PS2 Review: Gauntlet - Seven Sorrows

Going into any game titled Gauntlet, you should know what to expect. Assuming you've played any of the five entries prior to Seven Shadows, you'll be ready for a repetitive hack n' slash created solely for its multi-player aspects. Unsurprisingly, that's exactly what this update provides.

Very little has changed for this franchise, even as systems grew bigger and arcades grew smaller. This latest version takes pieces from the popular action RPG genre in the current gaming climate without implementing too many to keep the action at pace. This time, its focus is melee combat, with three separate attack buttons to create and link combos. It's a major switch from the usual combative method of tossing unlimited amounts of projectile weapons from your characters nether regions at various foes (though this is included too).

This switch immediately brings a Dynasty Warriors-like feel to the melee. Enemies have one goal: swarm. As such, they do that quite well. To stop the ever-massing horde, you'll need to take down enemy generators. It's no different than any of the other games in the series, and it's hard to imagine Gauntlet without these glowing pillars.

While the RPG-like elements are introduced here, they're almost forgotten just as quickly. Armor and weapon upgrades are available. What effect they actually have beyond aesthetic appeal is unknown. New combos can be purchased with gold found in the unbelievably linear stages, though you'll have a complete character around the halfway point of the game. Leveling up from here on out increase three basic areas: health, strength, and mana regeneration.

The latter will irk longtime follows of this now Midway-published series. There are no potions to collect. Instead, the mana regeneration stat will recharge your magic meter. It's the biggest change, and the wide variety of moves available to use with it ends up making it a welcome addition.

That doesn't change the basic gameplay enough to avoid how unbearably boring it can be in long sessions. Four-player co-operative play online doesn't avoid how constant and mundane the action is. Puzzles are included for no reason since on-screen prompts tell you exactly what must be done. All they do is slow down the rampant fighting.

That might work better if the stages weren't so bland. This doesn't qualify as an adventure title since there is no adventuring to the done. You're on a tight, restrictive path, so heading off from the group to try and find your own treasure isn't possible. The announcer, while understandably necessary for Gauntlet, is pointless. "Red Warrior needs food badly" was the greatest thing to happen to arcade games in 1985. Now, it's an annoyance that can't be turned off.

However, these are the things you expect when you look at the box. The meager five-hour length means a single online play session (or offline which still provides four player gameplay) should be enough to make it through, assuming your thumb can withstand the button mashing. Stealing needed food from a fellow player will never lose its charm, and the developers of this series rebirth obviously understood that.

Maybe Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows has problems with its simplicity. It's hard to figure out how this is a $50 title, and its arcade roots place it firmly in budget territory. Sadly, that's not what the price sticker indicates, and as a full purchase, it's hard to justify this repetitive experience unless you're sure you can find extra players to take the brief journey with you. Otherwise, only die-hard hack n' slash fans should give this a spin.

(*** out of *****)

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