Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quo Vadis (PUGILIST.WAD)


Ah, 1999, when ZDoom was fresh on the streets. Ian Wilson made the considerably more polished if still contemptibly obtuse Herian 2 and thus suckered in another Doom author. I'm talking about Rex Claussen, but he went by Gurkha Boy back then. Rex went on to have a long and storied career, beginning with Quo Vadis, a three-level minisode for Doom II. I'm not sure if PUGILIST - named for its gameplay and the story that justifies it - is specific to ZDoom, or if it will work fine in any limit-removing port, which is what the .TXT implies. All I can tell you is that it was tested in ZDoom and as of the time of this writing ZDoom still works.


The plot is incredibly in depth, the setting the middle of August in 1941. Rex sets the scene with a news broadcast that describes a grim portent for the Allies, with Germany and its Axial powers running rampant through the Soviet Union. There's something else, though, whispers of a "secret pact" made with a secret power that threatens to completely upend the allies, who can only count on the assistance of the pre-Pearl Harbor United States per the Atlantic Charter with its ink still wet. The report caps off with a bit of local news about missing boxer and world heavyweight title contender Jack Porter. That's you, of course. You've been drafted to make a commando run at a nondescript island whose only construction is a church, understood to be haunted by more than just SS troops, and you can't take a decent weapon because you have to swim two miles from the drop-off point. Claussen doesn't explain why you can't just grab one of the Nazi rifles once you enter beyond it alerting the rest of them. Not that that makes any sense since the first Nazi that shoots ought to bring the whole house down on you.


Yeah; Quo Vadis has Nazis. They only show up in the second level, along with a bunch of other DoomCute stuff like sector toilets, sinks, urinals, pretty decent wooden chairs, barracks, and... office cubicles. I guess Robert Propst stole his design from those damned Nazis! It's also weighted entirely toward Tyson-style gameplay, with Rex helping you out here and there with the occasional telefrag of crusher against the big bads, the latter almost exclusive to MAP03. MAP03 is the most approachable map out of the bunch; it's pretty straightforward and has some cool gimmicks, a few of which are centered around getting a  Cyberdemon to do your dirty work for you so that you can access the totally-don't-look-like-switches alcoves they're guarding.


And that's about the biggest drawback to Quo Vadis, Herian 2-style switch play. If you can muscle through MAP01, your brain will be adequately re-wired to take on the following levels. It's nice that the starting area is so small, that way you can try literally anything. Would you believe that you have to "use" the basins on either side of the church in order to get inside either structure? MAP02 begins with a similar premise, except you have to use a random wall - admittedly revealed via scanning your automap - because your progression dead-ends at the basement. Both are followed by a cavalcade of repeatable switches triggering timed doors, which aren't so bad but probably drive less tolerant players batty since finding a switch does not guarantee knowledge of what it opens. At least the one where you stand on a turlet is a secret.


The Tyson play is pretty easy once you get going but the Berserk packs for MAP01 and MAP02 are located fairly deep into the levels. You'll have to box monsters out the hard way or lead them around while you try to discern the nature of the sector machinery while under duress, likely an annoying proposition. You'll use the pistol a good deal on the Nazis in MAP02, at least until you snag the Berserk power-up and pulverize them. MAP03 gives you the pack at the beginning but, as mentioned, relies less on your fists and more on your wits.


PUGILIST has a lot of things. The confluence of timed switch play, DoomCute furniture, devotion to melee, and confusing switch / trigger puzzles gives it a very specific taste that will ill appeal to many. Even if the rest doesn't sound appealing, I think that MAP03 is worth a look. It's an interesting start for an author who would go on to so many TCs.





QUO VADIS
by Rex Claussen

MAP01
A short level that will take a lot longer. It's a church map that brings to mind Matt Tropiano's Dimension of Time (MAP03) in its initial presentation, though it's a bit different since you're basically locked into using your punching skills to beat imps, demons, and spectres, though you'll probably do more running than anything at first since the berserk is in the chapel. There's a DoomCute graveyard in the back, the site of a secret, but the real challenge is in navigating Claussen's switch machinery. You have to "drink" from the fonts on either side of it to open the first few doors, and it's timed switch puzzles all the way down.

MAP02
This is an underground bunker full of SS Nazis and various other monsters. Your pistol is pretty valuable for taking care of the boys in blue while you bide your time for the berserk kit. There's a lot of DoomCute furniture like a bathroom and... office cubicles. In 1941. The Tyson gameplay isn't too demanding if you're used to Berserk fisting, say, revenants at the worst. The one arch-vile can be blocked and brutalized. No; you'll be most challenged by the switch play, which stretches the sort of timed switch puzzles and secret-but-not doors of MAP01 across the wider, bunker format. At least all of the rooms spool off of the central, rectangular hallway. Protip: if you flip a reusable switch and can't figure out what it does, it's within running distance.

MAP03
So this is a pretty cool level. Rex doesn't waste any time pressing the Berserk pack into your hand and then ups the stakes with an initial arena battle where you have to use a Cyberdemon to kill his buddies behind the wooden doors, then accessing the alcoves in a particular sequence so you can open up the portal to telefrag him. The barrel "trap" is sort of a dud fight but the one where you have to encourage Cyb to blow up the arch-viles is tricky. I imagine you can fuck it up by hiding, though. Your funeral! The Spiderdemon fight is basically a repeat of the first, and even simpler since you've already figured out the gimmick the first time. Pretty fun, though. Not a fan of the revenants at the bottom of the Eastern tower.

2 comments:

  1. You don't "use" the basins on map01, there are hidden switches that pop out of the ground when you step on one of the star-shaped pedestals near the entrance.
    Didn't find the courage to keep going beyond map 1 though...

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    1. Ah, I saw the pedestals but didn't bother to figure out how to get on top of them.

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