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The /newstuff Chronicles #519

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  • Mayhem Mansion - Extended edition - Darsycho
    Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 36.37 MB - (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: Csonicgo
    In all my years of reviewing /newstuff crap, sometimes I come across something so different that I have no idea what to make of it. Usually, that implies something negative. But this time, I was very surprised - someone had made a TC that is like no other TC for Doom, or any game for that matter - where any sort of seriousness is thrown out the window with a bizarro impostor taking its place. That would be Mayhem Mansion, which I keep wanting to call Maniac Mansion, because it reminds me of Maniac Mansion if it were done in the mid 90s during the height of the "Doom clone" phase.

    Apparently, Mayhem Mansion is based off a very obscure 90s Doom clone named "Exploding Lips". It was released at the time when Quake II was already dominating the market, and UT99 and Quake III were just around the corner. Bad time to release a Doom clone. But "Exploding Lips" was not like other Doom clones. It had floating lips. And walking TVs. If that sounds weird, this is the tame part.

    Enter Mayhem Mansion: Extended Edition.

    Upon first glance, I thought this was going to be a lame jokeWAD. And I can see evidence that one could call it a jokeWAD. But this isn't a joke as much as it is a different reality altogether. A reality of dancing televisions, floating lips, a cat having his birthday, flying toast (complete with cape), an evil toaster that makes said toast, a chibi pinky that runs on its hands, shadow blobs, helicopters with faces on them... and that's not even a third of the monstrosities I saw while playing this. By the way, the cat wasn't a monster, he was just a cool cat.

    So let's go down my "list": plot, graphics, gameplay, levels, major problems, major letdowns, why I liked it, why I hate it, why you should stop letting me do /newstuff reviews, what I ate while playing it, what channel I was watching, which episode of Matlock I like best, wh-fine...

    Is there a plot? How the hell should I know? You're stuck in a mansion and you want to investigate it, unearth a conspiracy, I guess,,and then try to save the planet. Typical 90s game stuff. The plot is the sanest thing here.

    It's everything else that's fucking bonkers.

    Graphics wise, the textures are from a mash of different sources, with a lot of textures from Freedoom. Yes, this actually works! Those Freedoom textures fit in perfectly in that "Doom clone knockoff" kind of way. Aesthetics range from dark tunnels to garish mansions, with spooky "Blood"-like cities... and, of course, the occasional full-on, opium-inspired eye-rape. I can't go far too into that concept without spoiling the game, so I won't. But I can talk about the proportions: they're all over the place. It's intentional. The mansion is haunted, so things are bound to be HWACKY. 3D floors are used sparingly, but when they are used, you won't even notice. Nothing is in this TC just to show off the port. We're past that, aren't we?

    Gameplay is simple Doom action with crazy (weak) weapons, some serious, some hilarious. The enemies are equally crazy, and all of them have a weakness. You'll need to know these weaknesses, apparently, because not only do you need to do that to save precious resources, the bastards will drop an item, usually a coin.

    A coin?

    Yep. You spend those coins in shops scattered throughout the levels. There are many of them in the game, and you never seem to have enough, given that the shops are price gouging the hell out of you. There is no healthy competition in Mayhem Mansion. You gain coins by picking them up, opening up treasure chests, or, as I said before, defeating each enemy a certain, unique way - more on that later.

    Okay, let's just get the negatives out of the way now.

    Weapons. "Oh boy, here we go". Graphically, there's no excuse for any of the primary weapons taking up half of the screen. This is one of the game's main problems, but since the rest of the game is just ever-so-slightly terrible, I have to assume that this was intended. What's not acceptable, again, is the weak feeling some of the weapons have. You start with a basic magic boomerang projectile, which, luckily, never runs out. That's good because you're going to be spamming this. A lot. And while it works well on the first monsters you encounter, it quickly becomes useless. The rate of fire is too low, and there's no way to charge attacks. There is an upgrade to the boomerang, but I don't get the chance to use it before the episode ends, and I have to start the next level with absolutely nothing. What a buncha shit.

    There are some really funny spells you can learn to cast later on, some of which had me literally laughing out loud.

