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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.