Before I begin, I should probably point out that I’ve only played about four -fifths of this WAD (for reasons I’ll explain later). So, whilst this is more than just a “first impressions” article, it isn’t quite a full review either.
Anyway, a few days before I wrote this article, I was determined that there would be more than one “Doom II” WAD review posted here this month. Since I was in the mood for something wintery, I decided to search online for Christmas-themed WADs. But, after a while, I ended up discovering an interesting winter-themed WAD called “Whitemare” instead.
Unusually, I ended up using a slightly older version of the “GZDoom” source port (rather than “ZDoom”) whilst playing this WAD, mostly because GZDoom was one of the recommended source ports in the text file that accompanies the WAD.
So, let’s take a look at “Whitemare”:
“Whitemare” is a 19-level WAD from 2011 which contains new textures, new music and (according to the readme) a new sound effect too. As you may have guessed from the name, this WAD mostly contains icy, snow-covered levels of various types.
One of the first things that I will say about this WAD is that it is one of those WADs that is fairly enjoyable overall but which, when actually playing it, can vary between brilliantly fun and incredibly frustrating. In other words, this WAD is something of a mixed bag.
This variety is both one of the WADs greatest strengths and one of the WADs greatest weaknesses.
On the plus side, the variety between location types (eg: vast open areas, claustrophobic tunnels, sci-themed areas, gothic areas long levels, shorter levels etc..) helps to keep things fresh and interesting. Likewise, the variety in gameplay styles (eg: everything from frenetic “slaughtermap”-style arena battles to slow-paced puzzle solving) also helps to keep this WAD interestingly unpredictable.
However, this also means that some elements of the WAD are better than others. Basically, the good parts of this WAD feel especially good because they are contrasted with annoying, frustrating and/or dull stuff.
The combat design in this WAD is a brilliant example of this. This WAD not only contains some brilliantly epic set pieces which include everything from thrillingly dramatic large-scale outdoor battles to claustrophobic cyberdemon encounters, but it also contains some enjoyable “classic-style” challenging combat segments featuring reasonable quantities of low-mid level monsters.
The highlights include things like an area where you lay siege to a ruined castle, a rather fast-paced combat encounter on a large boat, a frenetic scene set in an ice-pit, and an epic scene where you discover a Christmas tree that is surrounded by lots of weapons and health items (needless to say, there’s a reason why all that stuff is there…).
However, one annoying theme (especially in the earlier levels) is setting combat encounters within dark, claustrophobic tunnels. Although this adds some suspense to the gameplay, it can get annoying after a while. Not only that, the use of spectres in these segments is especially annoying. Likewise, this WAD sometimes tends to be slightly generous in it’s use of chaingun zombies too.
Plus, as awesome as some of the game’s large-scale battles are – if you’re using an older computer – then they can sometimes cause issues.
Basically, I stopped playing during an early part of level sixteen – and almost stopped playing during a later part of level fifteen- because the game crashed whenever I tried to save, presumably due to the number of monsters or something like that (or possibly the ridiculous number of save files I have in GZDoom).
In terms of the level design, it’s fairly good. All of the levels are the kind of complex, non-linear levels that you would expect to find in “Doom II”. They also occasionally include some rather cool things like a destructible wall, a pyramid of glowing skulls, a level where you “chase” a key etc.. too.
However, some areas can sometimes be a little bit too large – whilst this can sometimes make the levels feel epic and dramatic, it can also occasionally make them seem a little bit “empty”, even when there are lots of monsters.
This WAD takes a rather traditionalist attitude towards the subject of jumping, with the ability to jump being disabled by default. However, the WAD is designed with this limitation in mind – so, the lack of jumping rarely feels like a problem. Still, there are some non-jumping platforming segments – which can be a little bit annoying.
One unusual thing about this WAD is that it includes puzzles. Most of the time, these are reasonably fun.
Some good examples include a large outdoor area where you have to find lots of hidden switches, a part where you have to find two keys in a giant tree-filled area and a rather inventive maze-based pressure pad puzzle that requires you to use the in-game map. Likewise, the very beginning of level sixteen contains a rather clever puzzle that is fiendishly evil but won’t take you that long to solve.
However, one annoying puzzle -involving 16 switches- near the end of level fourteen was so confusing and frustrating that I eventually had to resort to using the “level skip” cheat! Plus, there’s an annoying area in level twelve where I ended up completely and utterly stuck for at least half an hour until I eventually worked out the “obvious in retrospect” solution to it.
The new textures on offer in this WAD are pretty cool and, although they mostly consist of various snow/ice textures, there’s also a really cool sci-fi style skybox that appears occasionally too.
In terms of the new music, it’s also a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst it includes cool stuff like an epic heavy metal-style MIDI and a surprisingly dramatic version of a classical Christmas tune (either “The Nutcracker” or “The Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy”), some of the in-game music is either a bit too understated, random or generic.
All in all, what I’ve played of this WAD has been somewhat varied. Yes, it is a good WAD overall. But, although there are some amazingly epic moments, some wonderfully wintery locations, some really solid levels, some dramatic music and some enjoyable puzzles – there are also some dull, annoying and/or frustrating moments. Plus, if you’re playing this on an older computer, you may possibly have some problems in later levels.
If I had to give what I’ve played a rating out of five, it might just about get a four.