I was not expecting much out of this 1995 map I searched out on a whim, but this was a fun ten-minute excursion.
It starts off unremarkable. You're touring a bland-looking, extremely brown-textured city block, playing shotgun peekaboo with zombies and imps through the building fronts.
But as the boat by the harbor and the lighthouse in the distance both suggest, this is less a map about visuals and combat and more one about exploration and, the author's true love, presenting clever, creative ideas. What really makes it is the use of "fake sprites" as NPCs and decoys. While playing, I interpreted it as a simulated battle in progress, but according to the text file, the map is "haunted by the ghosts of dead players, some of whom are still firing their guns." There was another gag later I won't spoil that got me. This was also one of the earliest wads to intentionally use the archvile ghost bug, as one of its major "gimmicks," although the threat level is low enough you have to sort of go along with it. Throughout there are plenty of amusingly janky ClipArt- tier custom textures, including one massively overscaled radiation sign that I laughed at. The custom textures are used to support the gimmicks, which include sector machinery that you can operate, albeit nothing overly sophisticated.
If it were much longer, I'd have started to feel the datedness of most everything but the creativity -- but it's short and sweet, so no big complaints. This would be a good candidate for a modern homage or remake.
Had a lot of fun with this mapset, which is inspired in PWADs of the Olden Tymes. The visuals are pretty ugly, but the intrincate layouts, often probably freehand drawn, compensate for that. Most maps are linear but have branches, loops and optional areas which make them interesting to explore. Only the first maps were a bit weaker in my opinion. My favourite map was probably MAP09 with the huge height differences and some cool vistas of an underground (retro)futuristic city.
Gameplay is mostly easy, with some exceptions like MAP08 but which seldom really reach "Plutonia" difficulty, although hitscanners can drain the often relatively scarce health fastly and there are some surprise traps as well. However, you're often given more than adequate weaponry, like BFGs for some cover-less archviles.
The "vedette" of this mapsets are the secret hunts: while some tripwire lift secrets were a bit too difficult to hear for my taste, I'm very fond above all of the tiny ledges and the shootable switches in unconventional locations. Huge LOL to the cute midis, above all map04 and map11, and "Children" sounded almost like the original (did Robert Miles use my soundfont)? Anyway, that mapset inspired me to look into really old maps and mapsets before the Memento Mori era. Deserves its cacoward (4,5/5).