Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coffee Break Episode 1 (CAFEBRK1.WAD)

Matt Tropiano has been making Doom levels since 1998 and as late as 2012 he decided to grace us with a megaWAD in progress which he'd called quits on, subtitled Episode 1 so that he could pick it up again if he got up the gumption. Coffee Break's first episode consists of eleven Doom II levels, to be played in Boom / MBF compatible ports. It's got some extra care when played in ZDoom-derived stuff but nothing important, just ending the game at MAP11 to cap things off. There's no real story, just intermission texts that hint at the usual demon-blasting goodness.

Coffee Break is about short, blasty levels, much in line with the brevity suggested by its title. With one major exception the maps are all short and compact, fielding less than two hundred monsters, though when you encounter them they're quite dense. Tropiano excels at making the most of the layouts he's created, sending players back with newly revealed enemies to fight past, and ensuring that you are threatened from more than one source so that you learn to keep your eyes peeled whenever you step in to a new room. Boom effects rarely intrude upon the level's gameplay, the main exception being some scrolling floors used for some conveyors at the very opening of "Toxic" (MAP04).

Unless you're allergic to ambush-oriented gameplay, you should grab yourself a cup of CAFEBRK1 and enjoy. It's no slow-roast - Tropiano has packed his own bold flavor into a potent potable of Doom. I hope he finds the time and inclination to serve up a second episode as I'll be standing in line to get my fill. Drink up!

by Matt Tropiano

A nice little techbase level with a short jaunt outside and a lot of hitscanners for maximum bullet dodging. It feels like every area has enemies staged in multiple corners so that if you walk in guns blazing you're bound to get a cap in your ass. I really like the architecture, particularly the first big indoor room with that crazy light fixture. Neat stuff! Standout encounter, well, playing threat management is pretty fun but that "revenants on high" bit near the exit was probably my most exciting non-hitscanner moment.

Another pretty cool techbase, this one using a lot of dark metal. The architecture isn't quite as inspiring but there are some cool areas, like the outer platform with the rocket launcher and its surrounding ring, and it's got some nice connectivity with the red key shortcut back to the exit and various little actions that piece the mapset together. It's somewhat less trappy than "Storage", but the monster layouts are trickier, with more revenants and commandos to be had. Fast and fun. The red key area was my personal standout encounter.

Another small tech map with a bit of a Willits feel (doubled key doors) but the monster density is upped significantly. I'm not talking about the mancubuses; two of the key reveals are major ambushes, featuring a broad mix of enemies, the second of which is in an unusual scenario with nowhere to really run apart from keeping your head down. I like the progression of the outdoor area with the red key more as the initial crawl is flush with monsters you need to keep an eye out for (all those zombies) and has a decent surprise at the end, as already mentioned.

Something of a toxin plant, outlined mostly by those barrels on conveyor belts at the beginning and their presence in several other areas. There's also some nukage, of course. You don't have to play around in it but you'll be much better off arms-wise if you do, so go exploring! Combat is much more cramped with some tricky battle points. My favorite is that ambush past the red key door where a bunch of cacodemons comes in behind you while an arch-vile rises up out of the muck, though all the other predictable surprises were fun to horse around in. Cool stuff!

A super cool streamlined-looking level using Plutonia bricks. While the bits of the layout look pretty similar, the base's components have decidedly different feels. It's heavily populated with zombies; I'd say that they're far more threatening than the occasional revenant / hell knight you'll encounter running through the halls. Making your way through the western base is the trickiest part of the level, or at least running up that first staircase and clearing out the room. I like how heavily the level leans on ledge / staircase hopping.

A short and very brutal base map. The playing area looks gorgeous and it's filled with zombies, so dealing with the various bullets coming from multiple angles will be a bit of a challenge. The east and west stations are mirrored excepting some supplies, so they're not quite as interesting as the ambushes Tropiano leaves in the main section. The first is a pack of mixed Doom II trash - still dangerous - and the second is a Spiderdemon. Health is pretty scarce so be careful and be on the lookout for that blue armor. Love the structure surrounding the Spider.

