Thursday, February 13, 2014


To drive an already overwrought comparison to the ground, Doomworld Forum superstar Michael Jan Krizik released Eternally Yours in 2012, which was basically the equivalent of an album of new material plus some rarities. PULSE, assembled from essentially the rest of his unreleased material and (un)officially released in 2013, is the final scraping of the barrel, coming from myriad places. As usual, it's all for vanilla Doom II, and it's a pretty mixed bag containing a bunch of works from the beginning of his craft to the more polished stuff I've come to expect from valkiriforce, who's otherwise pretty consistent.

MAP07-16 are Doom Core rejects, which form the bulk of the earliest PWADs valkiriforce released. They start out really rough, with the latter maps feeling more polished. MAP01, 02 and 06 are attempts at mimicking the '94-'95 era of WADbuilding, though it doesn't hold a candle to the aforementioned rejects in terms of beginner stuff. MAP03-05 are some speedmaps, which aren't notable except for the crazy MAP05 slaughter. MAP17 and 18 are enormous Community Chest 4 rejects that clearly show some growing pains. MAP19 is a slaughterific Reverie outtake, also large and full of monsters, otherwise available on the archives as Mountain Gorge. Last, but not least, MAP20 is a birthday map for Doomworld Forum superstar 1ntru that shows its true colors about halfway through, released independently as Dance the Cyborg.

PULSE is a mixed bag of map quality and playstyles owing to the points in Krizik's career they were made. There isn't much here to delight anyone but historians and keepers of curios, but fans of valkiriforce should still check this out for at the very least some of the later Doom Core rejects and the '94-'95 imitations. It's an interesting view at his past and present, perhaps enough to tide addicts over until his next major project. I can't lie; I had some fun with this Promethean excursion. Enjoy these, his salad days.

by Michael Jan "valkiriforce" Krizik

A plain-looking hitscanner-heavy level whose inspiration (Cleimos 2.0) is fairly obvious in its bi-chromatic color scheme. Especially that cobblestone flooring. While there are a lot of moving parts, like a potential Cyberdemon fight and four friendly arch-viles, none of the big traps seemed to spring. It almost seems like the Cyb is just there to be telefragged for the red key. The opening area is fun to tool around in; the northern jagged spiral is dull stroll.

A very short map that starts out as a linear canyon with lots of height variation which segues into a plasma rifle arena staffed with arachnotrons, mancubi, commandos, and more. The opening is difficulty via attrition as spare as the health is laid out, but there's a berserk at the end of the rainbow. The finale is pretty exciting as you've got to duck fire from several different directions until you free up some cover, including errant arch-vile blasts.

Very short speedmap that's loaded with hitscanners. It's all about the drop to the SSG as changing weapons too many time will leave you open to enemy fire. After that, just carefully crawl to the exit. The main area is clearly a scaled-down homage to "The Crusher"'s northeastern outdoor area.

Another short speedmap on a battlement. It's just a lot of hitscanners and some imps to start, then you get the SSG and take out a few larger beasts before the single commando finish. Nothing special, though you're a little more exposed here.

This is a superdense dark metal slaughtermap that's pretty unforgiving. I'm sure better players will have an easier time with the layout's simplicity, and bits like the slow crusher are easy to exploit to save yourself some resources, but the way I survived the initial revenant / Cyberdemon / arch-vile onslaught was by being blasted into one of the arch-vile tracks and then letting infighting do most of the work for me. The northern area isn't that bad, considering you can at least retreat, but the teleport to the finale pretty much requires the invul. It's pretty fuckin' ridiculous.

Another oldstyle level. Starts out with some tense claustrophobic action in some red brick and blood before giving way to some caverns. You have to do the southern leg before you can properly finish the north, since that's where the exit is. Or go ahead and do it anyways; it's not very long compared to the south / eastern section. About the trickiest thing you'll do is fight two mancubi with two caged revenants between them and you.

This is '94 as fuck with the caveat that the author clearly knows that certain monsters like the arch-vile still need some cover, even if it's only some cubbies, in order to make their levels beatable. And that's what it starts out as, 64 wide hallways with arch-viles, before an arch-vile trio that signals the switch to something a little more organic. It's still oppressively linear and with the plasma rifle basically a walk in the park, if slow to start.

A proto-"Downtown" that's all plasma rifle off the bat, and with all the ammo you have, why switch things up? It's really simple and most of the platforms are also lifts so you can grab all the good stuff, including weapons you'll never have to use because you can fry it all in white-hot plasma.  There are a lot of big monsters on the ground to start and some snipers in the air but it's pretty much a turkey shoot.

Ultimately, the box arrangement leads me to believe this is another Catwalk homage, and while there are a couple of neat gimmicks (like the viewing gallery track at the level's end) nothing really holds up except for maybe the first few firefights and the very last one. Hopefully you grabbed the plasma rifle secret, or you'll be in for one Hell of a firefight. That winding corridor of doors triggered by walkovers overstays its welcome by quite a bit.

An outdoor, linear challenge gauntlet. The only thing you can really fuck up on is the Cyberdemon, since you have to take him down with a rocket launcher. There isn't a whole lot of room for effortless circlestrafing and you'll have to grab a few spares to make it to the end. Besides that, though, it's a slaughter in your favor.

