While Gauntlet: The Third Encounter is an admirable effort on the Atari Lynx, it has to be said that it really isn’t Gauntlet. Not the Gauntlet that we know and love anyway…
Which isn’t a surprise when you take into account the fact that this game didn’t start out as Gauntlet – it was called “Time Quests and Treasure Chests” and was developed by Epyx, and was later turned into a Gauntlet game by Atari for “brand recognition purposes”.
The game doesn’t even play like Gauntlet, and re-branding it creates some disappointment. The monsters don’t use Gauntlet move patterns. The shooting isn’t Gauntlet-like (it’s actually quite ineffective with shots passing through monsters without killing them). The playable characters are about as far removed from Gauntlet as you could possibly get, apart from the characters that were shoehorned-in to cash-in on the Gauntlet name.
Yes: the mazes are like Gauntlet, and the basic gameplay is similar, but it certainly isn’t Gauntlet. You do collect keys to open doors, but the frustrating thing is: you can only carry a certain number of items in total so you end up filling your limited inventory with bags of gold, which you then have to drop to pick up more keys. A pointless frustration and definitely not Gauntlet.
Life energy continually drops, even if you’re doing nothing, which of course is like Gauntlet, but again it doesn’t feel very fair if all you’re doing is looking for keys in an empty maze.
Also: where are the generators? The things in Gauntlet that generate more monsters? These are key to the Gauntlet experience and seem to be missing. Monsters just seem to re-spawn out of thin air…
The animation of the various characters and enemies is poor (the frogs jump on you out of nowhere), and don’t get me started about the cheesy death screen, where the game zooms in on a skeleton standing by a door while it plays a warbley tune. Bleugh… It’s horrible.
The use of a vertical screen could’ve been useful, but the play area is actually square (like in the original Gauntlet), and the rest of the screen is taken up by an information panel which looks a bit jank. And, because the graphics are so big, you can only see an 8×8 portion of the map, which is very small, and which is why the designers used the info screen at the bottom to show you what monsters are coming up off-screen. Which is a bit daft, but you end up having to shoot monsters off-screen in order to survive. This game is just one big mess, if you ask me. The graphics should have been smaller, and if they were going to use the Gauntlet license it should’ve followed the Gauntlet rules. Otherwise they should’ve just left it as an original game.
Overall: the gameplay in Gauntlet: The Third Encounter is unsatisfying and imprecise and doesn’t reflect on the greatness of Gauntlet at all, and the end result is a game that is bland and annoying. Which is a pity, because this should have been good. But it isn’t – it’s pretty bad.