Thursday, October 4, 2018

MAYhem 2012 (MAYHEM12.WAD)

The good news is that TheMionicDonut's MAYhem became an annual institution where mapsets - sometimes a megaWAD's worth - are created. The unfortunate news is that its completion / polishing phase inevitably runs over the monthly time frame. MAYHEM12, for instance, saw its final release in November of the same year while MAYhem 2013 hung around until March of 2014. It isn't much bad news at all, though, especially considering how long projects usually languish on hard drives. The community still gets a brand new collection of levels to play and the contributing authors get to flex their muscles in a theme that they might not have otherwise experimented with. In this case it's twelve Boom-compatible levels for Doom II.

The weapon of choice for this inaugural instance was Nick Baker's Doom / II texture recolor pack (NB_RECOL.ZIP), which I remembered. What I didn't recall was a spread of four themes serving as the inspirational springboards. There's "Abandoned Outposts", "Rocky Laboratories", "Metallic Hive", and "Hellish Descent". In this context I'm not as surprised at some of the levels that came out though a few of the relations are questionable. A few of them might actually be attempting to combine multiple themes, like "Derpman 3D" and most obviously the finale of "Thematic Terror". The "Hive" levels are pretty easy to pick out and come with some neat takes from Phobus and Ribbiks ("The Metal", "Grudge") as well as a wild-ass execution courtesy of Scypek2 ("Iron Industries").

I'm not entirely sure where the outposts begin and the laboratories end, though, since the two tend to go together given Doom's usually abstract aesthetic and often feature some sort of rugged, rocky component. For the first I'll give you "Golden Age" and "Eerie Canals" with "Vigilance" straddling the line alongside "Infiltration", mostly due to an earthen feel rather than any sort of specific accoutrements surrounding research stations. Hell cameos in the opening of "Derpman", which is otherwise pure base, and sort of features in "Red Like Jungle" though it more resembles a drab cavern that starts out in a remote laboratory. I think the obstacle course of "Hell's Ravines" comes the closest as far as purity of the "Hellish Descent" theme within a single level though the component does kick off the final portion of MAP12.

It's a pretty varied episode as far as authorial styles go. Scypek's pure sector machinery is the most unusual of the bunch. His MAP08 almost entirely forgoes traditional combat. Walter's first two levels aren't all that nuanced, playing mostly like strung together techbases. His third, MAP07, is the major exception since it's a bona fide slaughtermap whose toughest battles are more an exercise in awkwardness. Phobus's are the tightest in the set, delivering a well-oiled opener in addition to the constant action assault of MAP06 where the situation is slowly but constantly moving from bad to worse. TMD's MAP04 hits some of the same notes, both including an open space that's beset upon by fliers and snipers as well as a dangerously disorienting sewer section. At least, in the heat of combat.

Cannonball might be better know for his original Doom levels released since MAP10 and MAP11 (ConC.E.R.Ned, Thy Flesh Turned Into a Draft Excluder, Return to Hadron) but these are perfectly within keeping of my conception of his style. He favors big spaces and monster arrangements and dwells on the edge of slaughter, usually resulting in long levels with relatively high bodycounts. The fights concluding both of his entries feel more like small-scale Deus Vult encounters. The Kongming / Moti joint that ends the set takes the same basic feel but draws it out even longer and loses some of the careful orchestration.

"Grudge" by Ribbiks is the most interesting to me. It's a far cry from the visual and encounter style of Stardate 20X6 and Swim With the Whales where he solidified his reptuation in 2013 but you can see some interesting geometry in its hexagonal theme and grid 64 structures in which he houses the hitscanners. There's also a sort of dark orange bunker floating in the void. My favorite parts of MAP09 are elements like the bridge pole battle and the red key platform bit. You can easily leap down to the latter but require an arch-vile jump to get back from where you came. It isn't too much harder than, say, "The Metal", but feels more menacing due to the author's eagerness to put you toe to toe against arch-viles and revenants. I'm sure that my sense of difficulty is skewed.

