Mini Review: “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom” (Mod for “Doom II”/”Final Doom”)

Although I still plan to write more book reviews, I was determined to review something else “Doom II”-related before Christmas. So, I thought that I’d quickly check out a rather interesting little mod called “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom“.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this mod. However, it seems to have been designed to work in pretty much any source port (eg: the readme text states that no advanced engine is needed and that it will run with “Chocolate Doom”). Plus, for the sake of time, I also used cheat codes whilst looking at the stuff in this mod.

So, let’s take a quick look at “Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom”:

“Doom Christmas – For Doom II & Final Doom” is a Christmas-themed mod that includes new music, sounds, skyboxes, menu text, end level screens and textures.

Although most of these are things that I’ve seen in Christmas-themed WADs before, it’s absolutely great to see so many of them within the same WAD 🙂

Yay! Nostalgia 🙂 Both for the 1990s and for other Christmas-themed WADs too 🙂

This mod gives “Doom II” an absolutely wonderful “1990s Christmas” kind of atmosphere 🙂 One cool feature is that several of the wall/floor textures and skyboxes have been replaced with more festive ones, which gives familiar levels much more of a “Christmassy” atmosphere. Likewise, many of the item sprites are now covered with snow too.

Merry Doom-mas 🙂

The changes to the weapons are fairly subtle, but they work really well. Whilst the basic shotgun now has a bow on it, the super shotgun has a slightly more “frosty” grey texture and the plasma rifle now fires sparkly red/green projectiles, the best weapon change has to be to the fist – which is replaced by a candy cane.

The monster sprite replacements are pretty cool, with the basic “zombie” monsters being replaced with Santa Clauses. In addition to this, lots of other familiar festive monster sprites also make an appearance here too.Not to mention that the cyberdemon now has a cool green/grey colour scheme too.

It isn’t that festive, but it looks really cool nonetheless 🙂

Although the Arch-vile, Spider Mastermind and Mancubus don’t receive any graphical changes, one cool feature is that several of the monsters now have new sound effects (and will say various festive things, which is hilarious).

In terms of music, each level of “Doom II” has a new Christmas-themed MIDI file – with a full list available in the readme text for the mod. Seriously, there is something wonderfully nostalgic about Christmas MIDI music and it’s great to see such a large selection here 🙂 Although, annoyingly “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” isn’t included though.

All in all, this mod is absolutely brilliant 🙂 Yes, there isn’t that much in the way of truly new stuff here, but this doesn’t matter. If you want a distillation of everything wonderful about Christmas-themed “Doom II” stuff, or you just want to add a bit of amusement and variety to the vanilla versions of “Doom II” and “Final Doom”, then this mod is well worth checking out.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a four.

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Mini Review: “Xmas Doom ’99” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Christmas, “Doom II” and 1990s nostalgia – is there anything better? In keeping with tradition, I thought that I’d try to review at least one Christmas-themed “Doom II” WAD this month. And, after finding one called “Xmas Doom ’99“, I just couldn’t resist taking a look at it.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD, but I guess that it will probably work with any source port that allows jumping.

So, let’s take a look at “Xmas Doom ’99”:

“Xmas Doom ’99” is a two-level WAD from (you guessed it) 1999. It also contains new music, new textures, a new skybox and new menu text too. Yes, you heard me correctly, new menu text. The difficulty setting descriptions have been replaced with hilariously festive things like “Bambi Mode” and “Hail Santa!”.

But, you might be wondering why I mentioned this, of all things, first. Well, it’s because it is probably the best part of this WAD. Although the new background music during the main menu and the first level is pretty cool too and the new monster textures are fairly amusing (especially how the monsters’ hats fall off when they die), the novelty difficulty setting text is, by far, the best part of this WAD.

You can probably see where I’m going with this….

But, what about the level design? Or, you know, the actual gameplay? Well… er… Let’s just say my rose-tinted nostalgia about the 1990s clouded my judgement when choosing this WAD. Whilst the level design isn’t exactly objectively terrible, it isn’t great either.

