Carballo's Pick Me! utility throws me a softball for my first foray. Three of these levels are deathmatch, and three of them I've already played before in one form or another, so I decided to be generous and include my flamingo-up, since I misread SQUID22 as SQUID2 and played the original SQUID. My first /random test spawned TRENCH, so that's also thrown in at the end. All in all, a few hilarious levels mixed in with a playable retread of E1M1 and the pretty cool XENO11.
LEDGES2.WAD: According to FunDuke, LEDGES2 is a deathmatch WAD by Mark K. Gresbach, Jr., which has its roots as a deathmatch level for the original Doom. The Doom version got updated once for -altdeath, to LEDGES2I, which is also included in Maximum Doom's DOOM1 folder. LEDGES2 was also included in DTH2PCOM.WAD, a compilation of duel maps... as MAP17. Both LEDGES2 and LEDGES2I were converted to Doom II for Maximum Doom's DOOM2 folder as LEDGES22 and LEDGES2I, respectively. There's also a copy of LEDGES2 that was included in the venerable WADPAK2, then converted to Doom II, then placed in DOOM2 as WADPAK22. I'm going to be an ass, because I don't play deathmatch anyway, and count LEDGES2I as a copy of LEDGES2, for a map-to-copy ratio of 1:5. This level technically has eight monsters and an exit, but I'm not reviewing it.
SHADOWS2.WAD:SHADOWS2 is a Doom II conversion of an original Doom deathmatch level by Sergey Ishchenko and Ivan Samarin whose first and third releases, SHADOWS and SHADOWS3, can be found in the DOOM1 folder. The original SHADOWS2 is NOT included, but there's a Doom II copy in DMBEST2.WAD, and SHADOWS3 crops up in DM2PAK#1.WAD in the MAP12 slot, both in the DOOM2 folder. SHADOWS2 was also used as the base for a deathmatch map called PEACE, by Wolfgang Grassl and Christian Hellmann, but the maps are actually pretty different, so no penalty there. Altogether, that's a map-to-copy ratio of 1:4, for a running total of 2:9.
BLT2.WAD: Hey, I've actually played this level! At least, in its original incarnation. This is a Doom II conversion of BLT by Neil Ziring (which comes bundled with LAKE4, also included in Maximum Doom as a Doom II conversion as LAKE42), which is kind of a Shores of Hell-style level with unforgiving ammo balance and some strange linedef hoodoo I wasn't able to figure out, but which didn't make the level impossible... just really, really hard. Ziring was one of the more interesting ancillary authors but I would say that his SUBWAY and ELEMENTS are more... charming than this one. Since there are no copies per se, Maximum Doom wins this one, for a running total of 3:9.
INFINITY.WAD: The third episode in the Serenity trilogy, of course. This doesn't really meet the standards set by the Master Levels but they're still solid early Doom maps and definitely worth your time, or at least a glance so as to see whether or not you can stomach it. I don't know why Holger and Bjorn elected to forgo secret levels, but at eight maps, this puts Maximum Doom in the lead where it will probably stay for a running total of 11:9.
SQUID22.WAD: A Doom II conversion of SQUID2, the sequel to SQUID. It's got wide open areas, doors that have the same texture as the surrounding walls, hilarious platform barriers, squads of imps hemmed in by light poles, and walls separated by tiny gaps because propagating sound between rooms hadn't been figured out yet, or at least widely-known. Grabbing the red key and then backtracking to the red key door is the single most pointless experience of the level, and backtracking some more to grab the plasma rifle really isn't worth it beyond the enemies in the room. As the only version on MAX is its Doom II conversion, this scores as a technical win for Maximum Doom, for a running total of 12:9.