The recolor texture pack gives way to some interesting complementary combinations as well as garish but expected stuff like Scypek's white stone walls surrounding orange Mountain Dew cistern containing vibrantly colored compounds. I'm far more endeared to its employment by Phobus and Ribbiks. The copper-hued SHAWN variant looks relatively natural in low lighting spaces like the opening underground installation. The way that Stephens intersperses the brown metal panels with the original dark gray creates a subtly elevated appearance and avoids the calico look that sometimes pervades levels using recolor variants.

MAYHEM12 isn't the most distinguished set of levels that I've played. The intent of its craftsmanship is decidedly uneven. A few of its maps are definitely worth checking out, though, especially if you're partial to the works of cannonball, Phobus, or Ribbiks.

by assorted authors

by James "Phobus" Cresswell
A tight but quite detailed romp through an underground base, some of which uses its earthen confines for its borders. It's possible to spend awhile duking it out with the pistol depending on which direction you start out in but by the time you summon up the one big boy you ought to have the shotgun. You'll likely get sucker punched a few times by zombies in the darkest corners of the rooms. My favorite bit is the watery monster closet trek to the chainsaw, especially since it's a false start the first time you pass through, but the end-of-level teleport ambush has some teeth. I like the copper-colored metal textures; it gives the base a sort of faded, ancient appearance without looking dirty or grubby. The layout also reminds me of that weird observation where some Doom levels tended to look like guns.

MAP02The Golden Age
by Walter "daimon" Confalonieri
A squat, disused base at the onset of corruption. It plays around with scrolling textures but most of them look out of place. The main exception is a caged-off chamber housing some kind of nukage drips. The level is slow to heat up because of its stop-start pacing as you move from room to room, clear the monsters, and then continue on. The cacodemon closets are a nice treat early on for a more immersive ambush setup. The optional cave segment was one of my favorite parts due to how open it was and the ease of the enemies vs. the recently acquired super shotgun. The rest of the combat is unimpressive though there are a few places where a cocky player could be easily overrun by demons.

Derpman 3D - The Other GameMAP03
by Walter "daimon" Confalonieri
Another short adventure. A lot of the space is dedicated to a fiery, underground chasm that features a semi-decent bit where you sprint to the next platform after clearing it of its imps. The following section is a small techbase segment. Nothing is too bad but the arch-vile with his demon entourage and the soon to follow monster closet trap might be the late one-two punch to do you in. The computer cabling is DoomCute but the opening half is my favorite by far. The "roots" hanging from the ceiling are a nice touch.

MAP04Eerie Canals
by "TheMionicDonut"
This semi-aquatic zone classes up the joint. The canals themselves dominate the level layout but there's an elevated section with a bunker where you'll get a really good space-invaded firefight. It's got cacodemons coming in over the walls and powerful turrets on the opposite side - three Hell knights! The starting battle is pretty good, too, given the sheer amount of meat crawling around in the cramped underhalls. The rest is standard corridor shooting, just a bit more measured since you're stuck using the shotgun and chaingun. Even if you do find the SSG you'll have been through almost all of the tough spots. Dick move with the exit room meatwall.

Iron IndustriesMAP05
by "Scypek2"
A weird level that's based in some sort of abstract metalworking facility. The sheer spectacle of sector machinery is evocative of 1994, particularly the lost soul / backpack / BFG room. It's DoomCute to the core, including a winding staircase to take you up to a relatively deserted rooftop from which you can see the blocky city skyline as well as an adjacent helipad. Nothing special about the combat; the main standout in my mind is the fence maze, a room bound to drive players nuts with its oscillating lights and timed switch run. It's also up to its gills in backpacks.

MAP06The Metal
by James "Phobus" Cresswell
Quick, cool, and chaotic. The author sticks to an iron-wrought theme made primarily on a 32-size grid complemented by occasional dalliances into hexagonal tiling, most prominently in the starting area. The opener is a dangerous start, beginning immediately in a crossfire that goads you into the cistern at the end of the tunnel. It's even more hazardous, though, and contains snipers and space-occupying foot soldiers not to mention fliers that you may have teased out as you handled the opener. While cool, I had more fun playing with the plasma gun in the sewer section since the maze-like arena shrouds your frantic flailing in an air of uncertainty. I appreciate that Phobus affords you plenty of play time using both the rocket launcher and the energy hose.