Both levels are reasonably short and have some cool-looking segments, but they can be a little bit annoying to play. The first level mostly involves wandering around large open areas, fighting low-level monsters and searching for keys. To give you an impression of how dull these open areas are, the blue key is literally hiding in plain sight in one of them. It still took me at least a couple of minutes of random wandering before I found it.

Oh, there it is…

These wide open areas also contain a reasonable number of shotgun zombies, who can occasionally snipe you from a distance. Although they aren’t too much of a challenge to fight, having to find and shoot them all as soon as possible can get a little bit annoying.

Even so, there are some cool-looking buildings (that you can’t enter), some cool lighting effects (eg: the areas around some lanterns are brighter) and a segment where you have to dodge a Cyberdemon. So, this level isn’t all bad.

Merry Doom-mas 🙂

And Season’s Doom-ings too 🙂

The second level begins in front of a rather cool-looking ice castle, that reminded me of something from a “Commander Keen” game. The “Christmas medley” background music also has an enderaringly “early 1990s” kind of sound to it at first, although there are some discordant segments of it that can really grate on the ear.

Yay! It’s an ice castle! This is so 90s 🙂

The ice castle segment is relatively short and reasonably fun, although the designer of this level uses the cheap tactic of filling the castle’s battlements with shotgun zombies. Again, whilst this isn’t objectively difficult to deal with, it is a bit of a cheap way to add difficulty – especially given that they sometimes have a habit of all shooting at you in quick succession.

On the plus side, at least they aren’t chaingun zombies…

After defeating these zombies and pressing a button, you can progress to a snow fort-like area where you have to battle a Cyberdemon. However, the Cyberdemon is restricted to a small square area, so he’s kind of a sitting duck. If you’ve conserved your rockets and plasma ammo, then this boss battle will take you all of two minutes to beat.

Seriously, I actually felt kind of sorry for the poor Cyberdemon….

After this, there’s a short ending segment that involves walking through a couple of poster-filled rooms that include the credits for the WAD, a poster for an upcoming WAD and some endearingly immature 1990s “edginess” (eg: a badly-cropped, low-resolution suggestive photo and some informal Christmas/New Year greetings). Ah, the 1990s!

All in all, this WAD has a few cool-looking areas, some good music and a couple of amusing moments. But, in terms of the actual gameplay and level design, it really isn’t that great. Still, it’s probably a vaguely interesting piece of historical ephemera and it’s possibly “so bad that it’s good”, I guess.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get two.

Mini Review: “Hell’s Bells: The Meltdown” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom” etc..)

Well, after seeing part of a video review of a “Doom II” WAD called “Hell’s Bells: The Meltdown“, I stopped watching and thought “I should play this myself!

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. However, it is probably also compatible with any Boom-derived source port.

So, let’s take a look at “Hell’s Bells: The Meltdown”:

“Hell’s Bells: The Meltdown” is a single-level winter themed WAD from the creator of Mori Christmas that includes new graphics, new textures and (possibly) new music. According to the Doomworld page about the level, it was originally a more difficult level – but has since been toned down slightly.

Visually speaking, this WAD is really good. The level has a wonderfully wintery look that includes textures from “Hexen” in addition to lots of other new stuff. The events of the level take place in a mixture between a forest and a ruined castle, both of which look suitably atmospheric. Likewise, there’s a cool-looking statue too. Plus, one neat touch is a functional bell tower near the end of the level:

You’ve got me ringing hell’s bells! Literally, you actually have to ring this bell in order to progress…

Plus, I absolutely love this statue too.

Another interesting visual feature of this level is that there are several new monster graphics. Not only do the imps now throw snowballs, but the mancubus is now a dark shade of grey (with glowing green eyes) and fires more realistic-looking fiery projectiles. Plus, some of the Hell Knights are an icy shade of magnolia too. Although I’ve seen most of these things in other WADs before, they still help to add some uniqueness and personality to the level.

In terms of difficulty, I’d describe this WAD as moderately challenging. If you’re an experienced player, you’ll probably blaze through the entire thing in less than half an hour.

