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Dark Chambers - The Atari Times

Dark Chambers

Switching from "turbo" down to "park"
by Darryl Brundage

October 27, 2004
Yep, one thing about 7800 Dark Chambers is that it's slow, slow, slow. Not that there's much you can do about it, I'm just pointing out the obvious.

Once someone asked if there was a way to speed up the processor of their Sega Genesis, since they felt that one of his games ran too slow. People remarked that it would make a lot of his other games unplayable, since they would run TOO fast, so they should only do it if they REALLY knew what they were doing.

Still, even with the slowness factor aside, Chambers is still a bit of a mixed game.

The predecessor to the severe arcade classic of Gauntlet, this rough draft involves you, as an elf-like character, making his way through mazes A through Z while avoiding/shooting monsters, gathering treasures and power-ups, and ultimately staying alive. A lot stands in your way, though, which involves Zombies, Skeletons, Wraiths, Wizards ("...is about to die!" says the Dungeonmaster...sorry, I couldn't resist, that's a little Gauntlet reference there) and Grim Reapers.

Now, that's the weird thing there: those monsters are listed in order from least to most powerful, although when you shoot a Grim Reaper, it morphs/changes into a Wizard...shoot that, then it changes into a Wraith...and so forth. And, likewise, if you shoot a less powerful monster (like a Skeleton), after only an additional shot or two, it will also change into a lower creature, except for the lowest on the monster rung, which is a Zombie, which will just explode when shot.

Ok, what the heck now? That's just silly. Why was the game designed this way? I don't know; I mean, it's no big deal, but it's just a tad goofy to me. I don't recall the instructions saying anything about creatures morphing into others, or this game being called Weird Chambers instead, but there you have it. What...ev...er!

Anyway, if you haven't laughed yourself into a puddle of drool over the weird monster absurdity (if you're not already familiar with this game), the monsters come out of pyramid-shaped spawners that you can shoot, but in the later levels, there are spawners that you can't destroy, which monsters keep coming out at a constant rate, so it's best to slip by them as fast as possible (I almost said "RUN by them", but since the game's so slow, that's just not in your slowpoke of a character's will [maybe he has a thyroid or metabolism condition?]). There are also poisons marked with an X, so avoid those too, or else they'll take off a bit of your health reserve.

On the other hand, though, helping you out along your snail-paced journey are several power-ups, such as guns, which can increase your shooting speed, daggers will make your shots more powerful (which help in getting rid of creatures a little quicker), and shields will reduce the damage that will be inflicted on your player, should a monster run into you. There are also bombs that appear here and there throughout the game that will blow up everything on the screen, food also helps replenish your energy, and if you die and you've got a second player with you, some levels have hearts that you can shoot to bring the player back (unless they've fallen asleep due to the slow nature of this game). Oh yeah, there's also various treasures to reward you in the points department as you go about your journey; whee.

The controls respond decently, although the graphics are a bit of a mixed bag: I thought the treasures, like the chalices especially, were drawn pretty decently, but then, on the flip side, I thought the graphics for everything else (like the monsters) could have been a bit crisper- and clearer-looking. Also, the sound effects do the job, but they're a bit boring too; it's almost like Atari didn't really care what went into this game, although a neat little effect happens when you reach the exit in a level, and you climb down to the next one...no biggie, but I thought it was kind of neat.

However...that TITLE SCREEN! Spooky, with real good graphics, and an eerie soundtrack; very cool! I recorded it with my mom's digital camera and I taped the opening tune (her camera doesn't have sound) before I was able to trade it with someone for the 2600 game Frostbite. So that was pretty cool.

If you've never played Gauntlet before, you might like this a bit better then, but to me, spending $30 on a game (back then, that was a bit expensive for a new game where I live, here in Houston) and getting bored of it within a week is a bit of a drag, thanks to my experience with Gauntlet before trying Chambers. I tried it out once with a second player to see if that would add any dimension to the game, which it didn't, unfortunately. The gameplay is slowed down even MORE, too, by having several levels where a key to open a door was at one end, and then you had to backtrack a ways to get to the exit, since you couldn't get out of those locked doors without a blasted key(s) first.

So, if you run across this somewhere, you still might want to pick it up to try it out, even though it sounds like I'm really slamming it here; I'm not, really. It's just slow, and I've seen some posts where people have proclaimed to liking their "Gauntlet Junior!" So, with that kind of praise, you might want to chalk this one up as to having a bit of a cult following (especially since it was released for the Atari XE computer and the 2600 as well), rather than listing it as another one in the long line of mistakes that Atari made over the years.

However, if you want something with a bit more speed and all, then you might want to check out something more along the lines of 2600 Kaboom or Jr. Pac-Man, the Game That Knows No Brakes. Wheeee!

"Eyes... in the dark..."
Is it worth fighting this horde for a few items?
You'll definitely need a gun(!) in this medieval adventure.
The level design could use some sprucing up.
Dark Chambers
System: 7800
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Adventure
Graphics Score: 70%
Sound & Music Score: 70%
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 85%

Final Score: 65%

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