If you’ve been jonesing for an old-fashioned Princess Saver, Gazzel Quest may be your next fix. It has all the elements that made games in the early 90s magical, without being a slavish reproduction.
The Story: Gazzel is the First Prime in the Pharaoh’s army, his strongest and bravest warrior.
Weary of bloodshed and death, Gazzel decides to leave military service. The enraged Pharaoh abducts Gazzel’s lady love and locks her behind a door that requires five magical keys to open. The hero must travel through the underworlds and fight terrible monsters to free her.
Gazzel Quest is a scrolling, Egyptian-themed action adventure game. The main character can move in any direction and will switch sides Pac-Man style if he is moved off-screen to the right or left.
The game settings are fairly standard, but one feature I appreciated is the ability to play in Windowed mode. Although the game scales beautifully to full screen, sometimes it’s nice to be able to play while monitoring other things. My minor complaint with this option is that changing between windowed and fullscreen mode completely reloads the game, so if you’ve already changed some settings, you will need to reset them.
The control options are a bit flawed. The player can choose between three control schemes: Arrow keys, WASD, or a gamepad. The control schemes don’t explain what the keys do, which is a problem because the controls are not explained in the game either. The player is left to figure it out by trial and error. As there are only six keys in the game it isn’t an insurmountable task, but in the beginning of the game, there is a short period of “What am I doing?” that could be avoided with simple tags on the key listings to explain their purpose or a short tutorial.
The lack of a tutorial can be a problem if the player dives into the game without first checking the control settings. The default movement controls are move with the arrow keys, spacebar to fire. However, Gazzel has a magic ability and there is nothing overt to indicate the existence of this power. It took me a few deaths to realize the lightning bolts I’d been collecting gave me additional magic (I originally thought they gave extra lives). When the player fires up Gazzel’s ability, the character is invincible for a short time, something I wish I had known when I faced down the first boss.
The game’s plot narrative plays every time the game starts, and the scrolling creeps up the page painfully slow. Fortunately, the intro is skippable. Gazzel’s narrative text would benefit from a grammar check in the English version (I can’t speak for the Spanish version). The developer is based out of Spain so errors are understandable, but my inner editor still winces at lines like “Once all the jewels were placed in the locks the door will open and Samala will be free.”
The Game: I thoroughly enjoyed the graphics in Gazzel’s Quest.
Many old-school games use nostalgia as an excuse to make games that look terrible. This is not the case here. The artwork is a nice blend of cute and pretty in a style that wouldn’t seem out of place on a classic SNES.
Gameplay is simple. A scrolling Space Invaders with traps, secrets, and collectibles. One of the most amusing aspects of Gazzel’s Quest is how health is displayed. Gazzel starts out with a full suit of armor. Damage rips bits of his clothes off until he dies, angel-flapping off the screen in a bejeweled loincloth. One weirdly anachronistic quirk is the armor Gazzel wears in “magic” mode. He briefly switches to a new set of armor that makes him invincible and deadly to touch. The armor is decidedly Roman in origin, not Egyptian. It’s obvious enough to feel intentional. Denoting invincibility could have been accomplished by changing the existing armor to a different color. Instead, Gazzel briefly becomes a Roman soldier. A nod to history perhaps?
Although the forward scroll is slow, the game doesn’t feel sluggish at all. In fact, the monsters, projectiles, traps, and openable “chests” in normal mode can feel a bit overwhelming at times. I have not unlocked extreme mode yet, but it may need an epilepsy warning.
Multiplayer mode is local co-op, with both players sharing a keyboard if they don’t have gamepads. I tried playing this way and I would not recommend it. Although the game is more fun and significantly easier with a friend, sharing a keyboard is uncomfortable at best.
There are a few things I feel are missing in Gazzel Quest.
First, it is not possible to save the game, and there aren’t any level codes. If you have to close the game in the middle of a playthrough, you have to start over from the beginning the next time you play. Although the game has a lot of replayability, since it progresses at a fixed rate there are no quick sessions. It takes the time it takes without any wiggle room. Fortunately, if you do not close the game, it is possible to keep going on your current level if you die. Also, companions cannot be resurrected in multiplayer mode. While it makes sense in certain cases for death to have meaning, for Gazzel’s Quest I would favor fun and playability over seriousness.
Gazzel Quest is not a game I would typically pick off the Steam shelf, but if I had given it a miss it would have been a loss. Despite its flaws, the artwork, and simple control scheme paired with the challenging gameplay and multiplayer option makes this title a win.