Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Blind Alley, Nukage (BNDALYO.WAD)

by Gene Bird

Gene Bird was a fairly big contributor to both the original Community Chest as well as CCHEST2. All of his submissions to each were previously released as part of his Blind Alley series, however, much like fellow participant Sphagne. BNDALY is all over the place in the archives because GB had made some if not most of the material during the previous five years and finally started polishing it to a comfortable level in late 2002. He also says that the finished episode would contain somewhere between seven and ten levels. SPOILER: The Blind Alley catalogue spans fifteen entries, more than half of the alphabet. I say that because all of these levels were given a corresponding alpha(-numeric) character. Nukage, for instance, is "O" (judging by the filename) and would have occupied MAP24. Because one can never get enough D_RUNNIN, though, it is a MAP01 replacement.

The series never gets an overarching plot but the included .TXT says something along the lines of monsters taking over the neighborhood with you lighting out on a mission of vengeance. The earliest levels have names like Octagon of Fear and The Pit so I dunno whether or not the player starts out in a literal locale a la Dark Covenant's suburban slaughter. Gene was obviously inspired by Doom II judging from yet other titles. He even references "The Catacombs" when talking about part of Nukage's level design. I dunno if the scenarios were meant to flow together a la Alex Parsons's World's End series. I kinda get the feeling that it's some sort of sewer system accessed via a park or resort. Judging by the swimming pool, at least.

Bird has a very definite encounter design. The rocket launcher, plasma gun, and chaingun all cameo, but the workhorse throughout most of the level will be the super shotgun. This is a very meaty map at a whopping 322 monsters. The majority of them come in mixed packs which is a double-edged sword. Enemies may infight but this makes it less predictable when considering the next thing to come around a corner. Revenants are important as the most consistent threat but you might get squashed by the occasional mancubus, too. My standout encounter is the final, large chamber with the stone fort and red carpet. There are so many zombies to slay that the chaingun finally comes to the forefront. Whether you run wild or doorway camp is up to you.

Gene tries to twist you around on the latter by putting the player in a couple of two-front battles. These both occur in the third, sewer-like leg. It sort of works in the southern, narrow tunnel but the chamber the rear guard starts in has a big pocket to catch most of the wanderers. The other sneak attack is meant for the aforementioned final room but the teleport ambush starts a little too early to really be effective. On the whole, though, I found Nukage's SSG-centric play to be casual yet engaging. Bird gives you plenty of wiggle room to get comfortable with the super shotgun rhythm, dodging through combat while discharging double-shelled punches.

The level isn't much to look at. Gene rounds a lot of corners to keep it from looking boxy but you get architectural fatigue due to geometric repetition. The "settling" dregs that kick off the third leg look pretty cool. I really dig the ruins environment leading up to the finale, too. The starting area tries to ground the setting with some DoomCute stuff like benches, pavilions, and a small stage. The second segment is probably the simplest but I love it for the monsters in the alcoves pushing you back and more than anything else the arrow that is revealed when you use the central platform. It's pretty handy in case you get lost after dropping into combat and can't figure out how to kick things off.

If this is the worst that Bird has to offer then bring it on. Gene has some fun ideas and I could do with a few blast-a-thons like Nukage. It won't tickle a player who's used to "modern" standards but fans of the '95 era and dancing with super shotguns will be at home.


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