Yes, it’s a relatively short, but wonderfully thrilling level 🙂

Although the level begins in the middle of a frantic fight with several monsters, you are given a Super Shotgun pretty much instantly. Likewise, although there are some very mild slaughtermap-like set pieces and claustrophobic corridor fights, they aren’t anything too challenging. Even the level’s climactic Cyberdemon battle is easily dodged and the level’s one Arch-vile is pretty much a sitting duck too.

Although this horde of monsters isn’t exactly gigantic, the Pain Elementals help to add a bit of extra challenge.

Pictured: The mandatory Arch-vile that all good “Doom II” levels are supposed to contain. Unfortunately, this one isn’t a free-range one though.

The design of the level is really good too – it is a non-linear medium-sized level that is filled with wide open areas. Not only does the level make good use of verticality (eg: there are raised platforms with corridors beneath), but the level’s size and layout means that you won’t really get stuck.

One cool thing about the platforms in the central area of the level is that they feature small raised bars, which can be used as a jumping off point that allows you to easily leap from platform to platform without fighting the monsters in the corridor below.

Yes, this level actually contains the good kind of first-person platforming…

In terms of the music, the video review I mentioned at the beginning of the article seemed to show that a segment of AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” is supposed to play in the background. However, when I played the level, there was nothing but silence in the background. I don’t know if it was my computer, or the source port or a problem with the WAD or whatever but this was kind of annoying given that the level is probably significantly more epic with one of AC/DC’s best songs playing in the background.

All in all, this is a fun and atmospheric wintery level that will provide about 20-30 minutes of entertainment for experienced players. It’s solidly designed, cool-looking and reasonably fun. And, if you can get the background music to play properly, then it’s probably even cooler.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would probably just about get a four.

Mini Review: “Stardate 20×7” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ ZDoom etc..)

Back in 2014, I reviewed a set of “Doom II” levels called “Stardate 20×6“. At the time, I’d never played anything quite so challenging and, for a fair while, I considered it to be the most difficult set of FPS game levels ever. Yes, I hadn’t played “VeryHard“, “XXXI CyberSky” or any slaughtermaps back then. So, I guess that “Stardate 20×6” was possibly my first slaughtermap WAD.

So, imagine my delight when I was looking through last year’s Cacowards and happened to notice a WAD by the name of “Stardate 20×7“. Yes, it’s the sequel to “Stardate 20×6”!

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. At the time of writing, I’m part way through the final level and haven’t played either secret level. Still, I wanted to make sure there was at least one “Doom II” WAD review posted here this month.

Pictured: Why I’m only part way through the final level…

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Stardate 20×7”:

“Stardate 20×7” is a nine-level slaughtermap WAD (that also contains two secret levels too) from the designer of “Swim With The Whales” and “Stardate 20×6”. It contains new music, new textures, a new monster and a slight change to the plasma rifle.

Like in “Stardate 20×6”, it fires purple projectiles 🙂

One of the things that I will say about this WAD is that, like “Stardate 20×6”, it has an absolutely beautiful purple and brown/gold colour scheme. Seriously, this WAD is an absolute joy to look at. Interestingly, whilst the first couple of levels have more of an Ancient Japan-style theme, the rest of the WAD has lots of cool-looking sci-fi locations.

The “Ancient Japan” theme in the early levels is cool, although the sci-fi levels look even cooler 🙂

Plus, like with other WADs by this author, “Stardate 20×7” takes a very traditionalist attitude towards the subject of jumping. However, the levels have been designed with this limitation in mind, so it’s barely noticeable when you’re playing. Still, you can rocket jump (since freelook can still be used) and this is incredibly useful at one point in level eight….

Trust me, you’ll want to rocket jump backwards fairly soon after pressing that button!

This WAD has a surprisingly good difficulty curve, with the first few levels being somewhat easier than the later ones. Still, it occasionally contains *ugh* puzzles.

Although the first level has a few intriguing, but solvable, puzzles – I got completely stuck on the second level. After wandering around aimlessly for about 1-2 hours and still not knowing where I should go or what I should do, I eventually ended up resorting to using cheat codes to get to level three.

