Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Catwalk (CATWALK.WAD)

by Christen David Klie

Christen David Klie submitted twelve maps to be used in id's Master Levels for Doom II project. Six of these were accepted; the other six were released by Klie to Compuserve (and then later to the idgames archives). The Catwalk is one of the maps exclusive to the released product. It has no included story, but Klie never had any pretense of forming a barebones narrative beyond what's presented in the work. It's a small techbase-style level featuring a fairly symmetric layout, but it's a bit more nuanced than simple mirror images. The key feature of the map is, as the title implies, the eponymous catwalk, which spans a massive pit that dominates the center of the level.

There's one big misgiving right off the bat. Your access to the west and east wings are hindered by a series of floor lifts with a mind of their own. They don't really add to the gameplay and while they're cute, they kill the pacing. Otherwise, the difficulty of the level is quite sedate, provided you visit the western wing first. You won't make it very far, but the goodies you pick up will prove invaluable, as the eastern side has little ammo of its own to speak of. The level is otherwise populated with a considerable ratio of toughs, including several pain elementals and baron ilk.

Klie flexes his puzzle-creation skills with the first eastern room, a simple switch puzzle piggybacked with a tricky navigable route. The yellow key is a bit annoying, as you have to jump off its level to access the switch that grants access to it, and then loop back again. The red key is a bit trickier to get and requires clearing the western wing and then backtracking once you've lowered it. Don't cross the catwalk until you have it in your hand, or you'll have to devise some uncouth means to return to the other side.

The end of the level has two peculiar secrets that I can only assume are meant for deathmatches. They're clever mazes with windows to snipe from and powerups to hunt for. There are some monsters in the eastern maze, but they feel more like an afterthought. All in all, it’s just a neat level with a few sour moments that don't really take away from the rest of the experience. If only the rest of The Lost Episodes had been this interesting...


This post is part of a series on
id's Master Levels for Doom II



  1. Was this Chris Klie as well? Fancy that. He seems to have created some of the maps I remember the most. They all seemed to have some annoying gimmick, which in this case is the rising/lowering floors that do add atmospheric value, with the constant whirring sound, and the music is absolutely terrifying. yeah, I'm talking about the PSX version again... sorry! The good use of coloured lighting in this map enhances the feel of the catwalk room considerably, and the abandoned secret area has indeed been a mystery for years. Why put all that free stuff in a pair of creepy, expansive, secret areas, right by the exit? The acid room was also used again in Subterra.

    The PSX port didn't come with a list of who designed what level, I think we all assumed John Romero did all the maps, we certainly didn't know that Final Doom/The Master Levels (which are the same thing to any PSXer) were simply a bunch of maps created by the Doom Community. It wasn't until the early 2000s that I even knew there was a Doom Community. (I've been bugging them about PSX Doom ever since.)

    Chris Klie created one of the hands-down best Final Doom maps here. Even if they hadn't paired it with one of Hodges' most fearsome tracks, the memory of playing it literally haunts me. Hopefully it always will.

    1. Catwalk is another great case of Klie cramming as much level as he could into the tiny space he imposed on his relatively crippled PC. It's pretty action-packed.

  2. See, that there is probably what I like about the PSX version. It was much more limited in some respects, so the maps were in some cases stripped down, or dropped altogether. That left PSX players with a somewhat streamlined experience.

    The best way I can describe it is this: an average American TV show such as Supernatural runs for something like 24 episodes. Season 9 sees Dean leaning towards the dark side, but it's happening slowly, with plenty of (admittedly excellent) filler episodes to draw it out. "Our relationship as brothers is destroyed, Heaven's closed, God is missing, the angels are basically all evil bastards after our heads, so let's go and investigate a murder witnessed by a dog."

    A British show, such as Atlantis, has a much lower budget, yet Atlantis also has its hero Jason leaning towards the dark side. Because there are only 13 episodes (which is twice the norm for a British series), Atlantis has to tell its story in a far more focused manner, which increases the punch of each episode. Every one is packed with relevant details, and I don't recall any "filler" episodes at all in Atlantis Season 2.

    Hopefully this rant makes some kind of sense. Less can be more in terms of greater impact, greater focus, better memorability (is that a word?), and less usually leaves you wanting more.

    - Major Rawne

    1. certainly, there is a market for Doom maps that err on the side of brevity, as evinced through the endurance of Demonfear and the perennial popularity of Scythe and its derivatives