Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Planisphere 2 (PLANISF2.WAD)

by "Perro Seco"

Perro Seco released the first Planisphere in 2011. He published the sequel, Planisphere 2, more than a year later. Like the original, PLANISF2 is a single city level for Doom II, occupying the MAP01 slot. Unlike its progenitor, however, Planisphere 2 is big. That's because it's a scale model of New York City. Yeah, that's right. The whole city. Well, actually, you start in New Jersey and fight your way through Manhattan, gracing Brooklyn and Queens with your presence, eventually ending up in Rikers Island. The point is, the map is so huge it's prone to causing errors in the engines it plays in, but more on that later.

The plot is in Spanish; it's tricky to parse, but it basically involves a recently escaped mad doctor (and his assistant) pulling demons from Hell and unleashing them on New York so that they can pick up the millions of dead bodies for some kind of hare-brained experiment. You play another one of the escaped asylum patients, "Jumbo", who has a natural instinct about this sort of thing, apparently. Most of the population is hiding in doors, but they handed guns to everyone, and it's time for you to show those demons who's boss and become the hero New York needs, if not the one it wants.

So. Planisphere 2 isn't unplayable, excepting the fact that it doesn't have any map nodes built for it (which explains why the file size is so small). It will run out of the box in Zdoom-family ports (which build nodes on the fly), but other engines require some setup. You're bound to run into issues when facing the majority of New York. I had some framerate slowdowns but never to the point where I couldn't kill what was shooting at me. Other issues are related to the enormous size of both the level and the sectors out of which it's built. If you play it out of the box in say GZDoom (ZDoom ran too slow for me) the real issue isn't framerate drops – it's scenarios where hitscan attacks appear to hit invisible barriers or fail to connect completely. It's mainly a problem when you bump up against commandos. Once you get a projectile weapon the bug is more of a blessing than anything (to put a very positive spin on things).

All that aside, when you get down to the nitty gritty, Planisphere 2 is just one great big outdoor fight. Virtually all monster combat in the level is incidental as only a small percentage of the buildings have indoor areas. You can approach things from any angle once you get moving and clear the streets of New York at your own pace. The biggest threat isn't getting overwhelmed by monsters, as even at 600 they're too spread out to be dangerous. It's eating enemy projectiles that came from far away, maybe an arachnotron from way down the street or revenant rockets from across the river. The omnipresent threat comes from a tower staffed by Cyberdemons that constantly shells you and which you won't be able to deal with until it comes time to start up the ending sequence.

It's outside and it's incredibly non-linear with a few caveats. Planisphere 2 is divided into three main areas; Jersey to the west, Manhattan in the middle, and Long Island to the east. Each section of the level has a key that you have to find in order to lower the barriers blocking access to the next section. Things kind of peter out once you get the yellow key, as if you're like me, you'll have cleared virtually all the monsters in the districts, which will make the trek back to the Cyberdemons boring as Hell. You go back there because there's a switch in the yellow door area that lowers the tower they've been sitting on, which also has a teleporter that leads you on a rooftop jaunt back through the city.

Eventually you end up in Rikers Island, probably the most interesting part of the level as far as mechanics go. It's tricky to escape with a timed puzzle required to get out of the cell block area. After that it's the ultimate walk of shame as Perro teleports you back to the west district, forcing you to run all the way back to the yellow key door to the east in order to get to the exit switch. With the exception of your stint in prison, the ending sequence is by far the weakest aspect of the level, provided you aren't easily bored combing New York for demons.

I think Planisphere 2 succeeds as a tech demo, if nothing else. The map is enormous and lots of love and care has been put in to recreating the railways, wharves and parks that make up the cityscape. Up close, of course, it's not that hot, and the open environment has combat taking a backseat to exploration, which isn't so fun when most of the spectacle falls apart in close quarters. You can wring even more fun trying to hunt down the sixteen secret needles in the haystack, a lot of which will involve rooftop platforming. In the end, PLANISF2's nice to look at, but anyone who dislikes city maps or directionless adventures should give this a pass.


This post is part of a series on
Doomworld's 2012 Cacowards

The Top TenBest MultiplayerRunners Up
Doom the Way id DidWhoDunIt?Beyond Reality
Strife: Absolute OrderBest Gameplay ModMasters of Chaos
PutrefierRussian OverkillFrozen Time
5till L1 ComplexMordeth AwardPlanisphere 2
Community Chest 4Community Chest 4Coffee Break Ep. 1
The EyeCall of Dooty II
Combat Shock 2Mapper of the Year
Winter's FuryKhorus
Base Ganymede: Complete


  1. Sorry if I sound a bit corrective but this was a runner up wad in the 2012 Cacos so its title should be highlighted in grey.

    Also you've reviewed every top 10 Caco and every runner up from 2012 except 'Combat Shock 2', so maybe it would be appropriate to put up a 2012 selections menu on all the awarded wads similar to what you've done for 2011 and several of the 'early years' of the 90s?

  2. Sadly this doesn't seem to work well with Brutal DOOM because while the enemies retain their BD behaviors and speed, the WAD replaces your weapons with the original weapons. So you can't use any of the BD weapons. That sucks.