GatEB: Introductions

Despite being fourth in publication order, Gunthro and the Epic Blunder is meant as an introduction to DROD. And it does a whole lot of introducing — the first sequence of rooms takes care to introduce all the basics, one by one, down to the level of key bindings, even though there’s a separate gameplay tutorial that covers the same things. Then it pretty much follows the DROD model, introducing one new element per level, tutorializing all its behaviors and uses. And, of course, most of the elements it’s introducing are things that the experienced DROD player has seen before.

Not everything, mind you. There are a few new concepts, like horns that you can use to summon allies, either squaddies who you control or Rasarun soldiers who you don’t control but who fight monsters alongside you. But even there, the things that the horns summon aren’t new. Squaddies are just like the clones produced by clone potions in The City Beneath, and Rasarun soldiers are just a color-swap of the Tuenan stalwarts from the same title. (Yes, the Tuenans are allies there, and enemies here.) GatEM gets more mileage out of them, though. As a story about a war, it features soldiers much more. Here, enemy soldiers of the sort introduced in the final level of Journey to Rooted Hold are nearly as common a puzzle element as roaches.

The previous games also introduced elements one by one, of course. The weird thing about GatEB is that it introduces elements in a very different order than the previous games did. It’s not until the third major hub-and-wheel area that Gunthro starts encountering most of the monster types from the first game, such as wraithwings, evil eyes, and serpents. This stuff used to be the very basics of the game, and now it’s being put off until after we’ve seen exotic variants from later episodes like stone golems, rafts, bombs, and the aforementioned soldiers. And I didn’t even notice that they were missing until their return. I have to say, they’re introduced a lot better here than in King Dugan’s Dungeon. Each monster type gets its own mini-dungeon, with at least one room showing how the monster is affected by brains. In previous titles, the brain tutorials were all lumped together when brains are introduced, but here, brains are one of the first monster types you encounter. Basically what’s happening here is that the designers are letting go of the idea that they’re making “King Dugan’s Dungeon, only better” and rethinking how things should be introduced. Possibly it’s the influence of the frogs-and-mice stage of the project.

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