Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows
PlayStation 2
Reviewed: 01/19/2006


If I were to compare myself to the original Gauntlet, the children I used to play with years ago are Midway’s newest installment in the series, Seven Sorrows. For reference, those kids stole all my food and refused to pull their own weight. While I’d valkyrie my way through the worst of the fray, they’d hang back and take it easy. The several things Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows does well, it only does marginally so, and what it fails to do ultimately detracts from the gaming experience as a whole.

The story of Seven Sorrows is the most generic tripe ever: the Emperor Ghost of some a once-mighty kingdom decides to free the very same heroes he enslaved in a magic tree–The Elf, The Valkyrie, the Wizard, and the Warrior–after his trusted advisors betray him and steal the very power the ghost had acquired from his evil acts. He then sets these heroes out to right the wrongs he has brought out in the world, while spending the rest of the game narrating the “story” in a manner that does the job and nothing more.

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Sadly, they didn’t just want to dance the YMCA.

The gameplay is straightforward button mashing, and with a title based on the original Gauntlet, one wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s a button each to block, hack, slash, use a projectile, and throw an opponent in the air. There’s also special moves, which can be used with the direction pad. A slew of monsters rush onto the field like unwitting pawns while one or two stays back and uses ranged attacks; kill them all, rinse, and repeat.

Generally, the wide swing of any character’s slash attacks can hit multiple enemies, making blocking pointless and offering no challenge to pulling off combos. There is a plethora of special moves purchasable between stages, although these offer little if any advantage to the game itself. One will have little problem buying every combo available by the end of the fourth stage, and even after three playthroughs, no additional moves will make themselves available, further making these moves cheap and pointless.

Each level has an above-average general fantasy look to it, and the music, while repetitive, fits nicely. Graphics are smooth and do their job, although they quickly begin to feel repetitive. The world is plausible as far as generic fantasy goes, but the level of immersion is lukewarm at best. The true issue is that the levels are so straightforward that a blind quadriplegic could make his way through them. Sure, there’s the occasional lever that must me used, or the occasional trap that must be worked around or avoided, but Midway decided it would be better to forsake ingenuitive or even maze-like levels for monsters with a “Zerg rush” mentality. This adds to the frustration and overall lack of fun that this game provides.

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The 200th group of swordsmen you’ll meet.

Another serious issue is the lack of difficulty. The half-dozen levels of this game are easily beaten within the first five hours of play. There are multiple modes of difficulty, but these merely make the enemies slightly stronger and reduce the number of lives one has to complete a mission. The enemy difficulty, save for several bosses, is easily offset by any enhancements a character acquires throughout normal playthrough.

One of Seven Sorrows‘s better points is the ability to play the game online with up to three other players. This is handled fairly well, although the PS2 version has a few more hoops to jump through, such as the answering of a slew of questions at set-up. The major issue with the online play is that while the mechanics behind it are flawless, its implementation is not. There is rarely a group of enemies that cannot be handled by a single player, so with a full party of four, the game is ridiculously easy and boring. No additional creatures join the fray and no puzzles arise that require multiple participants, which ultimately means that playing online assures there will be less enjoyment out of the game.

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The level design is nice, but far too straightforward.

There are some nice references to the original Gauntlet, but they feel superficial at best. The announcer has a familiar sound about him, and many of the sound effects are somewhat similar to the original. I chuckled the first time I heard “Blue Valkyrie needs food badly.” But these moments add nothing to the game as a whole, and much of what was lovable of the first game was forsaken. A prime example is the creatures that appear throughout the game; Seven Sorrows chooses to use generic looking swordsmen as the fodder of choice as opposed to any of the original creatures. To be fair, each boss feels unique and challenging, but the tedium overcome to reach these bosses makes the journey simply not worth the effort, and the anticlimactic cinematic at the end of each level may make you wish you’d died a few times more.

Overall, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows is functional, but not by much. It is a short lived game that makes the mistake of giving out the majority of its rewards midway through the first difficulty mode and then expects players to continue through the final two. The game feels nothing like the Gauntlet so many grew up with, but rather an overly generic hack-and-slash fantasy that is easy to pick up, but even easier to throw out. While the multiplayer of this game is solid, there’s plenty of other games out there that are much more worthy of a rental.

-Tim Olsen

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Bad
Story Bad
Graphics Average
Sound/Music Below Average
Replay Value Horrible
The Verdict: 3