Sunday, June 22, 2014

Odessa 9: Landing Zone (ODESSA_9.WAD)

by Bob "Odessa" Evans

This is the 9th level in Bob Evans's Odessa series; all of the maps besides Odessa 14 were released near the end of 1995 for Doom II, and not all of them were released. Indeed, Odessa 4, 5, 8, and 10 do not exist in any public fashion, nor do 15-17. One of those works made it into Eternal Doom as "Silures", among the most obtuse and mind-bending Doom levels ever created. Thankfully, at least for puzzlephobes, "Landing Zone" takes its cues from Evans's lighter works. The story .TXT of this one poses some odd concepts. You are Doomguy, but it isn't exactly clear where you are. It sounds like you're on another planet, or perhaps an area on Earth that's remote enough to consider the residents villagers. Personally, I kind of like the idea of Doomguy roaming around on an alien world that is nonetheless populated by humans, writing wrongs and slaying demons like some errant knight. Err, actually, the language suggests that Evans was in the "demons are aliens" camp that was so popular in '95 and '96. Anyway, while on your journeys you've come across an active alien airport, which locals say has been operating for some time now. When you go to confront them, of course, you realize you left your shotgun back at the village...

Odessa 9 stands apart from its peers in an early engagement of spectacle. Evans has worked some impressive visuals into his levels so far, but the moment you round the corner and enter the crater that composes the map's outside area, you are immediately struck by the sense of scale and the two enormous, blinking warning lights. The rest of the features look stark by contrast, and once you enter the base that sense of scale evaporates into claustrophobic high-ceiling corridors with plenty of monsters to dispatch, but it's a cool opening. The first job, I think, is wresting the blue key from the independent installation to the southeast. It's the first exposure to Bob's puzzle proclivities, thankfully in an isolated area so that you can get a feel for what will be required of you when you enter the main installation.

Of my two major roadblocks, I only really have a problem with one, and even I should have known better. There's a section with some major height variation that you'll have to cross back over from a different direction, but if you depend on some sort of major clue, you'll get stuck progressing through it the first time. It isn't immediately apparent that the moss-tinged brick walls indicate which sections have platforms at the top, not that you can differentiate between the two without pressing your nose up against them (or cranking the light level up). One of these sections of wall is a lift that takes you to the next stage, but in the absence of anything meaningful, I just wallhumped until I got the result I was looking for... with a few trips back and forth to the crate section I had just come from, thinking that I had missed something.

"Landing Zone" seems to have some large, secret areas, but I don't know whether they are optional secrets or what, given that there's a yellow key hidden in one of them you have to use to activate a gargoyle that I think opens up the exit area. It's hard to tell in maps as dense as these. You will have a fun fight back through to the end, though. Evans pincers you between two arch-viles who set about to raising a bunch of imps and demons in a wood-columned area. Of course, if you grabbed the BFG and know what's coming, it will hardly waylay you. A lot of the hallways are strewn with crates big and small, UAC and wooden. I like that one of the secrets has you exit from a said latter container. I also enjoyed the little sequence that grants access to the northern secret area.

So: Odessa 9 is a pretty cool Evans map that pulls back from the complexity of Odessa 7 and delivers some nice action to boot, mostly SSG-fed. There's also been some kind of evolution in the detailing and architecture, as well. Still, if you aren't a fan of sniffing out secrets or twisting maps around to see what clicks, you might want to sit this style out.

This article is part of a series on
Bob Evans's ODESSA series


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