Well, since I’m still reading the next novel I plan to review (“Origin” by Dan Brown) and because it’s been almost a month since I reviewed anything “Doom II”-related, I thought that I’d take a look at a runner-up in the 2018 Cacowards (chosen by none other than Major Arlene) called “Man On The Moon” by Yugiboy85.
I played this WAD using the GZDoom 3.4.1 source port. According to the accompanying text file, it was tested with PRBoom+ and is also probably compatible with ZDoom too.
So, let’s take a look at “Man On The Moon”:
“Man On The Moon” is a large single-level WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” that contains new music, new textures, new sprites, new sounds and a new monster too.
One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it reminded me a little of WADs by Skillsaw (like the excellent “Lunatic” or the even more excellent “Ancient Aliens“) and not just because of the textures and sci-fi setting. Like a good Skillsaw level, this WAD is an interesting mixture of more traditional level design and more challenging “slaughtermap”-style design too.
In other words, this WAD contains a really good mixture between more traditional level design and combat design, and a very slightly milder version of the kind of fast-paced, monster horde battles that you’d expect from something like “XXXI CyberSky” or “Infernal Fortress“.
This mixture between the two things not only helps to keep the challenging gameplay unpredictable, but is also helped by the fact that the “slaughtermap” segments are a really good mixture between large arena fights and claustrophobic crowded corridor battles.
Like all of the best modern WADs, this is one where you’ll not only need to know the “rules” of “Doom II” but also how to use them to your advantage. Like other maps of this type, this is a level where you probably won’t have the health or ammo to fight literally all of the monsters – so, things like tactics, knowing when to fight and when to run/hide/dodge etc… are essential. This turns the gameplay into something like a fast-paced combat-based puzzle where, for example, you have to work out how to get past a horde of monsters when you’ve only got three health points left.
Yes, it requires perseverance and this level really isn’t for beginners (seriously, play “Final Doom” before even thinking about playing this level), but it makes many of the level’s challenging combat encounters really satisfying when you use your experience, tactics and knowledge to beat them. Not only that, the new monster sprites help to add some extra novelty to the level, there are a decent amount of Arch-viles and even new boss monsters near the end of the level too 🙂
In terms of the actual level design, it’s a mixture of good and bad. The giant, sprawling moon base level is split into several segments (each involving a switch and a keycard) that can be completed in any order and a final arena battle. Although most of the level is really well-designed and is the kind of non-linear thing that could easily have come from the 1990s, it is perhaps very slightly too large for it’s own good.
Not only did I almost miss a crucial weapon pick-up (which was hidden in one of many small corridors) but, after pressing the four switches, I spent at least an hour wandering around the level’s many halls and courtyards wondering “what the hell do I do next?” and thinking “I’m sure I saw an unlockable door somewhere ages ago“. Eventually, out of pure frustration, I ended up using the no clipping cheat to get to the final arena. Whilst it’s really cool that this level has an old-school non-linear layout, these types of old levels worked because they were small enough for the player not to get lost or stuck for too long.
Interestingly, this WAD also takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards jumping too – with the ability to jump being disabled by default. Although, thanks to lots of stairs and lifts, you won’t really even notice this most of the time.
The level’s visual design is really brilliant too, with some wonderful skyboxes and some excellent use of both Skillsaw’s sci-fi textures and a few things from “Duke Nukem 3D” too 🙂 Seriously, I love the 90s sci-fi look of this WAD 🙂 Likewise, the new music and sound effects also help to add a bit of a sci-fi ambience to the level too.
All in all, this is an enjoyably challenging “Doom II” level that is also a cool homage to Skillsaw too 🙂 Yes, it’s a little bit too large for it’s own good (and expect to get stuck at least once or twice), but it’s still a really fun level that experienced players will enjoy 🙂
If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get four and a half.