Today’s Art (22nd March 2020)

Well, today’s digitally-edited painting is a slightly random winter-themed one that was inspired by a daydream I had.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

“And A Dream Of Winter” By C. A. Brown

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.

Partial Review: “Whitemare” (WAD For “Doom II”/ “Final Doom”/ GZDoom)

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.

Yay! Cold weather 🙂

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.

Seriously, there’s a lot of variety in the level design etc..

There’s also a small “Blood“-style hedge maze too 🙂

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.

Like this annoying area! It contains both a mild example of first-person platforming and one of the more annoying puzzles…

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…).

Seriously, I’d be freaked out if lots of monsters DIDN’T appear here…

This segment set in a ruined castle is pretty awesome too 🙂

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.

Still, given the cramped nature of many of these segments, the chainsaw is actually useful for once!

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).

Yes, it seems like this is too awesome for my computer!

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.

Yay! I want one!

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.

Ok, this is the first level. But, still, it’s way too easy to dodge these 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.

Yes, the in-game map is very useful here!

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.

Hmmm… It turns out that the solution to this puzzle is “IDCLEV15”.

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.

Yay! It reminds me of the old “Apogee” logo 🙂

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.

Today’s Art (3rd August 2014)

Wow! I’m really proud of this painting 🙂 Especially since it was a fairly spontaneous picture which just kind of emerged when I was feeling uninspired and had just started sketching randomly.

And, yes, it’s inspired by the fact that summer is my least favourite season of the year and that, in an ideal world, there would be a second winter at this time of year.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Dream Of A Second Winter" By C. A. Brown

“Dream Of A Second Winter” By C. A. Brown