Monday, December 6, 2021

Blind Alley B., "Octagon of Fear" (BNDALYB.WAD)

BLIND ALLEY B.
OCTAGON OF FEAR
by Gene Bird


Gene Bird had been a Doom hobbyist for some time before releasing the pieces of his Blind Alley series. It was basically a rainy-day megaWAD, developed since 1997, that he started polishing to publish in 2002. Eight of the fifteen maps made their way into Community Chest and CCHEST2, back when the folks involved were more enamored of the idea of pooling their levels together to make a megaWAD. (As opposed to, say, the level of quality control imposed on - most recently - CCHEST4.) It's sad to think that Bird is unfavorably remembered as a provider of filler levels, though I suppose that it's better than his peer and correspondent Kevin Reay's divisive legacy. Almost every entry in the Blind Alley series has an alpha-numeric designator and Octagon of Fear is "B". This references its slot in the to-be-finished megaWAD's running order, in this case MAP11. As it is presented here, however, it is a MAP01 replacement for Doom II, released in March of 2003.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Rise of the Wool Ball (ROTWB.WAD)


It took awhile to get there but the modding capabilities of (G)ZDoom have led to a growing number of people making new games based on Doom's framework. Some of these are commercial prospects, the fact of which is great, but others like MSPaintR0cks's Wool Ball series continue the grand tradition of TCs (Total Conversions) in offering novel AND free experiences. Shadow of the Wool Ball, released in 2016, was a snazzy Wolfenstein 3D clone with some interesting environmental hazards. When I wrote my review I was positively anticipating a future iteration that ditched the Wolf3D flat plane of action for something with more vertical depth. Lo and behold, 2017 brought - among other great mods - Rise of the Wool Ball. Prepare to shoot, kick, and now BOUNCE your way through another 18 maps of catastrophic carnage.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Europa 3: The Dark Side of Vrack (EAEURO03.WAD)

EUROPA 3
THE DARK SIDE OF VRACK
by Erik Alm


Now here's an interesting piece of Doom history. This is an Erik Alm take on the Vrack series, as evidenced by the subtitle. If you're unfamiliar with Vrack - Fredrik Johansson's main claim to fame as an author - then the levels established a sort of orbital platform space station theme seen more recently in the Japanese Community Project. Europa 3 is also the third and final entry in Alm's EAEURO run, which began in 2001 and ends here in early 2002. As with the others, The Dark Side of Vrack is a MAP01 replacement for Doom II that is meant for play in a Boom-compatible port. Unlike Europa 2, it doesn't require the use of an independent texture pack.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Anomaly: Part II (ANOMALY2.WAD)

THE ANOMALY
PART II
by Varun Abhirama Krishna


Varun is Karthik Abhiram Krishna's younger brother by about five years. The two made their /idgames debuts at around the same time in 2001, KAK with Ick (closely followed by Chaos Punch) and VAK with The Anomaly: Part II. They would eventually go on to tag-team a PWAD - 2004's Reanimated - but that is a story for another day. There's no way to infer exactly why but it's clear when comparing the two side-by-side that Varun was a more natural level designer than his older brother. I wager that you'll come to the same conclusion, whether or not Karthik's relative naivete is more interesting as an outsider perspective. ANOMALY2 is an E4M6 replacement for the Ultimate Doom and should play back in any source port.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Toilet Break (TOLBREAK.WAD)

TOILET BREAK
by "Memfis"


2013-2014 was Memfis's most productive period as an author, at least in terms of the sheer number of releases. The true depth and breadth is obscured by how he held most of his available works off the archives until mid-2014, but both years feature something like twice the number of publications seen from 2011-2012. Toilet Break was made available on the Doomworld forums in May of 2013 and is a MAP01 replacement for Boom-compatible ports. It isn't always obvious to me whether his levels are actually -complevel 9 or just limit-removing and tested in PrBoom+ but there are a few clear instances of transparency to be seen.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

lilith (lilith.pk3)



In 2019 I wrote a review for Mark Klem's CRINGE! episode. I namedropped lilith while talking about stuff like glitches and Metroid's bug-derived "hidden worlds". I had not seen much of this 2017 episode outside of screenshots and maybe a video or .GIF that I only half-remember. I knew that it was going to be weird and visually noisy. It would not be wrong, however, to say that I had very little idea of what lilith actually feels like to play. I believe that all PWADs are made to be experienced but there is an inescapable essence to this 2017 Cacoward winner that cannot be communicated over a consumable gif or pithy video. I would even go so far as to say that you should play it with as little foreknowledge as possible.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Evil's Playground (Diabolique part two) (EVPL.WAD)


Time for another curveball in Pablo Dictter's portfolio. This publication primarily exists for Evil's Playground, released - I believe - in 2001. The subtitle is Diabolique part two, a reference to a previously-created level called - you guessed it - Diabolique. I'm not sure when the latter was created but it was included in the release of EVPL as something of a bonus, isn't available otherwise, and both were purportedly part of the Diabolique project. Pablo had his hand in like three or four different Doom avenues alongside his River of Fire series, Good V/S Evil (where An Infernal Place came from), and a couple of others that released later. Even if he was compelled to carve up The Gates as a failure. This dead-end PWAD couplet replaces E3M1 and E3M2 of the original Doom.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Blind Alley S., "Spirit World - Headquarters" (BNDALYS.WAD)

BLIND ALLEY S.
SPIRIT WORLD - HEADQUARTERS
by Gene Bird


Spirit World - Headquarters marks a bit of a turning point in Bird's published level design. I would characterize all of Gene's maps released thus far as stringy and linear with occasional hubs and spokes. BLNDALYS is not overwhelmingly different in its execution but there is one big change in how he executes this trope, somewhat heralded by his previous release, Monster Mansion. The "S" designator denotes the level's position in the overall running of what could have been a late-occupying episode for Doom II. BNDALYR would have been MAP27 and this would have been MAP28. Things change, though, as the letter "Y" was ascribed to MAP15. Spirit World - HQ is a MAP01 replacement for Doom II and was released in early 2003.