"Dead Simple" except loaded down with hitscanners and imps to start (so many sergeants!) and some genuinely hairy moments with the second wave of monsters, the arachnotrons. Making a safe area for you to hang out in is paramount with all the spiders crawling around. You can take your time with the fatsos, at least. Short and sweet.

A cool Hellish manor that is primarily decorated with bookcases. There's lots of neat stuff to see like the pillars in the opening / closing sections - looking like some kind of megaliths - but the real hook is the way Tropiano funnels you through the key area time and time again in a kind of braid, using new monster reveals to stymie you on your way to the next key in the link along with one-way jumps to lock you in to your routes. There's a lot of great small-arms action but the standout fights are the library ambush with the arch-vile (unexpected!) and the big brawl at the finale.

Some more Plutonic ruins with gorgeous architecture. Some neat curved staircases and a canal that runs all along the northeastern side. It's the focus of the finale as you have to fight your way up it to reach the exit. The opening shootout is pretty hectic, with tons of bullets whizzing by as you try to grab your shotgun and deal with the dangers in the wings. I love how Tropiano reuses space as he runs you through the various rooms of "Channel", making sure that there's never a dull moment.

Another beige brick fortress, but the major hook is some kind of alleyway that runs through the southern outdoor area that you'll be criss-crossing as you leap between the battlements. Actually, the big standout moment has nothing to do with the alleyway and everything to do with the plasma rifle room, but I won't spoil it because it's frickin' awesome. The one thing I'm not sure I care for is the muddy stepping stone place in the same area. It's not awful but I hate being slowed down and it's a bear to get out when you need to climb. Dirtiest fight is the arch-vile that appears in the southeastern compartment.

Tropiano's finale strongly reminds me of his third Plutonia Revisited entry, "Dance With the Devil". The level's major hook is a Cyberdemon that's used and reused for three separate appearances, much like Eternal Doom's "Woodhead", providing an obstacle you have to dance around in two instances until you deal the killing blow in the end. The other major element, used in the first Cyberdemon appearance, is the maze-fence courtyard you'll be crossing several times with more and more keys in hand. It's the scene of many ambushes, the last of which is the trickiest to deal with, even having a BFG in hand. Very cool level, and a great way to end the set.


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. Seriously, it disappointed me that this wad only got a runner up. This should have IMO been a complete shoe in for a full fledged Caco. If I was too suggest the wad to move down to a runner up, I'd pick 5til.

    1. I strongly disagree, but I absolutely adored Lainos's 5till L1 Complex and Object 34.

    2. Other than having a strong like for Lainos' works, do you disagree based on this wad's quality (as in you don't like it, as it sounded by the review enjoyed it quite a bit) or only because you think this wad should not take the place of 5til?

      If it's for the later reason, then I'm honestly not really sure what I'd knock out either. I was suggesting to kick 5til out primarily because it lags on me at times, and it's only one map versus eleven here, but it isn't the only single level in the list (it's the only one I get lag in though). All the top 10 titles are pretty formidable pieces of work (Combat Shock 2 is definitely one for slaughter fans, that being said). Maybe it really is just the "eleventh best" wad of the year, per se. What do you think?

  2. Wow, I've got to apologize! Clearly I should have read your review of 5til L1 Complex before making the suggestion it should have been moved to runner up in front of you.

    And as such, I'm really sorry if you took offense, because none was intended at all. :)

    1. Nothing to apologize for.

    2. By the way, Brandon, don't ask me anything more about ranking PWADs / authors or the like.

  3. I will not ask about ranks/opinions but am I still allowed to comment on reviews, make suggestions/recommendations for future plays, etc.?

    1. Thanks, just always sends a scare through me when I'm 'identified', per se.

    2. Your profile lists "The MegaDooming Blog" as one of your projects. It's not exactly hidden, dude. Your other persona on the forums is working out much better, though.

  4. I'd say this not being a winner is justified, despite being very good. Its not finished. Matt should come back to it and release a finished megawad ;).

    1. It would be cool to see Matt finish out the megawad, yeah. I think he's got his hands full with Square, tho