Wednesday, May 16, 2018


by Malcolm Sailor

Rule the World!Omelet FaceTEKRKBRN

While his CHORD series would go on to both fame and notoriety for its survivalist-style combat and painstaking visuals, Malcolm Sailor started out making original levels of strung-together 64 wide corridors and knockoffs that combined his favorite ideas from Doom II levels. His third release was a packaged triplet of maps titled Three Kick Ass WADs (3PACK_1) which contained a previous publication, RULER, as well as OMELET and TEKRKBRN. The last, a MAP01 replacement for id's skeleton-studded sequel, derives its name from the predominant texture scheme. I think it means tech, rock, and brown, but that's a semi-educated guess on my part.

The action features a linear drive with a healthy number of tricks and traps to keep you on your toes; dungeon crawler Doom, basically. The map's flow moves you between brown dingy areas by way of cramped corridors. The last third of the level is the most imaginative as far as layout and architecture goes, even if it DOES feature something like a sewer. On the other hand, it's possible to get locked out of obtaining the yellow key if you don't follow Sailor's script. The northwest dungeon room with the neutered pain elemental has a fast / potentially crushing staircase. When you climb it, the wall behind you lowers and you're faced with a switch at the top and an open chamber containing a yellow key, a plasma gun, and a teleporter.

The switch opens the dungeon annex where you're eventually required to go but the author expects you to beeline to the key and plasma gun where some pipe bars will slam shut. At this point you're in the clear, provided you can figure out how to get the door back to the stair room open again. The poisonous muck chamber has a button to remove the bars but you can only use it once. If you press it before triggering the yellow key trap it does and will forever do nothing. And that's what happened to me, if you haven't already guessed! The moral of the story is: if you see something, take something.

There are some cool ideas here but the stringy level design mutes their impact. A spiral staircase is a pretty threatening place for a cacodemon ambush, of course, and while I don't like the lengthy trenches that connect it together the staircase crossroad to the west is a nice bit of three-dimensional thought. The cage hallway after the blue key door is a neat change-up if really easy to circumvent via infighting and the labyrinth conversion to open room trap that follows it is a classic (and enjoyable!) ambush format. The chaingunners might tear you up, though. Speaking of which, those psychedelic monster closet / elevators in the sewage trench room might just be my favorite visual element of the whole thing.

It's a lot better than DARKER as far as corridor levels go and the interesting setups make for a dependable if not exactly distinctive experience. There's also an easy to miss but appreciated effort going into the lighting in the western series of tunnels but the effect is too subtle to really appreciate. I think the high contrast method of his debut would have worked better, there. Just not the dashed lines. If you're into the raw style of Doom's '94-'95 period or dungeon crawler stuff then it might wet your whistle. Just don't forget to trigger that yellow key trap!


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