But, apart from this (and one frustrating switch/platforming puzzle in level nine that I also bypassed via cheats), I haven’t really had any major problems with the level design. However, one annoying touch is that level five ends with a mandatory player death which means, you guessed it, level six begins from a pistol start.

Dammit! And I had the BFG too!

Surprisingly, for a slaughtermap WAD, the levels here are at least somewhat non-linear – with exploration, switch puzzles and keyhunting included at various points in the game. Even so, this WAD certainly has it’s fair share of fiendishly difficult set pieces.

Aside from the epic battle in level nine (you’ll know the one I’m talking about when you see it), the most challenging one is probably a small hexagonal corridor near the end of level five that fills up with several waves of Barons, Hell Knights, Revenants and Arch-viles. Not only do you have little to no cover or anywhere to retreat, but if you dawdle for too long then the Arch-viles will just resurrect all of the monsters you’ve already killed! Still, it is beatable. Just remember not to use all of your BFG ammo at the start of this area!

In other words, don’t do this and you might stand a chance…

Other intriguing set pieces include teleporting into a relatively narrow corridor filled with a layered army of monsters… with three pain elementals behind you and a caged Arch-vile in a nearby alcove (to prevent dawdling in the middle of the corridor). Then there’s a brilliant Hell Knight-filled area in level eight. Plus, there’s a timed Arch-vile area (one is released every ten seconds or so) in level four. There’s a monster-filled staircase in level six. And so much more….

Oh, the corridor segment I mentioned earlier is also really cool since it has a really “old school” kind of atmosphere to it.

Seriously, I cannot fault the set pieces in this WAD. As you would expect, they’re the sort of thing that looks egregiously unfair at first glance but which can be dealt with if you use the right tactics, if you persevere and if you are willing to work out how to escape each area (since you can’t usually fight literally every monster). Like in all good slaughtermaps, the monster encounters are more of a fast-paced action-based puzzle than a simple fight.

Pictured: The fun type of in-game puzzles! Seriously, this is what FPS game puzzles should look like.

Pictured: The “not so fun” type of FPS game puzzles.

The stand-out levels in this WAD are probably level six – which has this cool Ancient Egypt theme (complete with music) – and level eight.

Level eight is a proper old-school style slaughtermap, taking place in an eerily futuristic floating purple ballroom that is crammed with hundreds of monsters. This is the level where my reaction went from “Oh god, am I getting worse at this game? Am I too old for this?” to “Ha! Let’s dance!“.

The Danse Macabre, to be precise….

In terms of new monsters, I’ve only seen one so far. It’s a purple version of the “Afrit” monster I’ve seen in other WADs and it appears precisely once during level four. Of course, this happens after your health and ammo has been sapped by a frantic battle and you’re standing on a claustrophobic platform. And, did I mention that this monster’s attack combines that of the Revenant and Mancubus? Or that it has a lot of health too?

Seriously, I’m glad there’s only one of these monsters!

In terms of background music, there are some really great tunes here. The best ones probably have to be the Ancient Egypt-style music in level six or the vaguely Japanese-style music in level one. Seriously, I love how well the music fits in with the general theme of these levels.

All in all, this is a visually-beautiful WAD for experienced and/or masochistic players. Yes, you might get totally and utterly stuck during levels two and nine (because of keys, puzzles and/or “where do I go?”). But, if you enjoyed “Stardate 20×6” and you want even more of a challenge, then “Stardate 20×7” is definitely worth checking out. It’s atmospheric, fiendishly difficult and wonderfully purple. What’s not to like?

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least four.

Mini Review: “Arena Boss Fights” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”/ “GZDoom”)

Well, although I still seem to be going through a “Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines” phase at the moment (and am replaying it yet again, as a Malkavian this time), I’m determined that my regular “Doom II” WAD reviews won’t be as neglected as my plans to finish and review “Under A Killing Moon” seem to be.

So, with that said, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a rather interesting little WAD for “Doom II”/”Final Doom” called ‘Arena Boss Fights‘.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD. It is also apparently compatible with GZDoom too. However, the readme suggests that some other source ports might have issues running this WAD.