Red Like JungleMAP07
by Walter "daimon" Confalonieri
A big ol' plodding slaughtermap that takes place inside a bland, gray cavern marked by red highlights. The first stage is a roundabout run dodging mancubus fireballs from various ledges with demons serving as rocket spoilers. The second is a tunnel packed full of Hell nobles and one token Cyberdemon. You technically have the BFG at this point but zerging down Barons is still grueling work. The arachnotron / revenant cave, not so bad. The central tower is incredibly awkward, though, since it's packed full of more nobles and has one Cyberdemon on a platform in each corner. The best thing "Jungle" has going for it is the secret Wolfenstein wing, which terminates in an automap drawing of an anime character brandishing a leek. I think it may be based on Walter's avatar at the time MAYhem 2012 was made.

MAP08Hell's Ravines
by "Scypek2"
This time crazy sector machinery is at the forefront. It's an obstacle course with sudden death pitfalls and crushing ceilings and the walls are always falling to reveal just a little bit more. The fissure-fueled circuit ultimately ends in a lonely cluster of buildings in a sea of cinders. The biggest pitfall is the ridiculous arachnotron clusterfuck in the squishing roundabout of Doom where player exposure is at its peak. The Cyberdemon that follows, not so much a concern, especially if you grab the secret plasma gun. The Icon ambush is barely an afterthought.

by Zachary "Ribbiks" Stephens
Having the benefit of hindsight, I can easily see where this style evolved into the laser-focus of Stardate 20X6. "Grudge" is a metal installation, parts of which occur in canals of molten liquid. Most of the architecture is aesthetically plain but the 64 cube structures where the progressively stronger hitscanners lurk look cool and there's a definite hexagon motif. Ribbiks strongarms you with tight ambushes that usually leverage revenants to pressure you. Arch-viles are the stars, though, getting all the fun in the brilliant bridge peg fight; serving as the stinger in the blue key in the void battle; offering an unfriendly hand to reach the super-secret BFG and subsequent Cyberdemon brawl; and, in the most inspired moment, blasting you back from the red key pillar in order to allow you to continue on your quest. Very fun.

by Matt "cannonball" Powell
Big monsters, big prizes. This is an underground tech installation built out of relatively large spaces that facilitate player movement and connected via a network of tunnels branching from a large, central cavern. The sheer amount of flesh is a bit grindy at times with some of the later fights showcasing pure slaughter and plenty of potential for infighting. Portions of it like the revenant closet corridor is throwing rockets down the hallway stuff but the big Baron brawl gives you plenty of room to let infighting take its course. In the finale you can duck back and try out the fatal funnel or indulge in a desperate BFG frenzy. I prefer the latter. My favorite bits of architecture are the tiered hallways comprising the eastern section of the level. The first stay in the cave offers some relaxed chaos for a fun clear.

A Cold Day in HellMAP11
by Matt "cannonball" Powell
Using blue marble and white rock for a sort of Cocytus / frozen inferno aesthetic. Its tighter spaces give the combat an intimate feel when compared to the previous level's slaughters. One of the more memorable moments puts you in between two Cyberdemons on platforms and an alcove full of Barons. Infighting sometimes works out but some of the encounters like the darkened finale in the valley are a little too chaotic for me to just crowdsurf. The dirtiest trap of all consists of some thirty-five revenants wrapped up in an optional brawl for bragging rights. If you creep in with trepidation then you're going to get tricked. Just run right for the pad, though, and you won't even see them. An interesting design decision.

MAP12Thematic Terror
by "Moti" and "Kongming"
A great big fuckoff level featuring in excess of 1,000 monsters and which took me a little more than an hour to finish - not counting reloads. While it flirts with slaughter up until the very end its pacing is more like a traditional level whose scale has been bumped up a bit. Since the playing area is so much larger the difficulty often comes down to player exposure but I rarely felt pressured due to the maneuvering space available. The biggest exceptions are the red key courtyard since it does a decent job of filling in just about every space and the colonnade ambush near the end of the southern wing. The big finish has just enough empty space mixed with monsters to keep the biggest of the bads distracted. It's also the only fight that you can't really run away from. It didn't blow my mind but the bunker reveal in the north wing and elevator descent to the final area were pretty cool. I really liked how some of the level walls transform into Hellish fissures as part of a morphing landscape that reflects an increasingly infernal influence.


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