Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 4

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 5

Overall: 6

Come and drop in a quarter…
(come and drop in a quarter…)
Play a game that is new…
(play a game that is new…)
Where the armor is his and his and hers,
Three’s Company too…

Uh, I mean, we’re playing Gladiator too…

Yeah. Right. Gladiator. Ever play Gladiator? Probably not. It’s kind of a bad game. Like, pretty bad, but not like, “man, this game is BAD, Yo!,” more like, “uh, Mike, why are you playing Gladiator? It’s pretty bad.”

Every weekend night, in that magical mall arcade of our misspent youth, my friend and I shelled out all of our meager earnings into the likes of Dragon’s Lair, Punch Out!!, Major Havoc, and Donkey Kong 3. On one particularly fun-filled evening, we were about to leave behind the sights and sounds of the game room when my friend informed me that he had one more quarter. Actually, we were standing in the darkest corner of the game-room, where the less successful games went just before they left the building, and he said, quote, “Well, I’ve got one quarter left, might as well waste it…” whereupon he promptly deposited it into Gladiator.

Gladiator. It’s goofy looking, goofy sounding, and the hero is, well, a fancy-lad, but after playing one game, you’re hooked on it. Here’s the lowdown: you’re a blue-armor wearing Gladiator, named Gurianos, fighting your way through a castle with nothing more than a sword, a shield, and your wits. And a codpiece. There are two basic stages: block or sword lots of crap that flies at you from sources unseen, and, fight a bunch of sword wielding cretins. The order of the events is, roughly, flying crap, fight three bad guys and then a “boss.” Repeat. After three levels of play, Gurianos comes face to face with, ulp, a skeleton! Defeat him and priceless treasure is yours…until you’re thrown back to the start with a “but later, that same day…” mentality not unlike Nintendo’s classic, Gumshoe.

Should Guri be unlucky enough to be hit by a flying object (sword, brick, fireball, arrow, boomerang, mysterious ray, etc.), a piece of his armor will fly off, leaving the skin underneath exposed. A second hit in an exposed area, even in an area as meaningless as his shin, will kill him. Tough, but fair, since the villains fall prey to the same rules and regulations. Hit ‘em twice in the ankle, they drop dead. Makes sense.

Gladiator is a tough game, and “winning” it is nearly impossible. Three buttons control the sword fighting aspect of the game (low, middle, and high attack) and the joystick controls the rest of the action (move shield up and down between the three positions, along with walking). Rapidly shaking the stick up and down should cause an impenetrable glowing force field that lasts for several seconds before fading, but this action works less than half of the time, and rarely when Gurianos could really use that extra bit of assistance. Ocasionally, blue crystal balls (blue balls?) float by at the top of the screen. Smashing them with the sword lands Guri a brand new suit of armor. Gladiator’s only other helping hand comes in the form of flying spears (flying spears?). If he can manage to divert and retrieve four of them in a row, his own sword will turn bright red (red sword? What is the design team trying to tell us?). Hitting an enemy’s shield fourteen times (not ten, not fifteen) with the red sword will turn Gurianos into the Invincible Iron Man for a few seconds and replenish his armor to boot. In the event that Gurianos reaches the final scene with Mr. Skeleton, he needs to bear down and get ready for the battle, and laughs, of a lifetime. Skeletor here wears no armor, but his bones fly away when they’re hit. After a while, Gurianos is facing nothing more than a disembodied skull and a sword-wielding bony arm that magically float back and forth in space. Crack his cranium with your sword and gather up the booty. Er, treasure.

If this game still sounds less than exciting, it’s likely because it’s full of odd sound effects and voices that really add to its overall “charm”. Gladiator, for instance, shouts out, “Vo! Vo! Vo!” in a Gauntlet-esque Warrior voice while slinging his sword, the lineup of bad guys taunt Gladiator and laugh at his defeat, and armor flies off to the very appropriate sounds of metal on metal. The music is a borderline fall-down-laughing theme that, while not as catchy as the Super Mario Brothers anthem, will fade into and out of your memory at the oddest times.

There are other nice touches here as well. All of the participants’ shields get damaged from whatever punishment they receive, and the contestants all sport absurd under-garments, including sock-garters, beneath their armor. Yes, a female warrior makes an appearance a couple of times during the game - try and knock off all her armor – she’s wearing pasties underneath it! Pasties! Gurianos can pickpocket the downed bosses and make off with their weapons, and tastelessly takes a poke at one of the stiffening corpses. One of the villains even falls over in one of two different ways, depending on whether or not Gurianos defeats him with a, uh, sword to the groin. Seriously.

Soul Calibur this game is not, but then, perhaps in some twisted way, it is an ancient forefather of the latest and greatest sword fighter. As long as you go into it with low expectations, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. At first. After a few games though, you’ll be cursing the machine and screaming at Gladiator. “Grab the freakin’ sword! Damn! Quit your prancing around and just run up the stairs!” Sadly, in the event that you do ever get to the skeleton waiting for you at the end of the final level, you’ll most likely never want to play the game again. Unless, like me, you’re wacky in the head. As dopey as the game is, it’s still fun. “Vo! Vo! Vo!…”


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:25 PM