Joystick: 8-way directional control. If you push your character against compatible enemies, you will engage your melee attack.
Button 1: Fires your shot. Has built-in auto-fire, but only one instance of your character's shot may be on the screen at once. This limits your rate of fire. You can get this limitation by moving close to the enemy, and holding down the fire button. Note that holding this button will immobilize your character, so tapping it may be better in some situations.
Button 2: Uses a Potion, if in stock. This is a smart-bomb style magic attack - it is stronger depending on the magic skills of the character who uses it.
Gameplay & Goal
You are plopped down in a maze with nothing but your weapon and wits to defend yourself. You wander through the mazes, killing monsters, collecting treasure, and trying to find food to stay alive.
Players often get the mistaken impression that the goal of the game is to "clear every maze". This is not true, as the game loops infinitely - there is no "end" to the game. The goal of the game is to score as many points as possible and, by extension, survive for as long as possible.
Enemies can be found lying in wait within the mazes, but the majority are spawned from generators. Destroying a single Ghost or Grunt is simple enough... but trying to bypass a stream of literally hundreds of them pouring out of a generator, WITHOUT taking damage, is no easy task. One of the core gameplay elements of Gauntlet is trying to figure out how to eliminate these generators without getting pounded into a pulp.
There are treasures to boost your score, and powerups to make the game more survivable. Potions, found throughout, are a near necessity for clearing out some sections. You must seek these things out for the best success possible.
Precision movement plays a big part in Gauntlet. A pixel's difference in positioning can greatly alter enemy path-finding, or your ability to hit a generator located behind an object.
Strategy also has a large impact on performance. A good plan of how to attack a room can completely change the difficulty of it. If you can remember where enemies and generators appear, you may be able to take them out in a manner that prevents them from causing you grief.
Read before attempting Gauntlet Arcade
There are two things a Gauntlet apprentice player should understand before playing, lest they quit in frustration.
- Gauntlet is not a game where you make rapid progress. You must take your time with eliminating enemies and generators. If you try to barrel through the level, running through every enemy, you will take hundreds of health points in damage in just a few seconds. Many players do this, and are either killed within the first few levels, or are compelled to drop more credits into the game.
- "Credit Feeding", the act of inserting extra credits when one has nearly died, is about the same thing as putting cheats on the game. You may have done so, and reached level 300 before quitting out of boredom. But the high score board is based on how many points you score PER CREDIT! Try playing with just one credit, and see how well you do then! It is likely that a novice player will have trouble clearing even the first 8 levels without expiring. This is normal, and will require practice to overcome.
- You start with 700 health. Hits from monsters deplete from it. Health also ticks away steadily at 1 per second, which generates an urgency to find food items to replenish your health. However, monster hits are far more damaging, and should take priority.
- Some monsters are scattered throughout the levels, but are mostly created from generators. These generators are your primary concern. You must use a variety of techniques to destroy them without losing too much health.
- Potions are life-saving smart-bomb weapons. Aside from helping by clearing out rooms of enemies, they are the only way to destroy Death.
- Melee attacks generally aren't as powerful as point-blank shots, although there are some niche uses for them. For one, melee has a much wider attack range to the sides of your character, making it a far more reasonable method of fighting your way out when surrounded
- Keep an eye out for the yellow text between levels reading as "Find the Hidden Potion". That means there is an upgrade potion somewhere in the level.
- If you hear a high pitched musical tone (different than the help message music), a Thief has entered the level from the starting point. Try to get ahead to a choke-point, turn around, and keep firing to destroy him. If the Thief touches you, he will steal one of your upgrade potions.
- Don't take too many keys. Potions can be cleared out by usage, but keys can only be used up on doors. Two to four keys is good enough in general.
- Locked doors will open automatically by waiting 16 seconds without taking damage, inflicting damage, or picking something up. It takes 32 if you have any keys in stock. Sometimes this is a good plan, but it can also backfire horribly as the entire level is unleashed upon you.
- Walls will become Exits if you can stall for 180 seconds. In some instances, this may be a better strategy than trying to clear the level. Note that some scoreboards prohibit this practice.
- There is a ranking system in place which diminishes the amount of food that appears as you score more and more points. In general, at 300,000 points, most of the food will be gone.
Notes on different versions of Gauntlet Arcade
There are over 20 revisions of Gauntlet Arcade. Most of them have minor differences, bug fixes, or changes to the default level order. They can be divided into 3 groups:
First releases: These versions do not have the "Exit stall trick". They lack the ranking system.
Second releases: These versions have the "Exit stall trick". They lack the ranking system.
Final releases: These versions have the "Exit stall trick", and implement the ranking system.
This guide will focus mostly on the final releases. The other releases are much easier, due to the lack of the ranking system.
The Xbox 360 version uses the latest final release.