Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Mayhem Mansion (MAYHEMM.WAD)
Mayhem Mansion, released in 2013, is the latest outpouring of madness from Doomworld Forum superstar Jack101. It's heavily inspired by a bizarre FPS released in 1999, titled Exploding Lips. Jack takes things in a bit of a different direction, ditching the -unusual- intro of the original, which has you crawl upward through some concrete tunnels, only to arise from the earth and climb out of a coffin. Instead, he's focused on the aspects that endeared the game to him. Like, well, having explosives spit at you by giant, disembodied lips. The real question is, are you ready for Mayhem Mansion?
So, the first thing you ought to know is that Jack has hidden several of the default ZDoom option menus. This may not matter to some players, but I had to rig up a shortcut in order to do my standard -nomonsters screenshots, which was different. The big thing that tripped me up was my Doom (strict) settings were still in place when I started, which meant that some of the ceiling decorations were blocking me, and I couldn't change them back in the current game. There are also several difficulty settings, two of which are hidden. Only masochists should play on Hard and above, judging by the thing placement I saw early on and the changes present in the MAPINFO lump. But, hey, if you really love Mayhem Mansion enough to play it again, you might as well switch it up.
Exploding Lips has its own dream-logic, which Jack tries to emulate at points. The audience cheers whenever you grab puzzle collectibles, and you collect everything from chess pieces to letters of the Greek alphabet to various diamonds and lamps. I'm not sure if it's possible to emulate weirder behavior, like getting messages from using / shooting walls, which the designer of Exploding Lips used to dispatch all sorts of wonderful information. Doors are almost always opening, usually because you grabbed something. Sometimes it's because you used it instead. And, maybe, the way to get through some weird floating portal in the foyer is to give a cat a present so it'll raise up a ledge so that you can jump through the hoop.
Mayhem Mansion has monsters. There are weird crawly things that bite at you, television screens that shoot static, desk lamps that shoot eyeballs, the aforementioned lips, powdered toast men, angry books, wizards, Billycopters, vampire bats, floating eyeballs, trolls, anvil bats, and cacodemon lips that also spit explosives. Each monster has a weakness, whose ammo they drop. Protip: your knife isn't a weakness. The musket does most of your legwork starting out because ammo is so plentiful, and the crossbow is nice for trolls and sniping. Really, though, once you can start casting spells, you'll wonder why you would want to use the other two. Magic travels through enemies and do tons of damage, and most of the enemies you fight will be dropping either coins or magic ammo anyway, sometimes both.
Oh, yeah, you get coins. Coins can be used to buy health, armor, ammo, and usable items, like a golden toilet that sprays enemies with a yellow fluid. There's also a landmine you can place, but I didn't bother with usable items since ammo seemed to yield more bang for my buck and once you get magic it's all over for them, anyway. The shops are spread out everywhere so you're never too far from a health bump, which you might need early on. Once you start blowing up lips en masse though, you'll be pretty safe. Armor behaves similarly to Doom, but comes in 20 and 50 point increments which stack up to 200. It's handy to have but you'll be rolling in it at the end.
Mayhem Mansion kind of captures the weirdness of its inspiration. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded the grim opening, but Jack wants to thrust you straight into the action, it seems. It also loses a bit from not being able to shoot at walls and things for random messages, but I don't know how you could even approximate that in ZDoom. Really, to me this total conversion feels like a takeoff of Ken's Laybrinth or some weird ass 90s adventure game, which it kind of is, barring the FPS trappings. You explore the mansion, solve puzzles by grabbing objects and taking them to other places, and open up different sections. I will say that one section actually felt spooky, when the lights went out and you're treated to spectral televisions and skullcrabs.
As far as the realities of gameplay, MAYHEMM isn't very nuanced, so it's good that it's only one, huge map. Jack injects enough switch-ups to keep you interested until the manic finale. If he can find some more gimmicks to work into the thing, I can honestly say that I'd be interested in strolling through more Mayhem Mansions. It's more "janky early 90s adventure game" than "weirdo 90s FPS" but I had a good time with it, and if this description at all appeals to you, go ahead and give it a shot. You could do a lot worse, certainly. Note that there is an early, scrapped version of the map hidden in the PWAD, but it's definitely an abandoned work-in-progress and not something that is actually completable