-Jun-01