Gauntlet is a fantasy-themed hack and slash 1985 arcade game by Atari Games. It is noted as being one of the first multi-player dungeon crawl arcade games. Originally called Dungeons, the game was conceived by Atari game designer Ed Logg. He claimed inspiration from his son's interest in the paper-based game Dungeons & Dragons and from his own interest in 1983's Atari 800 home computer game Dandy. The game's development spanned from 1983 to 1985, with a team being led by designers Ed Logg and Roger Zeigler. The working title became legally unavailable in April 1985, so it was renamed Gauntlet in May. Based upon some of the most elaborate hardware design in Atari's history to date, it is the company's first coin-operated game that features a voice synthesizer chip.
The players, up to four at once in the arcade version, select among four playable fantasy-based characters: The Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie, or Elf. Each character has his or her own unique strength and weaknesses. For example, the Warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the Wizard has the most powerful magic, the Valkyrie has the best armor and the Elf is the fastest in movement.
Upon selecting a playable character, the gameplay is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes where the object is to find and touch the designated exit in every level. An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points and magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.
The enemies are an assortment of fantasy-based monsters, including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers and thieves. Each enters the level through specific generators, which can be destroyed. While there are no bosses in the game, the most dangerous enemy is 'Death', who can not only drain a character's health, but is difficult to destroy.
As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingness of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently. While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, health also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit. When a character's health reaches zero, that character dies. The character can be revived in place with full health by spending a game credit (i.e. inserting a coin) within a certain short time window after it died. This allows even the least proficient players to keep playing indefinitely, if they are willing to keep inserting coins.
Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. The narrator frequently makes statements repeating the game's rules, including: 'Shots do not hurt other players – yet', 'Remember, don't shoot food!', 'Elf – shot the food!', and 'Warrior needs food – badly!' Occasionally, the narrator will comment on the battle by saying, 'I've not seen such bravery!' or 'Let's see you get out of here!' When a player's 'life force' points fell below 200, the narrator states, 'Your life force is running out', 'Elf needs food', or 'Valkyrie ... is about to die!'
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