Gear Gauntlet offers a simple, fast paced and addictive gameplay style which will appeal to fans of many older arcade games that had a clear focus on challenging, addictive gameplay. Gear Gauntlet delivers a unique concept among its more modern peers, and whilst it draws inspiration from many sources, it presents those ideas back with a singular vision.
Players control a single gear as it moves (primarily) from left to right across a vast range of themed levels, using various different paths to weave between the many dangers which occupy each location. The biggest threat is also the simplest – hesitation. Chased by a fast moving camera, players must utilize expert level timing, pattern recognition and memorisation skills. Another crucial skill is the ability to move rapidly around the joypad hitting buttons which are colour coded to blocks on screen that the gear must grind through in order to maintain progress.
Here’s what I liked:
Pick up and grind — Gear Gauntlet is incredibly simple, with rapid load times upon respawn and a clear focus on keeping the player engrossed in the action as much as possible. There is a basic campaign mode with multiple ways to seek out and improve upon high scores and compare them against others via an instantly presented leaderboard. Each successful run is graded from S to F, which is great for completionists seeking the highest possible score.
Polished cog — Everything in Gear Gauntlet is well presented, which is essential because of how responsive the gameplay needs to be. The game looks good and all the moving or interactive parts stand out against the backdrop with ease, the frame rate is smooth and stable, and the net result of all this is that when you die, it’s going to be your own fault, and not because of a stuttering game engine.
Only revolutions — Gear Gauntlet has a kind of addictive, old school style of play running through it, and what that leads to is a genuine “one more go” kind of feeling which will keep you coming back for more. In a way, that’s all that a game like this should offer, and whilst it does get repetitive after a few hours, there is enough variety in and between the levels to keep things interesting.
Infuriatingly tough — Like most of the games it takes inspiration from, Gear Gauntlet is really, really tough. The chase camera is fast, tireless and brutal in its mission to hunt the player down and end each run. Whilst the controls are generally smooth and responsive, each level is filled with jagged climbs which nag at progress and make things feel a little jarring at times. The real obstacles in these levels are many and varied, adding further misery. Thankfully, most levels are of an appropriate length so as not to become too frustrating, and longer ones do have checkpoints.
Stuck in gear — Gear Gauntlet offers a few variations on its basic level based progression mode, but the gameplay itself never changes. For some people, this may be a dream come true. For others, it means that Gear Gauntlet will simply not be their cup of tea. The difficulty will be a problem for some people, but even beyond that, I didn’t actually find the game that interesting. There’s no story, there is very little personality that isn’t generated by already liking the gameplay, and if you aren’t interested in high scores, then you may have no reason to proceed beyond the first few levels.
There is technically nothing wrong with Gear Gauntlet, and it has a unique and interesting concept that is worth exploring for those who might be interested. I’ll almost certainly find myself picking it up for the occasional ten or fifteen minute session in the future, but it requires a more dedicated gamer than me to truly master it, especially since it offers little to draw me back outside of its core gameplay. As a result, I would only recommend Gear Gauntlet to those hardcore gamers that love to be constantly challenged, and who are always looking to shave that extra tenth of a second of their best time.
Score: Limited Appeal
[EDITORS NOTE: At this time, there are no colorblind options in Gear Gauntlet, but the developer has assured us this will be fixed in the near future. Please take into consideration if that affects you.]
Gear Gauntlet was developed and published by Drop Dead Interactive on Xbox One. It was released April 15 2016 for $9.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.