SPUNK.WAD: This is an E1M1 deathmatch replacement for the original Doom, by one Richard Smol. The regular version found its way into a compilation of Doom deathmatch levels titled RALPHNEW. The same Ralph (Evans) made another deathmatch compilation, R.WAD, which has a version of SPUNK. The author advertises SPUNK2.WAD in another release, but Funduke assures us that the copy found in DOOM2 is a conversion of SPUNK, so that's another ding. It also crops up in WADFTHR.WAD, a Doom II deathmatch compilation, The Maximum Doom curse strikes again at a 1:4 ratio, leaving things tied at 13:13. On a sidenote, although this level is gloaming with monsters in single player, there is no exit.
DEJAVU.WAD: This level isn't available on the archives, probably because of its IWAD-derivative clause. DEJAVU is more or less a re-upholstered version of E1M1, "Hangar", but for MAP01. It gives the level a distinctly E4 / Master Levels aesthetic; that is, brick and brown metal a la John Anderson. There are more shotgun zombies, a couple of barons, some cacodemons stuffed into the penultimate room, and a Cyberdemon in the yard with the blue armor. The author added a few secret areas that look like they're mostly geared for deathmatch play as they're false walls that block movement but are see-through (and shoot-through!) on the other side. It's nothing special, but almost completely inoffensive unless you find dispatching the Cyberdemon in the "secret" courtyard bothersome. That's 14:13.
ZEUS2.WAD: Another Doom II conversion of a level I've played before. ZEUS, by Steve Renton, has a novel concept; the author scanned in some H. R. Giger art and used it for some of the wall textures. The stuff isn't exactly tailor-made for Doom, though, and the level design itself is pretty pedestrian, plus it comes with an annoying custom sound pack. There's a world of potential in mixing Doom's imagery with H. R. Giger, as I've seen some pretty memorable usage of his artwork as set pieces, but I think that we'll have to wait for a dedicated, coherent texture pack before it becomes a Real Thing. Maximum Doom wins again, at 15:13.
XENO112.WAD: This E1M1 replacement by Daniel Griffiths made its way into the 1994 Tune-Up Community Project as MAP09, "Bug Hunt!". Of the maps this round that I hadn't played, this was my favorite, and the 1994TU version is a fantastic update, not to take away from the original. It's a big ol' semi-realistic base out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by monsters, opening up with a bunch of cacodemons. You'll want to find the semi-secret holdout point near the edge of the level where big guns and ammo for said big guns can be found which should let you deflate some of those noxious luftballoons. Once you get inside, you're in for cramped and congested firefights, but it's not nearly as HP-heavy and should blow by really quick unless you're the kind of player that gets lost easily. Maximum Doom carries a Doom II conversion... but the original got collected as a Doom level in NEWDOOM.WAD. Shovelware gains no distance, leaving the race at 16:14.
SQUID.WAD: My eyes glazed over on sorting stuff out and I played this bad boy instead of SQUID2. I think SQUID is slightly more playable than its sequel, if only because the backtracking is much less annoying. It's still wide spaces filled with mobs of Doom trash enemies that must be diligently ground down with the shotgun. The more hilarious aspects have surreal shit like that blue key hallway that is actually a long, enormous door, and those ornate platform / door fence things that serve as your major gateways. When you finally get the big guns it's gratifying to slaughter those monster packs, but I doubt the attraction is worth your price for admission. Since SQUID is only on Maximum Doom as a cheap conversion, id "wins" this one, reaching 17:14.
TRENCH.WAD:This map, by Joshua Lehrer and Fabian Tiller, is one of those deathmatch levels that got some monsters and an exit thrown in it. There are two tiers of play - a painfully basic network of open-air tunnels that gives the level its namesake, and the flat area above, where it's a bit easier to attack the twenty or so enemies the author gave you. I think it's possible to make a fun level from the base concept, since I kind of like those towers that jut out of the earth at several points. This isn't it, though. There's a cheap Doom II conversion in addition to the original, labelled TRENCH2A, and it also shows up in the Doom II conversion of WADPAK2, which means that insanity starts to close the gap for a final tally of 18:16.
As always, thanks for reading! It's been a real trip. -KMX E XII