Sunday, December 25, 2016

Don't Drink the Water (DDTW.WAD)

by Ed Cripps

Ed Cripps is now known for making engine-popping GZDoom levels with wicked cool geometry and architecture. Back in 1998, though, he was bumming around with the rest of us. Don't Drink the Water is a MAP01 replacement for what was Boom at the time but should work with Boom-compatible ports. Apparently there were roughly 12 MB worth of new resources in the original DDTW.WAD, all of which the author describes as "cheezy"; given the relative simplicity of the level, I'd be interested in seeing just how all these things dressed the original incarnation up.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this setup before, but Ed is self-deprecating in his brandishing of the single-sentence framing narrative. It also puts Cripps on the side of Doom fans who prefer to think of the demons of Doom as aliens, and while that may be technically correct regardless of whether they hail from Hell or Helghan, I have the feeling that "alien" means more extraterrestrial than extradimensional. In this case, the aliens are tainting the water supply with their urine, and you're the only one that can stop them. The water supply to where isn't so clear, but I assume it's a nearby location. The way the action's set up I also sort of get the impression that Doomguy is less fighting off the forces of Hell and more crushing a cockroach rebellion in his outpost's mostly automated water processing facility, as though he is descending into the basement with a flashlight and a really big shoe.

So: DDTW is very much a Boom level. It's got some scrolling floors, deep water with a deep blue colormap, and transparency in some of the glass. It's also very short and very orthogonal. I appreciate that Cripps gives you the red key door to run back to, though, making the first water pit encountered something like a miniature hub. In spite of the light monster count, there's plenty of room to fuck things up with areas like the chaingunners and lost souls in the pit after the plasma gun and doing something unthinkable like snagging the blur artifact right before an otherwise easy showdown with a couple of arachnotrons. The level's only arch-vile can't cross the staircase to meet you, so you can just take your time with him. I'm thinking that the blind teleport into the cacodemon / shotgun guy / blue key yard is probably the worst of the ambushes.

Compared to the rest of Ed's catalogue, this is a short, squat level with some nice classic lighting and subtle dynamic bits to take the edge off all the right angles. The deep water that the first monsters rise out of is a nice little bit and is complemented by the later red key scenario, where you jump into the drink to deal with a relatively similar crowd, albeit pushed to the wall by the scrolling floor. One detail that's easy to miss is the steady stream of barrels viewable from the northwestern gallery; the demons aren't just pissing in the water, they're systematically packaging up their waste and dumping it!

Don't Drink the Water is a short adventure that makes for a decent romp. The simple encounters encourage reckless play in spite of the cramped confines. While there isn't much here that you couldn't see in just about any other Doom-universe water treatment plant, I had fun.


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