Gateway to Apshai fits the arcade style of fantasy role-playing more than its sister product, Temple of Apshai. The game takes place in real time with a joystick-controlled hero, thus progressing faster. You gather treasure in a multi-level dungeon filled with traps and monsters. The game presents a choice of sixteen different, huge dungeons containing seventy rooms on each of eight levels. You have six and a half minutes to explore each level. If you finish in time, you teleport to the next level which is deeper and harder. The game ends when you have completed all eight levels-or have exhausted your eight lives. Luckily, your hero is endowed with strength, agility, luck, and health. The computer awards you bonus points if you fight well and complete a level under the time limit. Watch your health as death occurs if that value falls to zero, although sometimes you find healing salve to restore your health.

You play the game using a joystick and three function keys. The Option key lets you use items in your bag, for example, a key to unlock doors. The Select key lets you search a room for a secret door or trap, drop an item, move to the next level, or check your status. The Start key puts you in the fight mode. You begin with a dagger, but soon obtain a bow, arrows, and a short sword. You switch between weapons by repeating the fight mode command.

As you begin your search, the unexplored areas are hidden. When you move into a room, its contents and walls become visible. Sometimes bats, snakes, ghouls, and slime mold protect the treasure. Most you can kill with a sword thrust, but it is safer to kill them from afar with an arrow. Draw your weapon quickly, as a monster may lurk nearby. Treasures and other items, like healing potions and spells, are easily acquired and with little regard for traps-they seem to have little effect.

Although Gateway to Apshai is an introduction to the more difficult fantasy role-playing games like Temple o f Apshai, I found it a better game in many ways. First, it moves faster and holds your attention longer. Second, it eliminates many of the keyboard commands that prove so frustrating to children. Yet the game retains much of the flavor that made the original series popular. Finally, the cartridge form makes it available to owners of Atari 400 and 600XL computers.

Overall rating : B Controllability:BError handling:N/A
Game concept :B+Skill involved: CDocumentation:C
Creativity:BChallenge:BHolds interest ?:B
Game depth :B-Graphics:BValue for money:B-