Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Candy Choppers (PC_HERT1.WAD)

by Paul Corfiatis

1999 was a really big year for pcorf. After releasing a veritable glut of levels including The Twilight Zone II as well as Death Tormention and its sequel, he released three individual levels (the first-created entries of his Selfish series) in 2000 and cranked out a handful of submissions for the 10 Sectors contest. Four of them made it into the runoff compilation, 10SECTO2, uploaded in 2001. Candy Choppers, published later in the year, takes things in a completely different direction. It's Paul's token Heretic level! It presumably works with its vanilla executable and occupies its E2M1 slot.

The author hasn't included any sort of framing narrative and when the map is as small as this one there isn't a lot to say. The monster count runs just shy of 40 and while a lot of these guys are easy to kill Heretic trash like gargoyles and golems, a few sluggers are hanging around to really surprise you including a few disciples and an Ophidian. The yellow key teleport trap includes most of the heavy hitters, sort of placing you between two fronts. I'm not sure whether it's the ideal place to plunk down an Iron Lich but Paul's thing placement has more of a cinematic quality rather than something that's trying to slay you dead.

PC_HERT1 is notable for if nothing else than making the Wings of Wrath a key progression point. The first one is also a secret but I don't think that there's another way of tackling the level. You have to use them to cross a large crater of lava but incredibly obvious alcoves to the north and south house essential pickups like weapons, ammo, and a freakin' invincibility ring, not to forget additional Wings. I sort of wonder how a longer and more complex Heretic level might get by using them the way some Doom maps use enviro suits as essential powerups. In fact, I'd be surprised if one hasn't already been published.

The level has a bit of eye candy. I like the little waterfall alcove at the beginning and the cistern of cinders area is simple but makes a nice set piece, particularly with the stone brick warehouse staring at you from the opposite side. It also has Paul really playing with atmospheric sounds, something he'd already tried out when making Twilight Zone II. You don't have much of a chance to soak them in, though, since PC_HERT1 is more about action than ambience. The hazardous pyroclastic globs are one of the biggest sources of noise but you'll also hear rushing water as well as the usual anomalous monster noises.

This isn't the biggest or coolest Heretic map that I've ever played but in a world sorely lacking in any, let alone quick and fun plays, there's nothing to recommend against. The way the Wings of Wrath powerups are used is commendable in and of itself. Candy Choppers is a must play if you're an elf-enthusiast.


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