Any Capricorns in the audience tonight? Ah, there you are. Well prepare for a bit of a shock - how does it feel to know you're a Lord Of Decay? Mmm. Thought you'd be a bit surprised. But look on the bright side - it beats being a landscape gardener or a milkman, doesn't it? Let me explain why...
You see, once upon a time (in Gauntlet 3) there was this island (called Capra) that was being threatened by a bloke called Capricorn (the Lord Of Decay) For some odd reason, he'd taken it upon himself to unleash nasty awfulness upon the islanders unless they were very, very good and didn't fight with each other. Luckily, the people were pretty peace loving bods and didn't particularly want a war anyway, so all was groovy, hippyish and, in fact, rather wet. (Oi, watch it! Ed)
But to muck everything up, a race of aliens called the Velcrons suddenly appeared (so-called because they stuck to furniture and clothing), who managed to kick up a bit of a war, so now everything's is in complete turmoil.
And guess what? Yep, somebody big and brave's got to wander up to Capricorn's semi-detached castle and give him a jolly good hiding for what he's done. And that somebody is you (gulp!).
HEARD ANY OF THIS BEFORE?
Of course you have - and probably in 2 other games called Gauntlet that've been out before now. So why run through it all again? Well, basically because now you can do it all in isometric 3D. Hurrah!
And that not the only change. This time there aren't just the 4 characters to choose from, but 8. As well as our usual pals like Thor The Warrior and Questor The Elf we've also got the company of such dependable yokies as Petras the Rockman and Dracolis the Lizard Man. You've got to choose which one you want to play of course, depending on the particular range of armour, magic and fighting skills that you want to use, and then set off towards Capricorn's place. (Oh, and there's a 2-player option too.)
On the way. you'll travel through 8 kingdoms (or levels), one for each of the hero-type characters (so there's the ice Kingdom, the Sea Kingdom and all the others). What this means of course is that the game is just as enormous as it was before, only this time it's been compacted into sections as opposed to the 100 or so old 'floating' levels, (And there's also a ninth bit waiting at the end, in Which you get to confront Mr Cappy himself.)
The 3D system works beautifully, with the characters having full 8-way movement, staying pretty much in the middle of the screen whilst everything scrolls around them. It's not just a simple case of walking along in a straight line of course - you've actually got to find your way through the terrain to get anywhere, with arrows pointing out the way and the odd clue here and there giving you a bit of a helping hand. There's also food, magic spells and lots of other items to pick up, some of which (especially the nosh) can be protected by nasties, or booby-trapped (hur hur).
AND TALKING OF NASTIES...
There are absolutely loads even more than before! (Probably.) Some (like ghosts) appear everywhere, follow you around and are easy to kill, while others are particular to certain levels and include things like mummies, zombies and even venus flietraps. Eek!
But I could ramble on for hours about these nice little touches and stuff. (Please don't. Ed.) Basically Gauntlet 3 is, overall, an absolutely stonking game. It's not just that the look of it's changed - this time round there's an even greater range of puzzles to solve and, as I've said, monsters you've got to squish. It's huge, it's exciting and it'll take a jolly long time to complete (and even then you'll probably have missed a whole load of other features and locations!).
There is however one major quibble that I'd better mention before I pop off. The graphics are most definitely funky but at times they get totally bogged down by some extremely thick and heavy colours. (There's one particular tone of blue that swamps the screen in mugginess and makes it ridiculously difficult for you to tell what's going on.)
But that apart, it's thumbs up all round. Those who've had the pleasure of treading these paths before might not want to again (no matter how different the view!) but for newcomers (especially ones who like blasting monsters) it comes highly recommended.
Very nice 'tweaked-up' 3D version of the legendary old arcade shooter. A mapper's delight and brill in 2-player.
And here's a quick round-up of all these kingdoms that help make up the levels. Each belong to a particular character and they are...THE TREE KINGDOMHome of the mischieveous Questor the Elf, they call this the Tree Kingdom, but really it's just a big forest. Beware, though, as there are mutant plants which live on flesh within its, er, walls (or whatever).THE MOUNTAIN KINGDOMIt's very high in the mountains (spook!). Petras the Rockman comes from here. It's cold and there are loads of ghosts, zombies and mummies. (So best not to linger really.)THE SWAMP KINGDOMYou need to stick to the paths in the swamp, unless you're Dracolis the Lizardman, who lives in this nasty zone. It's a horrible region, filled with Worms, Plague Dogs and other nasties. There's lots of treasure though, so it's worth a peek.THE VOLCANIC KINGDOMAarrgghh! Run away! This Kingdom is filled with Fire Dragons, which'll toast you as soon as look at you (unless you happen to be Thor, who they're a bit scared of). There are also poisonous creatures, hideous magma fountains and disgusting public toilets (so, again, best to steer clear).THE SEA KINGDOMNeptune's your man for this region. Ideally you need someone who can swim, but if you manage to doggy-paddle across to it, you'll find Jellyfish, Quickvine and Sharkmen. None of these are very healthy, so I wouldn't really bother (except you have to).THE LOST CITYCan't be very lost if you've managed to find it. The Valkyries used to live there, but have moved to the countryside, where it's much nicer. There are clues aplenty for the intrepid explorer (which, I suppose, includes you). Traps and snares are everywhere, so have a care when you wander round.THE ICE KINGDOMAs you'd expect, it's a bit cold here. Ice Dragons freeze their prey to death, so wrap up with a warm anorak and you should be okay. Alternatively, take Blizzard the Iceman, who doesn't feel the cold at all. Great Sorcerers live here too, and they might give you some useful clues for your quest.THE MAGIC KINGDOMThis is more like it! Gingerbread cottages, yellow brick reads and an endless gallery of entertainment (oo-er). But sadly the horribly nasty evilness has taken over even this haven. Merlin the Wiz used to live here, but left because the neighbourhood went downhill. Tsk! Better go and sort it out then, eh?
Thor explores an underworld level. (I wonder if it knackers his eyes in too!)
Here's where you choose which chappie (or chappesse) to play. (This is the lovely Thor.)
Come on, Mr Ghosty. Show us what you've got! (It's not an awful lot actually).
It may look small, but this building's got literally hundreds of rooms underneath it. (A bit like the Tardis really!)
What's this? A load of blokes with stupid hats queue up to get wasted by Thor. They've got to be mad!