Gauntlet first appeared in video game arcades about 20 years ago, and its addictive hack-and-slash action was well worth the 25-cent price of admission. Featuring a memorable assortment of heroes and monsters as well as one of the first successful implementations of four-player cooperative gameplay in an arcade game, Gauntlet quickly became a classic. It's gone on to influence countless similar games, such as the hugely successful Diablo series and various Gauntlet spin-offs and sequels. The latest of these is Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, a short, forgettable game that seems content merely to copy the design of its ancient predecessor rather than introduce any noteworthy twists or updates to a formula that's been driven into the ground over the years. Four-player cooperative play just doesn't do much to help alleviate the monotony of this game's flat, simple action.
The warrior, elf, valkyrie, and wizard return in Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, but they're not quite as interesting as they used to be.
Probably the most interesting thing about Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows is its story--though admittedly, that's not saying much. The narrative is told from the perspective of an emperor's ghost. Seems this emperor once betrayed his four mightiest defenders by attempting to steal their immortality for his own personal gain. Aided in this treachery by six scheming advisors, the emperor still ended up losing his life, because his plan more or less backfired. Meanwhile, the four heroes survived, and the advisors were left to run amok in the chaos that ensued. Brief story sequences introduce each of the game's levels, but once the action starts, the plot takes a backseat. There's really no story progression during the actual missions, and the whole thing comes to a straightforward conclusion as you take down the advisors one after the next. The story also flubs an opportunity to give the four main characters in Gauntlet any sort of personality. The manual offers up long-winded descriptions of how the warrior, elf, valkyrie, and wizard became the emperor's chosen, but they've got no speaking lines or distinguishing features in the actual game.
In the original Gauntlet, each of the four playable characters had slightly different characteristics for his or her attack power, speed, and more. In the new game, differences between the characters still are minor at best. Each fighter has a ranged attack and a smattering of close-combat moves, including guard-crushing attacks useful against shielded foes, and launcher attacks that can pop enemies into the air so you can keep hitting them as they fall. While the four fighters do look different, in practice they play pretty much identically, so there's little replay value to be gained from reattempting the game's levels using different characters.
Gauntlet's role-playing elements are paper-thin, too. You earn experience points as you defeat hordes of foes, and you'll also find gold pieces in each level, which you can use to purchase new attacks and combos between stages. Many of these moves are practically useless, but you might as well buy them for the sake of it, because you'll have earned enough gold to completely max out your character's arsenal by about the halfway point of the game (just a few hours in). Other Gauntlet-inspired games have made up for their simple combat with role-playing elements that compel you to keep finding better and better equipment. But in Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, the same moves and tactics you'll be using right from the start will carry you all the way to the end. You do find weapon and armor upgrades on occasion, but these seem mostly cosmetic and have no obvious impact on the action.
Whether you play alone or with friends, you'll find Gauntlet's gameplay to be simple and repetitive to a fault.