So, let’s take a look at “Arena Boss Fights”:

“Arena Boss Fights” is a single-level novelty WAD that was apparently made within the space of a single day.

The basic premise of the WAD is that you have to fight the three bosses from the original “Doom” (eg: the Bruiser Brothers, the Cyberdemon and the Spider Mastermind) in a series of arena-based fights. Basically, this WAD does what it says on the tin.

Yay! Gladiatorial combat 🙂

The actual battles are kept fresh and interesting though some clever arena design. The battle with the two hell knights is made easier by the inclusion of a super shotgun, however this is balanced out by the fact that the arena itself consists of lots of walkways and lava pits (so, circle-strafing is a little more difficult).

Still, if you’ve played a lot of challenging modern WADs, it might be difficult to remember that this actually used to be considered a boss fight.

The Cyberdemon arena is pretty easy, since the Cyberdemon is restricted to a raised platform and you are given a plasma gun when you enter the room. But, this is balanced slightly by the fact that the arena itself is relatively small, and the only way to get extra plasma cells is to lower nearby pillars (which briefly leaves you exposed to the Cyberdemon’s rockets).

The most challenging arena in the game is, of course, the battle with the Spider Mastermind. Although you’re given a rocket launcher and several pillars to hide behind, this is balanced out slightly by the fact that you are restricted to a series of walkways surrounding a lava pit. Likewise, rockets are relatively scarce in this area.

Yay! This arena looks wonderfully epic 🙂

However, and I could be wrong here, it is possible that the spider’s health levels might have been tweaked somewhat, since you only have to shoot him a few times after you’ve run out of rockets. I don’t know, I’m sure I remember this boss being tougher.

Although an experienced player can breeze through this WAD in about 5-10 minutes, it’s still a lot of fun. It’s an interesting little retrospective of the original game and – even if you’re a little bit out of practice with “Doom II” – then it’ll still make you feel like a badass when you play it.

One cool feature about this WAD is that the central hub area between the three arenas features sprites of each boss. Once you defeat each boss, their sprite disappears from the hub area – which is a rather cool little touch.

This is easy to miss, but it’s still really cool 🙂

Bizarrely, the list of “rules” that accompanies the WAD advises against using freelook (although jumping is fine, and necessary in the first arena). According to this list of rules, disabling freelook means that you’re less likely to notice problems with the skybox. However, even after I disabled freelook, I could still spot repeating sky textures. Still, for a level that was made in a single day, these minor cosmetic flaws can easily be overlooked.

In terms of music, this level uses the “Into Sandy’s City” MIDI from the original games. Along with “E1M1” and “D_Read_M”, this is one of my favourite pieces of classic in-game music, so it’s great to hear it here 🙂

All in all, this is a fun little novelty level which does something mildly creative with something that all “Doom” players will be familiar with. If you’re an experienced player, then it’s a fun way to spend a few minutes. And, if you’re new to the game, then it’s probably a rather enjoyable (but winnable) challenge too.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get at least three and a half.

Partial Review: “Quantum Strike (V2)” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ ZDoom etc..)

Well, although I’m playing a game called “Under A Killing Moon” (Edit: Unfortunately, I probably won’t review it) at the time of writing, I thought that I should try to make sure that there is at least one “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD review posted here this month.

So, I thought that I’d take a quick look at a WAD called “Quantum Strike (V2)“. However, at the time of writing, I’m about halfway through level three (of four). So, this article will be more than just a first impressions article, but less than a full review.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port (version 2.7.9999.0) whilst playing this WAD. However, according to the text file that accompanies the WAD, it will also run with more modern versions of several other source ports such as GZDoom, Zandronum, PR/GLBoom+ and QZDoom.

So, let’s take a look at “Quantum Strike (V.2):

“Quantum Strike (V2)” is a four-level “slaughtermap” WAD that includes new textures, music, fully implemented difficulty settings (I used “Hurt Me Plenty”) and a new monster.

If you’ve never heard of “slaughtermap” levels before, they are challenging levels (like “XXXI Cybersky“, “VeryHard“, “Stardate 20X6” etc..) that contain a linear series of arena-like segments which are filled with more monsters than you can actually fight.

