dobu gabu maru
MAP21: Death Egg delivers probably the most striking map of the set, even ousting Phendrena in the looks department. Here we have a nice suburban town that leads into a large realistic city scape, and honestly, it all looks great. The huge amount of custom textures really do a lot to make this 50s town pop with gas stations, parks, diners, police offices and gay bars all represented here. If he put these together himself, my hat is off to him since it must’ve taken quite a while.
This map, however, is the epitome of looks over gameplay. While the large streets and spacious houses are fun to explore, the gameplay is extremely straightforward and easily taken care of. Unexpectedly, what made this map more difficult than it should’ve been was the translucent fireballs against a white background, making them nearly invisible unless you notice the subtle red blob just inches from your face. This is like the inverse scenario of spectres in a dark room as you struggle to see the incoming missiles in your direction, often leading to many sudden deaths by a revenant's sneaky rocket nearby. Besides that it's a large map with slaughter-like elements without the actual number to make the map a challenge. Sure, there’s a big finale, but I’d call it more of a circle-strafing endurance run than a challenge.
The archvile fight in the archives was the highlight for me personally, as I really enjoyed their disappearing act. I thought it was going to be vicious as I had no idea where they were coming from but it was tastefully done with only 3 of them, allowing the player to dart around the archives if they needed cover. Besides that however, all the map has going for it is the setting. It’s undoubtedly worth a look in my opinion, but feels somewhat alien to me on the whole.
MAP06: Aw I see Demon took took care of the Streets of Rage trivia :/ Only thing I’ll add is that I think Alien Power is an unexpected choice… personally I would’ve chosen Expander, but I love Expander with everything (sans the imagery of four Jets divekicking you into oblivion).
Vehelits is somewhat bizarre compared to its kin; it’s still a very good map, mind you, but it has an off-kilter pace. The map is a lumbering goliath in size that has multiple paths through it which all must be encountered at some point or another, often from different angles. The start is noticeably frantic since you’re swamped with enemies and their yellow guardian holding only a shotgun to defend yourself, and attempting to nab the other weapons only releases more hellspawn upon your unsuspecting ass. Some of the funnest moments are here as you attempt to get a good grounding and figure out where to go, deliberating between which wave of baddies would kill you the least. I became mostly numb to my deaths now that we’ve entered full-force ball-buster territory, only ever getting agitated when I retry a fight multiple times and make no headway. There’s a couple moments of that in this map, giving me reminiscent feelings of frustration from the blue key in MAP05, where I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do to make any headway.
The plasma gun room was one of those instances initially, as the wave of revenants, pain elementals, and mancubi put me between a cyberdemon and a hard place, almost immediately zapping my health each attempt. Luckily I realized that the pain elementals can be fought beforehand and that took a chunk of the danger out as the cyb happily released a flurry of rockets towards his overweight neighbors. The sudden death room with the archviles was an instance that did not resolve itself however. Out of the whole map, I owe most of my deaths here, around 20-30 as I had no clue how to fight them. I was locked in and hadn’t obtained the rocket launcher yet so there was no way I could suppress or do splash damage, instead having to rely on the slow burn of the plasma gun. I liked this room in theory but five AVs from all angles of the room was just too much to deal with time and time again. I finally handled it only after having all of them fortunately bunch up and follow me around the room, picking them off as I held my back to the entrance. I’m interested in knowing the “proper way” to handle that room as it seems more luck driven than winning 10 games of roulette in a row. Perhaps not being able to spin around swiftly due to the lack of a mouse was a big factor here, I'm not sure.
The red key fight was relentless but I never felt like I wasn’t making progress—after many failed attempts I started to deduce that the best method was to actually circle strafe around the arena, since staying in one corner led to a swift death. It may seem obvious but for many of the fights in this episode, as long as infighting is started, you can remain relatively still and only need to strafe out of the way of incoming bullets, so it was kind of fresh to see this tactic that previously had sparse utilization by Stardate to be so effective. Afterwards I had an “oops” moment as I realized hitting the switches would warp in some tanky cybers, so I just picked up the red key and ran out of there (well, after camping by the doorway for those damn AVs).
Both the blue key and finale were a lot of fun too albeit a lot less stressful than the red key battle. I liked the dynamic of having revs on one side and cacos on the other for the blue key arena, stopping the revs from trailing you due to the bottomless purple highlights in the floor but allowing cacos to be the inconvenient roadblocks this time around. The final arena makes use of a damaging floor (one of the best things to throw in an arena) with a surplus of health to ensure survival which was tastefully balanced—I only ran out of every pickup after the last revenant had fallen. Both of these were tough but not overtly so, really striking the right amount of difficulty for me.
Besides those major scuffles, the rest of the encounters (and there are a lot of them) play out well barring a handful of awkward missteps—from the RL room there’s a stairway that leads into a revenant ambush, where the only smart thing to do is beckpedal and just shoot them from the stairs which isn’t really threatening in any way. Additionally there’s a dual AV trap when heading to pick up the red key where the player (if approaching from the quintuple AV fight direction) has to back up into the previous room, where they engage the AVs on some stairs, clumsily sliding up and down them to avoid line of sight. Hell, even the stairs in the red key arena don’t feel the best to fight on since they tend to preserve your forward moment at detrimental moments. The other maps didn’t quite have these particular struggles from my recollection, and the removal of a couple of these minor fights would help induce a better flow IMO. I didn’t mind the platforming unlike Veinen, although I can imagine it being a nightmare during a UV max.
Visually, it’s more of a hodgepodge than MAP05 was, which I’m thankful that it had prepared me for. I’d argue that Vehelits is an amalgam of various small battles patchworked together but the way it intertwines and wraps around in a “circuit” as Demon puts it seems to suggest that the designation of each area was intentional. There are some spots that look mighty impressive, like the gorgeous flowing red key arena or unnervingly cold look of the deathly AV nest. I think the other maps do a better job with the overall theme personally, although this does have its moments. Funny enough, my highlight is the start actually being a continuation of the tower from MAP05’s ending, which is a little touch I greatly enjoy.
Overall a really fun, massive gauntlet of smaller scuffles with eccentric pacing. I’m interested in seeing how the final challenge will top this.