Sunday, March 28, 2021

Toilet Break (TOLBREAK.WAD)

by "Memfis"

2013-2014 was Memfis's most productive period as an author, at least in terms of the sheer number of releases. The true depth and breadth is obscured by how he held most of his available works off the archives until mid-2014, but both years feature something like twice the number of publications seen from 2011-2012. Toilet Break was made available on the Doomworld forums in May of 2013 and is a MAP01 replacement for Boom-compatible ports. It isn't always obvious to me whether his levels are actually -complevel 9 or just limit-removing and tested in PrBoom+ but there are a few clear instances of transparency to be seen.

TOLBREAK is "A wad to play while sitting on the toilet." Furthermore, the WAD actually begins with the player perched on the privy. It's a little outhouse found in the outer yard of a UAC outpost. It looks like the pit has seen some heavy use, too, judging by the claw marks found on the back wall. Or maybe you left them in there during your most recent session! Perhaps you were so swept up in the movement that you failed to hear the sound of the demons invading. It's also possible that you arrived to clear out the facility but in dire need of doing a different sort of business before you could begin. Then again, an outhouse seems pretty out of place at a snazzy starbase - what are the chances that it's some sort of dimension-time-space transport, garden and all?

Whatever the reason, Toilet Break takes place at a big brick base on the shore of a lake of nukage. There are some superficial thematic similarities with this and Love You With Poison but TOLBREAK has a different sensibility about its combat stylings. Neither level bothered to use the full spread of difficulty settings but this one is more understanding of less-proficient players. It does however have the author's unforgiving resource balance. You won't be hurting for ammo, at least; health is the primary scarcity. This when combined with a few wide-open spaces with hitscanner snipers (shotgun guys) makes attrition the main threat of the map. Chaingunners appear sporadically but they are used less to annoy and more as close quarters monsters.

A few bigger baddies have been strategically placed in order to ruin your day in your likely weakened state. Neither the arch-vile nor pain elemental appear but there are a few lurking mancubi - one of them secret - as well as a handful of disparate skeletons. One of the revenant ambushes is a pop-up and made for quite the surprise. Between that, the naturalistic scenery, the green stuff, and world-building asides, I wonder if Memfis was channeling a little bit of Speed of Doom here - darkwave0000 in particular. I also get a sort of Kama Sutra E1 vibe from it, too. The combat isn't quite so crazy, of course, but you will have to weather at least one big if easy to choke teleport ambush as the price for the combat shotgun.

Toilet Break is also fun to play because of its adventure-style leanings. There's a brilliant bit of misdirection early on where it looks like you have to contend with a non-linear layout. You can enter just far enough into what is ultimately the return path in order to get you jazzed to explore. The main route leads you to the outdoor area on the other side of the installation from where you can see the path to the towers which serve as the exit. I mentioned world-building and Memfis experiments with it quite a bit here as you can peer into window-only sections that serve in-universe as storage areas. One is thoughtfully interconnected with the playing area by way of a mancubus. Another makes up a secret side area and comes with a little bonus fight. I like the bit where the player is encouraged / forced to do a bit of mountain goating in order to drop into a previously closed-off ruin section.

The level also has a smattering of tiny, DoomCute details to build upon the world-building. The outhouse has a flimsy, wavy curtain separating it from the storage shed plus some bog tissue. Memfis is unusually scatological here with the recolored gib sprite looking like nukage-drenched human waste. The hole in the wall to the south points toward a fairly recent time of invasion given that there is a still-burning ember laying in the rubble. The work of the nearby rocket launcher, perhaps? Also take note of the cute street benches on the western promenade and arched window textures that give off an ever-so-slight city vibe.

TOLBREAK teases at something bigger in most of its presentation, up to and including an apparently unused level name for MAP02 - "Street Life". Memfis worked to avoid the player feeling too challenged by the layout or combat and drew on the excitement and expectation of exploration to keep him or her moving forward. It may not have the same sort of memorable or unifying gimmick as seen in the previous Love You With Poison - sector toilet start aside - but it's solidly built and well worth a play.



  1. Really really adore your content. Seeing a new review really makes my day! :)