Copyright: 1983 (Atari Corp.), 1988 (John Palevich)
Release Date: May 1984
Developer: Sculptured Software
Deisgner: John Palevich (Programmer)
When you think about the humble Atari 2600 probably the first things that comes to mind are the late 70s and the video game crash, so you think about a period of time of roughly 5 years. However we have to consider that this immmortal machine was on sal till the early 90s and was discontinued in 1992, the same year the SNES saw the light in Europe. This means that for two years, between 1990 (release date of the SNES in Japan) and 1992 you had the possibility to buy a brand new 16-bit system or an old 4-bit tank like the Atari 2600. So we don’t have to be surprised if today’s game, Dark Chambers, is a game released in 1989, at the same time when Castlevania III and Super Mario Land were on the shelves.
The game is clearly inspird to Gauntlet since you have to evade from a maze-like environment and collect treasures while avoiding zombies and vampires. Watching it on an Atari 2600 almost makes the heart melt: someone almost of the turn of the decade was still coding for the 2600. The game suffes of all the limitation of the hardware and complared to its 7800 brother doesn’t even look like it’s the same game.
Below you find other two images related to the game: the back of the box and the label of the cartridge itself.
We read from the back of the box:
You are the only one brave enough to enter the castle’s dark chambers. Once inside the foreboding castle, a dark staircase leads you down to the murky depths of the labyrinth below. Go alone, or find safety in numbers with your faithful companion. Throw daggers at a threatening band of humanoids, living skeletons, ghosts, evil wizards and grim reapers. Stand back-to-back with your partner to fight them off. Then descen further beneath the earth’s surface. Collect magic potions and treasure chests as you encounter them in the tangle of rooms and corridors.Use keys found on the path to open doors. Take food and drink along the way to keep up your strength.
The Atari Catalog in March 1989 states that Dark Chambers is “coming soon”
Also, in the June issue of the Computer Entertainment newsletter the game was marked as “shipped” although it was possible that not all the retailers already got it on shelves. So we can be quite sure that the release date is April or May but given the fact that the game was indicated as shipped in June (and not in May) suggests that the release date is probably May.
Ports and legacy
Dark Chambers is clearly inspired by Gauntlet but hasn’t got any sequel or reboot. It only appeared on the Atari machines of the time – the 2600, the 7800 and on the 8-bit line of computers. For sure the best version is the one for Atari 7800 with polished graphics and a distinctive Gauntlet-like gameplay. The game didn’t receive very good reviews – most of them were rather mediocre – probably because it’s a 1989 game released on a 1977 console and it’s a gopy of a game that already impressed the players on other more powerful consoles. The NTSC version of the game, as stated on AtariAge is not so common (rarity 4 out of 10) but can be found for human prices on eBay.
Have you played Dark Chambers today?