It isn’t a regular occurrence for developers to openly declare that their game is ‘rage inducing’, but that’s exactly what Drop Dead Interactive have done with their debut title, Gear Gauntlet. Obviously they won’t just want to incite rage amongst the gaming community so, can this 2D action arcade game create the necessary balance between offering fun and testing the patience of gamers to ensure it’s a resounding success?
Well, to be fair they’ve done a pretty good job of it.
Basically, the idea is to guide a constantly forward moving set of spinning gears, which are layered on top of each other, through labyrinth style mazes. All you’ll need is your analog stick to move upwards or downwards to reach the exit, assuming there are no obstacles in the way. There will be obstacles though, and even the screen tries to race ahead, in order to rid you off it should you be moving too slowly. The whole world is against you.
In total there are four worlds, each with ten levels to complete, ranging from woodland themed setting to that of a wintry nature. Getting to the exit is the main object, however doing it in the fastest time and garnering the most points – by picking up bronze, silver and gold cogs – will earn you the best overall grades for a level, and help to cement your name on the leaderboards above your friends.
One of the major ways Gear Gauntlet attempts to halt your progress comes in the form of spiked gears that often lurk around these mazes. They can be difficult to navigate past whilst they are stationary, hence when the moving gears are thrown into the mix, it becomes an even trickier path to glory. If your gears come into contact with them, it’s safe to say you’ll be launched back to the start, or at best the most recent checkpoint.
Sometimes there’ll be no way through the given journey due to blocking from different coloured bricks. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about eh? Fortunately, those who have dabbled in the musical genre of games may be well versed to hold the corresponding button to these colours in order to power through them. I am one of those and found that even though there was exceedingly more panic than I’d find in Rock Band, it’s equally pleasing when I cleared a line of mixed colours with excellent reflexes.
The layout designs in Gear Gauntlet had to be creative and cleverly set out to ensure that the whole concept didn’t come across as simplistic. Chucking in collectibles, evil moving cogs and teleportation was a good start. Having multiple routes which lead to their respective ends, each offering a unique sense of risk and reward, was the way Drop Dead Interactive managed to really add extra layers to the gameplay. It gives us gamers a choice; do we want to go the long way round with obstacles aplenty to gain more points, or would we rather get to the exit as quickly as possible? You probably won’t know which way offers the best route for you until you give that route a go. It’s trial and error at times.
You might’ve noticed that I’ve not once mentioned any raging moments so far, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. With an increasing amount of obstacles being placed firmly in your path for the latter levels, it will send you into double and occasionally triple figured death counts. Although no controllers were harmed in the making of this review, there were certainly a few expletives and primal screams, leading to family members checking on my wellbeing. It can be bloody frustrating, but it never seems impossible and that’ll kick you on to focus real hard until it’s been conquered. Admittedly, I have hit a real stinker of a level near the end of the last world, but will I give up? Hell no, because the joyous feeling as you catch a glimpse of an exit sign, or even a checkpoint, is just too good to miss out on.
What do you do when the main bulk of the game is all over? It all depends on your gaming mentality. You could go back through the levels to pick up the rare cog collectibles or to claim a high score than previously. The difficulty can even be ramped up from Normal to Hard or Insane, but I didn’t notice enough difference between them; other than the cogs taking damage rapidly when touching coloured blocks. There is an additional mode, Gauntlet Mode, to tackle when you’ve defeated the last level… if you ever beat it!
Gear Gauntlet surprised me. I hate dying over and over again, so I expected to throw in the towel after death number ten in a matter of seconds, but there was always that addiction of trying one more time to claim victory over a hellish route. Although all the levels look a little similar, the vastly different layouts make them feel completely fresh from each other. My only criticism is that at least half of the levels are over within a minute or two at most and then when they become longer, the difficulty is ramped up massively.
With wonderfully designed worlds, a good soundtrack to keep the adrenaline pumping and an extremely addictive concept, Gear Gauntlet ticks nearly every box. It’s not ideal for those with a real temper, but for those in control of their emotions, you’re going to love the fast paced deadly nature and feeling of finally beating a level.
Buy it, but don’t be sending me the bill for a new controller… you’ve been warned.
Related: Let’s Play Gear Gauntlet on Xbox One