Friday, June 26, 2015


by James "Phobus" Cresswell

Phobus is a dude I know mostly for having contributed at least one high quality level to a bunch of community projects. He's kind of like a modern day Adam Windsor, excepting the fact that Adam Windsor is still kicking around. Phobus is actually a pretty prolific author, and the only reason I haven't delved into his backlog of solo releases is because there is so, so much Doom, and so very little time. E2MWalter is an interesting oddity, its genesis being a birthday map for Doomworld Forum superstar Walter Confalonieri in 2014. As advertised, it's a level in the Shores of Hell theme; E2M1, to be exact. It lacks a framing story in a fictive sense, but its purpose is readily apparent.

It's actually a pretty rockin' vanilla Doom level. Sure, the action is a little slower-paced, but that comes naturally with the territory. Phobus has pinned down a difficulty somewhere between the snoozefest of ancient Doom and the nastiest portions of Thy Flesh Consumed. He's still pretty good about not throwing you to the barons without a rocket launcher and plenty of rockets, and there's an early plasma rifle available as a secret which should help with some of the nastier portions. There are actually a bunch of nice monster closet ambushes to keep you engaged, starting with the fairly telegraphed surprise after your first visit to the courtyard. My other favorite is the yellow key annex, a fusion of phantasm and machinery that will beat you back to the outdoor hub section you came from, incidentally a nice moment of pressure with the two packs of cacodemons and lost souls invading your very limited real estate.

The rest of the fights are largely of the incidental flavor that befits an Episode Two-styled level. The computer maze section boasts plenty of snipers and lurkers to keep you on your toes as you pick through the platforms. It's also the scene of a major secret, fulfilling Walter's request for an anime reference. Most of the platforming isn't tough, but that light gray platform is kind of a pain to sneak into. Your reward reveals where nearly a third of the level's enemies are tied up in, a tribute to Berserk where you're encouraged to tear a horde of imps apart with your super-powered fists. It's still a tough feat, even with the invul sphere in the back. You may want to bring your rocket launcher. The other battle is a tense shootout with a Cyberdemon in fairly close quarters. Rockets are provided, but plasma is better if you've still got it.

It's a pretty straightforward level as far as the layout goes, with only a few bits of backtracking to a location affected by a pretty obvious change. The only times I got hung up were the bits where I was trying to puzzle out the secrets. The Berserk room was a late discovery while picking my way to the exit since the presence of the southern pillar had completely escaped me when trying to discern the nature of the layered pathways. I also forgot Rule #1 of Doom PWADs; turn around and check the starting door! The chainsaw isn't a favorite of mine, but the automap is handy, and behind both is a cute birthday wish.

If you like Shores of Hell styled levels, then E2MWalter is a must play. The only thing that might throw you off is the imp slaughter, and that's entirely optional. It's a wonder why he hasn't cranked out a Doom episode by now considering how quickly he made this map. Happy Birthday, Walter, and thank you Phobus for a pretty cool gift.

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