CASTLE OF ETERNAL
CARROT IN THE SKY
by Fredrik Johansson
Fredrik's biggest claim to fame is his Vrack series, firmly establishing the space base theme in our hearts, but he released one other map in 2001 besides Doomworld's Top 10 favorite Vrack 2b. The unusually-titled Castle of Eternal Carrot in the Sky, like his previously released levels, is a MAP01 replacement meant to be played in Boom. Opinion on /idgames appears to be fiercely divided, and it's pretty easy to see why within moments of loading up the level. It's a Hellish, Gothic castle of green marble and dingy metal floating in the limitless void of Hell with pools of toxic blood dominating its back half. This isn't why it's earned the ire of some of its players, though.
COECITS doesn't have a story framing the action, but it DOES have a story as to its construction. Michael Jan Krizik cites his dreams for the inspiration of several of his levels, but where Krizik has reveries in vanilla, Johansson mused in Boom. That's right; this phantasmal fortress was designed in Fredrik's subconscious. The author also claims that it's pretty much the way that he dreamt it excepting for things like the inability to do true room-over-room and other vagaries where either he or his playtesters thought things could be done better. If all this is true, then the dream-logic of Johansson's night-fantasies are far more ordered than mine, at least when it comes to Doom.
The first thing that strikes you out of the gate is that there are a lot of monsters roaming around, many of them hitscanners. A few commandos way at the top of the central tower will dog you until much later in the level unless you're using some sort of freelook cheatery and there are tons of shotgun guys, plus imps, staffing the battelements. The central yard is dominated by ground fighters and some pesky fliers, including several pain elementals. Getting into the center lets you skirmish more with the combat shotgun in hand, but ammo efficiency should be the least of your concerns. You'll be tripping over shotgun shells wherever you poke.
Another map element is a bit of a red herring; there are four Cyberdemons, one at the top of each of the corner towers. They can't actually kill you unless you walk upstairs, so keep that in mind. Each guards a switch that, together, will lower the BFG pedestal on the side of the map opposite the exit. Killing the Cyberdemons is... not recommended! They will all be stricken down by crushers once you are able to access the teleport-only skyway so don't waste your time. The BFG is absolutely useful in the basement but the combat shotgun and rocket launcher should be more than enough to get by while clearing out the castle grounds.
You'll have to figure out how to sneak into the perilous northern yard, since it can't be approached on the ground until you've opened back the way forward. Even when you figure out sliding up on the rim of those corner balconies, you've still got to fight your way inside, picking through all sorts of toughs including arachnotrons, mancubuses, Barons, Hell knights, and revenants. Hopefully you already picked off the caged arch-viles with the rocket launcher obtained from the eastern blood chamber. When you've got the north yard sorted out you can figure out some of COECITS's more surreal moments.
There are two skyways to navigate, one without a floor and accessed by a teleporter on the north end (the Cyberdemon crusher trigger) and with a shootable switch puzzle. The other is a sort of big staircase that leads up the tower and lowers the blue key, which of course will spawn in a bunch of nasties on grabbing it, not that it's any more difficult than your initial yard clear given that there are zero arch-viles involved. Blue skull in hand, you're ready to head into the basement, a series of caged catwalks with a bunch of cacodemon closets that open up with every skull switch and which may have the rudest end-of-level ambush I've seen in a while, especially if you don't have the BFG or at least the plasma gun in hand.
Castle of Eternal Carrot in the Sky is a nightmarish piece of sector machinery that appeals to my Rubik's Cube sense, but delighting in its slightly torturous progression is exacerbated by the many monsters that either harry you from afar or throw themselves into your path with Abbadon's abandon, so I can see why its reception on /idgames is split between people that loathe it, those that love it, and the ones that can't decide. Its quirky, classical composition is no doubt another polarizing feature of this fiendishly clever fever dream, much like mouldy's soundtrack for the much later Going Down. I can't do anything about the latter, but I can tell you that you can cut about 50 demons out each time you move the difficulty slider down between UV and HNTR.
It's cool to see Fredrik tackle something in a non-space base theme, as fun as those are. Maybe one day we'll see his Pain project, or Deep Freeze, or Citadel of the Tranquil Radish. And maybe we'll see Bob Evans upload his Compuserve mirror! Well, stranger things HAVE happened. If you're in the mood for a touch of the bizarre with some great visuals, then give Castle of Eternal Carrot in the Sky a look.