Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wonderland (WL_1_0.ZIP)

Paul Stasiuk, aka "fiend-o-hell", is usually one of the first Doomers to comment on WADs uploaded to the archives. Here, he's supplied one of his own, a minisode for Doom II to be played on limit-removing ports entitled Wonderland. For your own sake, I suggest you use a more performance oriented port like PrBoom+ or at the very least, Eternity. I noticed some slowdowns playing MAP05 in ZDoom and MAP06 is virtually impossible due to a vast sea of torches that fill most of the area, slowing performance to a crawl. As to the story, well, you're a space marine stuck in a nightmare from which you must escape. To do so, you'll have to battle through an infernal wonderland of abstract locales.

Wonderland doesn't have too many themes to it. The opening vine-covered ruins constitutes the biggest break with the rest of the series, which is mostly Hellish walkways floating in nothingness, if not simply underground. The other big exception is MAP04, which while in an underground cavern, feels like a more concrete map with its few techbase trappings. Actually having walls everywhere helps on that front. Both MAP01 and MAP04 are also the two maps most different from the rest in terms of gameplay. The others are largely cinematic, linear affairs, with one clear path from entrance to exit. Well, there are some delineations within the maps themselves, but there isn't a whole lot of exploring.

MAP01 is quite rude, with instant death traps and Cyberdemons hiding behind (obviously) false walls. It's a strange dichotomy, because you have to explore to find the secrets, but if you take the wrong dark tunnel, whoops! You're dead. It's kind of annoying, but the map goes by so fast that it's hard to be angry with it. MAP04 is very adventuresome, requiring you to crawl all over this vast underground cavern, finding four semi-hidden generator switches to blow out so that the red key grab is not so perilous. Ignoring the sporadic teleport ambushes and pain elemental fixtures that continuously trickle lost souls into the playing area, it's pretty fun nosing around.

I like the strange visuals Stasiuk's created. The phantasmal trail of MAP02 is quite a treat while the vast yet isolated battlements of MAP05 look astounding amidst the Hellish isles that dot the empty spaces. I'm not exactly thrilled with the tracts of torches found in MAP06, but Stasiuk uses them consistently, and the rest of the level is gorgeous, especially the infernal ziggurat located at the end. The lighting, when it's there, looks nice, and he makes a lot of use of contrast between pitch black areas and bright light, reminding me of Paul Schmitz's Welcome to Hell.

Wonderland is an interesting, unique play, provided you manage to get past the potentially unsavory experience of the first level (which is no less unique). It nails the abstract Hell feeling and its cinematic pace gives you plenty of action to digest regardless of the amount of freedom you actually have. You're always free to die, of course. It's definitely not classic Doom II action, often approaching something else entirely, which is very cool (even if it takes me awhile to settle into the proper groove for it). If you want something different, give Wonderland a try.

by Paul "fiend-o-hell" Stasiuk

The intro to Wonderland is an unforgiving crossroads laden with boobytraps, most of which will slay you dead. You won't know about many of them until they've already taken their toll, so knuckle under and prepare to save. The first big trap carpet bombs the north and south hallways, but there are also several dark tunnels that end in your demise, among other things. There isn't a lot of combat except for the big teleport wave, where the majority of the enemies spawn in. You're low on ammo, but there's a ton of health laying around, so it's not too terribly awful. The big bit that will no doubt confuse people – the blue key has the words "RUN RUN RUN" emblazoned near it. That's not advice – that's a mandate.

A wonderfully bizarre map that takes place on a path of fire rimmed by phantasms in a pitch black void. The trail is laden with all kinds of pickups as well as monsters, so take your time (but not too much) while you fight your way to the spiral staircase. When you get to the lower level, you'll reach the most difficult encounter. A ton of monsters will pour onto a platform at the end of a walkway. I think it's feasible to punch through them and access the teleporter (the heart on a pedestal) and if you don't think you can handle the Cyberdemon that comes at the end, it's likely a wise decision. The final segment is a teleporter maze, kind of, but since all the platforms you warp to are at different heights and locations, there really isn't a ton of pressure for you to sort out the proper route. Very cool level.

Very simple scenario, here. You start at the south end of a series of honeycombed walkways, lined with goodies. Each time you hit a certain threshold, a row of beasties pops up to challenge your ability to maneuver on the catwalks, with the waves getting progressively more difficult, capped off with a Cyberdemon guarding the exit door. Patience and dexterity are a must (and getting the Cyb to infight with one of the barons so you can blast him from behind with the BFG doesn't hurt either). The finale has some frustrating design, where a simple bit of hesitation will reward you with doors closing before you, never to open again. Nice first half, though.

Something of a puzzle map in a rocky, rugged cavern. Your goal is to grab the red key found on the central dais and make it to the red key door. All the while you're beset upon by creatures of the deep – monsters teleporting in as you explore, not to mention the numerous pockets of obscured pain elementals that release lost souls into the playing area. It's certainly possible to just grab the red key and run for it, but Stasiuk gave you an out – the four tech cores can be exposed and attacked. I'm not entirely sure what each one does but the more you deactivate, the better your chances of making it out of the stygian abyss alive. At three switches I still had to dodge two Cyberdemon guardians and a swarm of cacodemons, so use your own judgment.

Well, it looks just like the end of MAP04, but when you turn around and go back through the red key door (no key required) you're treated to a gorgeous, enormous vista of an infernal intersection where three fortified walkways meet and several islands with imps and revenants stand off in the distance. It's a really cool map, but don't be fooled by the monster count – most of the enemies are imps slaughtered wholesale on the north and east bridges. The brave and the bold will secure some great weaponry to slay evil, especially useful in the exit room, which has a very dangerous ambush lying in wait. A very cool level.

It's another strange void map where you follow the trail of orange, like MAP02. While you navigate the sea of torches, prepare for a few rude surprises. The switch guarded by hitscanners is a bitch and a half to take down unless you back off and shoot a few rockets and the imp walkway with the arachnotron turrets is quite bothersome. The main problem, though, comes when you reach the final red rock ziggurat at the end. Both dropoffs into the lake of blood will be flush with already-awake demons, imps and hell knights that are nearly impossible to get past. On the rare chance that you do, be prepared to take down three Cyberdemons (two of which usually splatter you when trying to make some headway) before the pyramid climb, which isn't that bad, all things considered. Nice visuals, but trying to get into the final area is too damn frustrating.



  1. I remember playing the first couple of levels of this a while back when I was first getting into Doom WADs, after watching Ella Guro's hilarious Bioshock Infinite "let's play." Very cool, abstract looks, but way more difficult than I was prepared for at the time. Might have to give it another go now that I have a few more WADs under my belt.

    Do you know of any WADs with a similar visual style but more, let's say conventional gameplay? If not I might have to make one, when I'm eventually done with my Quake mapping project. :P

    1. i assume you're talking about stuff like battling in the infinite void a la MAP02 and the hellish void of MAP05 and MAP06? if i get some spare spare (spare squared) time i'll troll my archives and see what I can recommend.

    2. Yes! That would be lovely. Take your time; in the meanwhile, inspired by your Mapper of the Year write-up, I'm gonna be playing through the Clan [B0S] WADs and then tackle Lainos's catalog. I played through about half of A.L.T. last year after reading Ella Guro's review and loved it, dunno why I put it down. Anyway, I'm almost done with Sacrament....