This shifts the emphasis of the gameplay towards survival, fast-paced puzzle solving, dogged determination, knowing when to fight (or when not to) and knowing how to use the “rules” of “Doom II” to your advantage. Personally, I really like this style of level, but it is something of an acquired taste.

Seriously, when it is done well – like in this part of level two- these types of level can be brilliant 🙂

However, whilst this WAD certainly contains some good slaughtermap segments, it isn’t a perfect example of something in this genre. The main problem is that many of the monster-filled areas can feel a little bit too claustrophobic. One of the most important parts of any “slaughtermap” is that the player has enough room to run, dodge and take cover. This can make the difference between a fun level and a frustrating one.

This is especially the case with the early parts of the first level, which mostly take place within narrow corridors where there’s very little room for dodging and relatively little ammo, health, weaponry or cover on offer. At it’s best, this makes the level suspenseful. But it can also make the difficulty feel somewhat cheap, especially when the level occasionally leaves you sandwiched between two groups of monsters within a relatively narrow corridor.

The most jarring example of cheap difficulty in the first level is when the WAD’s new monster, the Afrit, is introduced during a corridor segment. This is a flying baron-type monster who has a powerful attack that spews lots of mancubus/revenant projectiles across a wide area. Although it’s always cool to see new monsters, this is a type of monster that shouldn’t be used in areas where there’s relatively little cover or room for the player to dodge.

Pictured: Not a monster that you want to meet in a corridor!

Although the first level is a rather fun level, the claustrophobic design doesn’t do it any favours. Even the “arena” area later in the level is a medium-size room that feels slightly claustrophobic when compared to the number of monsters you have to fight. This is compounded by the fact that there’s relatively little cover in this area, which can mean that the player barely has time to think or to formulate any kind of strategy.

And, if you try to hide in one of the alcoves here, expect to get walled in by ferocious monsters very quickly!

The second level has some really good arena segments that are suitably sized for this style of gameplay. However, there’s still something of a slight emphasis on claustrophobic walkways in some parts of the level.

And I also forgot to mention that you need to move along the walkways quickly, since there’s a cyberdemon in the middle of this area.

But, although this level is probably my favourite, I couldn’t actually find a way to end it. Even after all of the monsters in the final arena had died, I still couldn’t find a way of ending the level. So, I had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat.

The final battle at the end of the level is pretty epic though (and, like another cool segment earlier in the level, there’s actually enough room too!)

The third level is much more like a classic-style “slaughtermap” level, with arena-like areas, some cool-looking design and lots of monsters.

The coolest part of level three (that I’ve seen so far) is probably this bit, where you can see the level from above.

Although I haven’t finished this level at the time of writing, it is a reasonably fun example of a slaughtermap level. However, one slight criticism I have of it is that some parts can feel a little bit claustrophobic and/or not have enough cover.

Such as this part when it starts filling up with monsters (including a three-layered wall of chaingun zombies on the other side of the room!)

This WAD also takes a very traditionalist attitude towards jumping, but the levels are designed with this limitation in mind. So, I didn’t even notice that I couldn’t jump until about half an hour after I’d started playing. However, the fact that the WAD seems to force you to play the second level (and presumably the third too) from a pistol start is slightly annoying though.

Seriously, why?!?!?

Visually speaking, this WAD has a rather cool sci-fi/horror theme to it, which is vaguely reminiscent of both the original “Quake” and some of Skillsaw’s excellent “Doom II” WADs (eg: “Ancient Aliens“, “Lunatic” etc..) whilst also being it’s own thing too. Seriously, I really love the look of this WAD 🙂

I also love how this WAD sometimes has different colour schemes for different areas.

Plus, I love the “Quake”-like textures on this inventively-designed crusher too.

Likewise, the new music here is really cool too, and it mostly consists of 1980s/90s style MIDI music which has a wonderfully retro-futuristic sound to it. This goes really well with the visual style of the WAD and really helps to add some atmosphere to the levels.

All in all, from what I’ve played, this WAD is a mixed bag. Yes, it looks (and sounds) really cool. Yes, there are some really fun moments to be found here (especially in the second level). However, the emphasis on claustrophobic settings and pistol starts really doesn’t do this WAD any favours.

