Well, you didn’t think that I’d forgotten about “Doom II”, did you? Seriously though, it has been way too long since I reviewed some levels for this game – so, since Christmas draws ever closer, I thought that I’d check out a festive WAD from 1994 called “Xmas/ Doom“.
As usual, I used one of the more modern versions of the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, although – given it’s age- it’ll work with pretty much any source port. Plus, although this WAD comes with several DOS-based installers, you can just use the “XD1” and “SPRITES” files with your source port (in “ZDoom” or “GZDoom”, just highlight these two files and drag-and-drop them onto the “ZDoom”/”GZDoom” icon)
So, let’s take a look at “Xmas/ Doom”:
“Xmas/Doom” is a short Christmas-themed WAD that contains three short Christmas-themed levels, as well as new textures and new music. Each of these three levels has a Christmas theme and, for something made in 1994, there are some surprisingly cool effects here:
I got through this WAD in about half an hour and I’d say that the difficulty level is mildly to moderately challenging. It might just be because I was slightly out of practice, but I found the first level to be the most difficult of the three since it contains a fair number of narrow corridors and mid-high level monsters. Including, of course, the obligatory arch-vile:
Most of the challenge in the first level comes from the fact that there isn’t quite enough shotgun ammo to deal with all of the monsters near the start of the level. Yes, if you explore, you’ll find both a rocket launcher and a BFG about halfway through the level, but you’ll probably be too busy dodging and/or running away from monsters to look for these until you realise that you have no other option.
The levels in this WAD are designed to be short and fast levels, with lots of combat (by 1994 standards anyway) and a good mixture of expansive and claustrophobic areas. The atmosphere of each level is enhanced with various snow-covered textures, a few Christmas decorations and a few creative alterations to the familiar UAC logo:
One surprisingly original touch is the final boss battle. Instead of the usual Cyberdemon or Spider Demon battle, you are pitted against a version of the Icon Of Sin that sits in the middle of a very festive-looking pyramid of skulls.
Although you are given lots of health and ammo in this part of the level, the real challenge is to work out how to get rid of the pyramid, so that you can press the tower in the centre of it and finish the level.
The puzzle is relatively simple once you work out what you’re supposed to do, but it might take a bit of trial and error – although experienced 1990s FPS gamers should have no trouble with it.
But, although level design is reasonably good, it it isn’t without it’s flaws. One problem in level three was that an automatically-opening door (that gives you the yellow key… and two revenants) failed to open when I walked into the room in front of it.
In the end, I had to both find and access this room using cheat codes. It’s possible that I missed a hidden switch or something, but I made a fairly careful search of the surrounding area beforehand and couldn’t find anything.
Likewise, there’s one room in the second level that you only seem to get one chance to access. Yes, it’s possible that there’s a hidden switch, or you have to travel back and forwards far enough to trigger the sliding wall that blocks off the room (neither of these things could be found or seemed to work when I first encountered this room), but be sure to save often in the second level.
As for the music, it’s the usual collection of Christmas-themed MIDIs that you would expect in a WAD like this. I’ve heard the music from the first level used in a more modern WAD before, but the second level contains a very interesting rendition of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”. This music is fairly good and it really helps to add to the festive atmosphere of this WAD.
All in all, this is a fun little WAD – with fast, enjoyable and slightly challenging gameplay. Yes, it has a couple of small design flaws but it looks really impressive for something that is 22 years old! Likewise, the final boss battle contains more originality than the boss battles in many WADs that I’ve played.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least three and a half.