Sunday, June 17, 2018


by Malcolm Sailor


Seven levels in six WADs collected in one .ZIP file - that's DS-61-3. While every item has its own individual .TXT, only one of them goes unmentioned in the compilation's own information document - SINFERNO. It did find its way into some of Malcolm's WADographies, though, and is the last selection from its assemblage to be listed in QUIKISG2. The author didn't have much to say about it except to call it an okay Hell-themed level and mention that there were no changes between its re-release and the original, published in an earlier edition of the same package titled DS-61-2.

SINFERNO is indeed at least somewhat in the spirit of its namesake. Not the episode, though. It's a very short map and a significant portion of it is the starting area, composed of a large, circular cave of cinders. Forcing the player to jump down to grab the yellow key, rather than beginning on the ground level and working your way up, is an interesting design decision. You eventually breach what you discover is an inner wall and find a more naturalistic border along with the plasma gun and some significantly stronger opposition. When finished, the inner wall lowers and the cavity becomes completely open. It's a nice instance of dynamic geometry and also begins to reinforce the map's gimmick.

The novelty is based around the doorway on the bottom of the level. When you opened the yellow door, it only revealed a section of passage just wide enough for the switch that grants access to the outer ring, and the gap itself is horizontally adjacent to the gateway. When you work your way back around the circle and the broiling barrier collapses, you're placed next to the blue key door... which is right back where you started, just on the opposite side of the ground-level hatchway. I mention this because the segment behind the azure aperture is a bloody, red tunnel and a humdrum super shotgun clear. I like the aesthetic but it's long and built almost entirely out of twists and turns.

The rote nature of the combat causes your brain to tune out and the corridor is too disorienting to make an accurate mental map. When I reached the end, I was caught by the final iteration of Sailor's trickery, realizing that the torturous path had led me on another circuitous journey back to the yellow door. It's evil genius brilliant. Malcolm finishes with a boxy minor boss arena. The look of the area is cool enough, sort of a basic Hellish palace facade. I guess it looks something like a gate back to the surface. The level has no health except for the megasphere found on the boss platform so it would be pretty easy to screw yourself if you reveal the Spiderdemon and let him kill the Hell knights before grabbing it. For my own part, I saved myself by running fuckin' fast. The alternative would be playing peek-a-boo behind the two columns but I find it wanting.

SINFERNO feels a little rough around the edges compared to the last few Sailor levels I played. LAB, BOOM, and WASTEME all feature a stronger atmosphere. It's not nearly as guileless as it appears to be, however, and is just as much a showcase of Malcolm's devilish, developing talent as anything else to be found in DS-61-3.


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