If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it would get three and a half.

Mini Review: “Planisphere” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ “ZDoom”)

Well, I thought that I’d take a look at another “Doom II”/”Final Doom” WAD today (wow, three in one month!). And, after a little bit of searching, I found a WAD called “Planisphere” that looked like it could be interesting.

As usual, I used the “ZDoom” source port whilst playing this WAD – but it will work on any limit-removing source port. However, since it uses the “Wolf 3D” enemies and a “Wolf 3D” texture from “Doom II”, one part of the level possibly won’t work properly on German versions of the game and/or the “BFG Edition” version of the game.

As a general note, I’ll probably be using “ZDoom” even more often, since one of the side-effects of the hardware changes I had to make to my classic mid-2000s computer a few days before preparing this review is that it will no longer run “GZDoom”.

So, let’s take a look at “Planisphere”:

“Planisphere” is a single-level WAD from 2017 that also includes new music and a new skybox texture.

Surprisingly, the accompanying text file actually includes a backstory for the level, which revolves around a train journey gone horribly wrong (which also explains why the level begins and ends beside a train station).

Plus, this WAD does the cool thing of showing you a later part of the level near the beginning of the level.

One of the first things that I will say about this level is that it is a mixture of cool moments and frustrating moments. This level is filled with an interesting variety of cool-looking themed outdoor areas (eg: an urban area, a fantasy/horror/Aztec-style area, a sci-fi style area and a small WW2-themed area) and this kind of makes it feel a bit like a more action-packed version of “The Crystal Maze“.

There’s a dramatic post-apocalyptic city area.

And a pyramid too 🙂 A pyramid!

You can also find a ship too 🙂

In addition to visual variety, there’s also some degree of gameplay variety between these areas. The first and last areas (which overlap slightly) are fast-paced action segments. The fantasy/horror-themed area is a mixture of action and strategy, and the sci-fi themed area is eerily devoid of monsters.

The total lack of monsters actually makes this area quite creepy.

However, whilst it’s cool that “Planisphere” tries to add some variety to the gameplay, this can also make the pacing of the level somewhat uneven and inconsistent. This isn’t helped by the fact that this is one of those levels where you’re likely to get completely and utterly stuck at least once.

For example, I spent at least 20-30 minutes wandering around one area aimlessly until I eventually realised, purely by chance, that a nearby lift can actually ascend three floors rather than the two it initially seemed to be able to reach. Likewise, I almost got stuck in another area until I found a room that was “hidden in plain sight” (although, to be fair, this was a fairly clever piece of level design that relies on how a player would normally react to one type of location).

One interesting level design quirk is that there seems to be at least one totally optional area. Near the end of the level, there is a locked door that requires a yellow key. As I looked around for it, I ended up finding the end of the level instead. So, out of curiosity, I went back and took a quick look behind the door (with the “no clipping” cheat) and found a red door that contained a totally optional missile silo-style area.

Seriously, this is one of the coolest parts of the level, but it’s very easy to miss.

In terms of difficulty, this WAD is a bit of a strange one. Whilst it isn’t exactly ultra-challenging (eg: the one time you’re faced with a horde of enemies, you’re given a plasma rifle and a megasphere), the level sometimes achieves it’s difficulty in rather cheap ways.

Whether this is being very slightly stingy with the amount of ammo the player is given, or placing enemies on ledges in some puzzle-based areas etc… the moderate difficulty can sometimes feel like it has been achieved by cheap methods.

For example, unless you search thoroughly, you’re probably going to run low on ammo here.

The custom music consists of ominous MIDI music that lends the level a slightly gothic/gloomy atmosphere, whilst also being stylistically in keeping with the traditional “Doom” games too.

All in all, this WAD is something of a mixed bag. Although this WAD contains some cool-looking areas (mostly just using the standard textures too), a four-area structure and some reasonably fun moments, the pacing of the level is somewhat uneven, the amount of ammo on offer is a little bit low at times and expect to get stuck at least once or twice.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get three.