Back in the mid-80's, there weren't too many multiplayer arcade games to speak of, but Atari certainly led the movement with its top-down dungeon crawler Gauntlet, which made for many fun nights for players of all ages. But Sega was no slouch, as it released an interesting competitor in its own right with Quartet. Although it played much differently – side-scrolling shooting compared to top-down action – and replaced the medieval theme with space action, it no doubt deserves its spot amongst the arcade multiplayer greats.
The goal of the game is simple. Up to four players can control galactic warriors as they work their way through levels, shooting any enemies they come across while picking up bonus points. Power-ups also appear as well, including time stopping devices that make it ideal to shoot foes in their tracks, as well as a "destroy all" option that kills every enemy on-screen.
Quartet's general goal is to get to the boss enemy at the end of the stage, who happens to be carrying a key. Take them down and you'll be able to get through the exit, and then see how your stage performance compares with others. Then you get to jump in and do it all again.
That sounds repetitive, and Quartet does lack the deep strategy that Gauntlet delivered with its more intricate stage design. That said, Sega's quarter-muncher is still a blast, especially when you have four players shooting lasers all over the place, trying to shoot the numerous baddies that come popping out of the woodwork. There's plenty for everyone to do here, and the mad scramble to pick up bonus point items and score the first place ranking at the end of each stage is a great deal of fun.
The main drawback is with the single player version of the game. It's still a good time, but it takes away any competitive edge from having other players involved. Plus, this allows more enemies to pile up, and this can be overwhelming as a result. But seasoned players should still have a good time with it.
Also, one quick note – there was a Quartet 2 released, but it's a bit of a cheat. It's not a brand new game, but rather a conversion of the original that supports two players. That's kind of a bummer, because a new game with extra levels would've been appreciated. Being able to select characters with this version is okay, but it should've gone the extra mile.
As for the game's presentation, though it's dated by today's standard, it's a colorful treat. The levels are basically designed, but jam-packed with creative enemy designs, bright colors everywhere, and hardly any slowdown to speak of. Some of the bosses can be fun too, whether it's a large mutant butterfly that'll knock a player down flat, or some robot that confidently struts around before he's destroyed.
The music is good, too. In fact, it was so memorable, Sega decided to use some of it in another game, Spider-Man the Videogame. Take a close listen – they're about the same. The sound effects are a bit miniscule by comparison, save for the gasps our heroes take when they're hit by enemies. No matter – the game's still a fun listen.
While Quartet didn't quite become the classic along the same lines as Gauntlet and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's still a worthy arcade experience if you happen to find a four-player arcade unit around. Grab your friends and blast to your galactic heart's content.