Firebird, 1986 (C64)
Cloned games were overly abundant on the Commodore 64. Quick programmers often beat software companies who were dragging their feet porting arcade games to the punch by releasing knock-off versions of official games. Such was the case with Gauntlet, the classic arcade game from Atari. In the year it took for Gauntlet to make its way from the arcade to the Commodore, several other companies had already begun working on their own versions. These included games such as Into the Eagle’s Nest (Pandora), Demon Stalkers (Electronic Arts), and Commando ’86 (Elite). One of the best Gauntlet clones, which in many ways exceeded the original, was Druid (1986), which was followed a year later with its own sequel, Druid II (1987).
Those who have played Gauntlet will find Druid looks very familiar. In fact, the simplest way to describe Druid is, “an outdoors version of Gauntlet.” Stone floors have been replaced with grass and castle walls have been replaced with hedges and trees. A few of the other graphics have been tweaked as well. While Hasrinaxx, the player-controlled wizard in Druid looks amazingly like Merlin the Wizard from Gauntlet (except dressed in blue versus yellow), the ghosts in Druid look more like guys wearing bed sheets than actual ghosts.
Like Gauntlet, the main object in Druid is to shoot everything that moves. Unlike Gauntlet, Druid actually does have an end (I believe there are six levels to work your way through). Instead of fireballs, our wizard shoots lightning bolts from his fingers. Also at your disposal are several spells, including invisibility, chaos, and more. One of the coolest spells is Golem Summoning. Golem can be conjured up and controlled by a player in joystick port 2, turning Druid into a multi-player experience! If you’re flying solo, you can also let the computer control Golem’s movements.
While on the surface Druid appears to be simply a clone of Gauntlet, the different terrains, spell-casting system and addition of a plot open up all new styles of game play. Druid II (which is Druid I on steroids) is better.