A '94 as fuck level. It's a big ol' hedgemaze to start out with, which gets a decent gimmick at the end where the lower path elevates to the top, giving you a fairly flat playing field with a few walls to duck around to eliminate any stragglers. The outer ring has a couple monster packs, but nothing threatening as long as you've explored the main area.

A big weird-ass map with step pyramids dominating the opening two areas and odd rooms bearing no relation to the ones next door. It's loaded with hitscanners, making plenty of locations like the yellow key room dangerous to clear, while other fights feel like The Innocent Crew slaughters. Secrets help out a lot and there's an outdoor section to the southeast that's large and entirely secret, if largely unrewarding (supposing you didn't get the good weapons from earlier areas). Those commandos in the arch-vile room demand you take some cover.

Another linear gauntlet map a la MAP10, but the architecture is way cooler and the soundtrack kind of befits blasting monsters across some odd entrenched bridge / fortification. Mostly, I liked the marble sections and the Jim Flynn staircase toward the end. There's a basic speedrunner trick here where you can skip the Cyberdemon fight, and if you didn't get the secret plasma rifle, you might want to. There's no going back, though, so beware. Pretty fun.

Starts off with a short cave section before hitting a teleporter to a medium-size mansion with a moat. There are a few monster packs on the outside, but nothing thrilling. All the fun is inside, with some odd trapped rooms like the super crusher, swimming arch-vile, furnace, and a Cyberdemon / revenant x 4 battle that you'll want to skip until you can grab the plasma rifle from one of the rooms unlocked by the key you just stole. That ending corridor is kind of a drag, though; I was expecting something more thrilling after grabbing a megasphere.

This is a short, bloody murder pit with caged zombies and roaming demons and partway through valk releases two arch-viles you knew were coming, except juking into the jail cells is a pain. If you don't find the secret with the invul sphere and rockets, you'll have to bolt through a hail of revenant rockets. If you did, well, enjoy some prime time rocket punching!

The final Doom Core reject map is a pretty harrowing journey. It starts off with a series of blind drops into increasingly opposing odds until you end up in what turns out in "Slough of Despair" fashion to be a five-pointed star. You can tackle the three keys in any order you like but smart money says grab the plasma rifles and ammo and then head west, into the red column marble point. You'll see why when you reach the end. The general area has some cacodemons and pain elementals choking it up, so be wary. There aren't a great many other challenges, but it's got a neat, '94 quality to it.

This is one of Krizik's Community Chest 4 rejects. It's an enormous, labyrinthine compound a la Polygon Base that is also a claustrophobic nightmare. There's also a lot of boring symmetry that bogs down the opening areas before you get to the meat of the map. Memorable areas include the hitscanner-heavy platform zone to the west and - because it sucks - the grid 64 maze to the northeast which also has a handful of arch-viles thumping around in it. Health feels sparing for the amount of trash you have to clear out. I did like the Cyberdemon, whom you basically have to lower into the arachnotron room to have any fun killing it. Quite a slog, though.

The other Community Chest 4 reject. It's another large map, but you've been spared the painful symmetry of MAP17 in favor of a Titan-style outdoor / downtown area. Some of the homages are pretty obvious, like the instant staircase in the eastern building or the ledge crawl to the yellow key switch. The opening is pretty easy but there isn't nearly enough health available in the main section, at least to defray the damage done by the hojillion hitscanners hanging around. Once you're safe, it's a decent exploration adventure, though the only indication that the yellow key is available (and you didn't even know it was there) is being teleported right next to it.

This reject from Reverie is a bigass slaughtermap that feels heavily inspired by "Valley of Echoes" and maybe a little bit by "Against Thee Wickedly". It's mostly about carving a little corner out for yourself and then defending it until you can move with impunity, especially places like the eastern compound with its Spiderdemons and monster packs, though in that case you get a handy invul sphere. If you're wondering why the door to the switch opening the side rooms won't open, it's because there's a lighted tech panel you have to open, revealing its associated switch. The finale feels pretty heaped on, but if you have some cell ammo left the cacodemon / pain elemental troops shouldn't be too bad.

I thought this was going to be a nice, light finisher, but then I realized that this was a birthday map for speed runner 1ntru, as evidenced by the absolute clusterfuck of the eastern area. The first part is dodging through a chevron of mancubus fireballs with revenants and barons in the pit with you and if you survive, what little health you have left will get blown away by the second wave of monsters, the front line of which is commandos, backed by a ton of other shit you'll need to weave through if you want any of those ultra-rare health pickups. If you can't make it through the first wave with some degree of perfection, just start over; your recharge soulsphere and blue armor are guarded by a pair of arch-viles on the floor with all the other troublemakers. The finale, where you get to blow out the candles, is cute. That middle section is a nightmare to get through, though.




  2. i accidentally deleted valk's second comment in trying to delete his first, because the second was a reply to the first one, which he had deleted himself. basically, valk was telling me that PULSE now has an official /idgames release, elevating it from the status of an indie cassette tape to an indie label LP.

    1. and uh, now the PENDING reminder is gone, thanx dude!