Well, it’s been an entire month since I last reviewed any “Doom II” WADs. So, I thought that I’d take a look at a WAD from 2016 called “Shovelware Adventure!“.
Although I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, it will apparently even work with the original DOS version of “Doom II” since the Zip file for this WAD also includes a dehacked file too.
So, let’s take a look at “Shovelware Adventure!”:
“Shovelware Adventure!” is a single level (well, technically a two-level) WAD that contains new weapon sprites/animations, monsters, music, sounds and item sprites. In terms of length, it is a fairly large level that took me about one and a half hours to complete.
One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it certainly isn’t shovelware! Despite the sarcastic title, this is an intense, enjoyably challenging level that is an interesting mixture of more “traditional” level design and modern “slaughtermap”-style level design. This level is filled with fast-paced and challenging combat – like any FPS game level should be.
One thing that really adds to the challenge is the addition of a few new monsters. Although they’re nothing especially new (eg: plasma zombies, rocket zombies, several types of imps, new sprites for several monsters etc..) they force the player to think up new strategies when deciding which monsters that they should fight first. This helps to keep the gameplay fresh, not to mention that the plasma and rocket zombies are just as powerful as you would expect too.
The challenge in this level is also increased with a few mild-moderate “slaughtermap”-style segments where you are faced with a horde of monsters.
Although you can usually defeat all of them (so, it isn’t technically a “slaughtermap”) it still forces the player to play a bit more strategically. In addition to this, there are also a couple of well-placed cyberdemons, spider demons and arch-viles too.
The only slight criticism I have of the difficulty in this WAD is that the difficulty curve isn’t quite right. Although there are more monsters later in the level, the earlier parts can feel slightly more difficult than the later ones due to the relative lack of ammo and weapons earlier in the level. Of course, once you find weapons like the plasma rifle (which now fires pink/light purple projectiles 🙂 ), the difficulty level drops slightly. Even so, don’t expect this to be an easy level!
In terms of the level design, it’s mostly fairly good. Not only is the level a traditional-style non-linear level that contains several different types of areas that force the player to play in slightly different ways, but there are also a few rather interesting flourishes too.
For example, when you start the level, you are facing a window with several monsters behind it. Once you’ve fought these monsters (and the other monsters nearby), you then encounter another window a bit later in the level with more monsters behind it. If you’re observant, you’ll realise that both windows are part of the same room. It’s a small detail, but it shows that the designer has put some thought into using the space available in a clever way.
Likewise, there is actually a little bit of humour in this level – since there are a couple of Doom Marines hidden throughout the level who will fart when you shoot at them. Yes, it’s incredibly puerile – but it’s also absolutely hilarious too.
The only real criticism I have of the level design has to do with the level’s size. Although the level mostly flows fairly well, it is possible to end up getting stuck occasionally. Although you’ll eventually work out where to go (and where to find the keys) through backtracking and exploration, it can affect the pacing of the level slightly.
In addition to this, the way to actually finish the level is a bit complicated. Basically, it contains a “Doom II”-style ‘Romero’s Head’ ending – but this isn’t made immediately obvious to the player (and, yes, I eventually had to resort to the “IDDT” and “IDCLIP” cheats to discover that you were meant to complete the level this way). Even so, when you complete the level, you are rewarded with one of the coolest level completion screens I’ve ever seen – not to mention a small novelty level too.
The new music and sounds are really cool too. Not only does the level begin with some really cool ominous-sounding MIDI music, but the weapon sound effects have also been replaced with slightly better ones too. The best of the new weapons sounds are probably those for the plasma rifle and chaingun, both of which sound slightly more powerful than usual.
All in all, “Shovelware Adventure!” is a really solid, fast-paced, intense and enjoyably challenging WAD. The new stuff helps to keep the gameplay fresh and – for the most part – the level is really well-designed too. If you want a thrilling level that will also make you think strategically, then this one is certainly worth checking out.
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.