Once again, it has been an entire month since I last reviewed a “Doom II” WAD. Although I had planned to review a WAD called “Saturnine Chapel” a few days ago, it was one of those annoying WADs that actually requires a powerful modern computer (eg: I only got a single-digit framerate). So, instead, I thought that I’d check out a rather interesting little WAD called “Maihama“.
As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it will probably work on any modern limit-removing source port that allows jumping etc..
So, let’s take a look at “Maihama”:
“Maihama” is a single-level WAD that also contains new music and a couple of new textures (eg: the skybox and the ending screen background).
One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it was a bit more challenging than I expected. Although it isn’t ultra-difficult, it is the kind of WAD that will both remind you how out-of-practice you are and then gently help you to remember how to play “Doom II” again. Like in a lot of great WADs, there is a strong emphasis on fast-paced strategic gameplay here.
The designer of this level achieves this in some rather clever ways – the most notable being the placement of several health-sapping chaingun zombies at the beginning of the level. Combined with very strict ammunition rationing, this means that you’ll be in a situation where you have about two health points and a couple of bullets left… before you even get to the main part of the level.
Although this level doesn’t throw gigantic hordes of monsters at you (there are a couple of strategically-placed small-medium size groups of monsters though), the clever monster placement is one thing that makes it so thrillingly challenging. For example, there are often both near and distant monsters of various types present at any one time.
This means that you’ll be spending a lot of time dodging projectiles, ducking for cover, using every “Doom II” trick that you know, prioritising which monsters to fight first, scanning distant buildings for zombie-based monsters and trying to make sure that nothing on the ground gets too close to you. In other words, you’ll have to think on your feet constantly and make split-second decisions about whether to run or fight. This is how you make a thrilling action game!
This thrillingly fast-paced gameplay is balanced out somewhat by the fact that there are few areas that are relatively “safe”, such as a narrow corridor in one building that you can hide in. This helps to give the player time to think, whilst ensuring that the level never gets too slow paced (after all, you can’t spend forever hiding).
In addition to this, the relative scarcity of health and ammo in the level helps to keep the gameplay suspenseful. Although running out of ammo is only a serious risk in the early parts of the level, you still have to be at least mildly careful during the later parts of the level too.
Plus, to keep the gameplay even more varied, there are even a couple of cool set pieces too. The most notable of this is a mild version of a “slaughtermap” arena, where you have to fight about six mid-level monsters within a confined space. This segment of the level requires fast reflexes, knowledge about monster infighting and a dogged sense of determination. And it’s really fun 🙂
In terms of the actual design of the level, it’s really good. Not only is it the kind of non-linear level that requires exploration, but it also contains a good variety of open areas and more confined areas too.
Likewise, the segments where you find the keys are handled in a reasonably clever way too (for example, after getting the blue key, a wall descends which allows you to quickly return to an early part of the level).
Not only that, this is also the kind of well-designed level where you are very unlikely to get “stuck” at any time. In other words, whilst the level doesn’t explicitly tell you where to go, it’s often at least slightly obvious where you need to explore next.
In terms of the music, this level contains some wonderfully 90s-style MIDI music that is an absolute joy to listen to. Amongst other things, it includes a mixture of slower piano music and slightly faster-paced synth music (that vaguely reminded me of “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War“).
All in all, this is a fun, well-designed and enjoyably challenging level. If you’re slightly out of practice with “Doom II” or want a slightly ‘easier’ difficult WAD, then you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s filled with thrilling fast-paced action of the type that you can only truly find in “Doom II” WADs 🙂
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four.