Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Maze - BIG IS BEAUTIFUL (MAZE.WAD)

MAZE
BIG IS BEAUTIFUL
by "Spooky" John Bye


This is the second level that Bye authored and it's sort of a disappointment after having seen the conceptual promise of CyberDoom. I'm almost prefer to play his highly orthogonal lighting experiments. The title is Maze and while this accurately describes its main setpiece it fails to fully encapsulate the more banal aspects of its level design. The subtitle, BIG IS BEAUTIFUL, can be true especially when we're talking about the macrotecture that typifies high skill ceiling mapsets. Not for MAZE, though. This was originally made back in 1995 and is an E1M1 replacement for the original Doom.


The level has no accompanying plot but it's a little too weird / abstract to serve as a more relatable setting. You can divide it into roughly two sections. The first is incredibly straightforward and consists of a giant circular chamber; a small nexus of hallways to its north; and a long, twisting tunnel that connects to the main event. It has barely any monsters in it, all of them shotgun guys if you don't count the secret, but I could see an exceptionally sloppy and slow player suffering. The combat is pretty boring but it might be suspenseful during an initial run. Bye never really explores the tension, though, and sticks with incidental combat against Doom's trash monsters.


The technical showcase is the maze itself. To Bye's credit it's actually an interesting feat of engineering. It has two layers, a lower one that you initially step into and an upper tier on top of the granite walls. This isn't new in and of itself but the author's execution is why it's notable. I was wondering why Bye built it so strangely. Apparently the entire thing was supposed to be open-air but he was getting too many visual bugs so he created the "roof" to the lower maze. You may not even find your way toward the upper half during your playthrough. I somehow discovered the exit switch first, not that I expected to leave the level so soon knowing how much of it was left to explore.


I was surprised when I discovered the staircase to the second tier. The weird roof appeared to be a case of Bye trying to apply his limited capability in an attempt to re-engineer it after encountering some design difficulty. The weirdness is because the "maze" roof that forms the walls of the lower level is functionally a great big door. There isn't much point to activating it except to reach 100% kills, though. You need the blue key to do it, the trigger isn't obvious, and when the door re-closes it will shut for good. Supposing you're not standing in the room with the linedef when it happens, anyway. The combat is even more underwhelming here because the monsters are almost all imps with a few demons and you have entirely too many shells.


Maze is big and ugly but I love seeing the weird stuff that happens when an author's vision exceeds his or her grasp. This level is mostly recommended for folks who share the same sentiment. You won't be missing much if you avoid it.



BOOTIFUL

2 comments:

  1. Hey, I just wanted to say that I've been a reader for awhile now and that this is my go-to site when I'm looking for new Doom maps to play. What you're doing is not just helpful for the fanbase but is also, frankly, really valuable archival work. Great stuff.

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