    And perhaps my biggest problem with this game: The weapons feel ineffective to the point of frustration. As I said before, there is a gimmick in which certain monsters are weak to certain weapons, but this isn't really obvious, other than they fall quicker and drop a coin. And you'll need every single fucking coin you can find or create - else you're going to be running out of ammo, fast. This happened quite a lot in my first play-through. In fact, this is my primary problem with this mod - the ammo balance in the levels is beyond terrible, and you can't carry very much with you. Which means that everyone who plays this will be leaving valuable ammo behind that can't be obtained later when they need it, because that would involve backtracking all the way around and through the levels, and hopefully remembering where the ammo locations are that weren't picked up. I hate that. Don't make me do that. Else the game turns into a boomerang flingfest, where I GamePro it: throw boomerangs at a monster until it dies.

    Enemies span the gamut from hilariously useless fodder to "annoying as mo-fuggin-got-dam-shit". Especially the books. Those cheeky fucks swarm you in an instant, and they can teleport, just to make things even worse. The majority of the higher-level enemies are walking doors, in which the best method of dealing with them is to keep your distance and never let go of the fire button... unless you didn't buy any ammo and run out FFFFFFFFGHHGGHBBL

    But here's what saves the entire thing: quests. Mayhem Mansion is full of things to do, things to find, switches to throw, and this never lets up. There is even a key chase, where you have to chase - yes, chase - a sentient running key. I can't make this stuff up. Scattered throughout the mansion (and other levels) are ringing phones, which give you either valuable info, or to indicate a secret nearby. There's a huge portal bit too where things flip upside down... and I just realized, there is so much to this mod that I'm already doubting myself if what I remember actually happened, or was it another mod entirely, I just remember two bedrooms. Was there a kitchen? I distinctly remember breaking into a kitchen and talking to a bunch of aliens... hmm...and something about kings. I don't even remember.

    By the way: skeletons happen. Lots of skeletons. Which, by default, means I cannot hate this mod (by decree of the Skeleton Army) and I must recommend that everyone play this immediately.

    So, in a nutshell:

    Pros: Skeletons
    Cons: Who cares, there are skeletons

    Play this NOW.


    If you're really wanting to play this, let me give you an actual review (that matters). You're going to find the actual "Doom" part of this to be the most frustrating part, to the point of just turning the thing off. It took me an entire minute to fell an Anvil Bat with the default boomerang attack. The weapons, while funny, are frustrating to use, and one even requires you to pick up the ammo it drops - which can be somewhere you can't get to. Magic is scarce, and the weapons that use it are very magic-hungry. The damage the magic weapons do is not apparent in any way on monsters that do not have visible and audible pain states. This feels extremely lazy to me, and I don't know if I'm doing any damage, or if any shots are landing. This is NOT acceptable. On top of all that, the weakness system isn't obvious, and you might, in the heat of the moment, use a magic-heavy attack on a monster that isn't even affected by it. I give high marks to originality, music, mood, aesthetics, and even monster variety and map design, but the main part - satisfying weaponry - well, it's just not there. Taking a minute and a half to kill two small-ish monsters with easily dodgeable attacks gets old really quickly. The game needed some "fodder" to keep it going between major monster encounters, and Maniac Mansion has very little of this.

    If satisfying weapons were to be found later in the maps, why does it take so long to get to them? Making the player suffer with insufficient weaponry is not how to pace a map. The Shotgun in Doom is so good, yet the equivalent in Mayhem Mansion feels so useless. I barely used it on anything but the books, because I found out its weakness was the musket. And it's the only one I remember, aside from the handwalkers being weak to boomerangs.

    The rate of fire is abysmally slow. Some weapons take way too long to use again, even if they are weak weapons. One weak boomerang per two seconds is not good for a starting weapon, especially when the main attack, a knife, barely does anything, and since most monsters are not to be knifed, what's the point?

    Requiring shootable switches deep into the wall to be hit with the utmost precision is very hard with a weak projectile weapon. One shootable switch took me 30 seconds to activate until I hit just the right angle. And even then I need to backtrack to find out what the switch opened - unless a script activated with some text on screen to tell me what had changed, and where.

    So, here are my suggestions for improving this mod:

    For weak weapons, increasing the rate of fire may help. Give a charge-up attack to them. Add some visual feedback for the player to know if he's doing any damage whatsoever. Increase the ammo capacity or just put more ammo in the maps.

    Explain the Armor system better. I kept acquiring armor - what does that do? Does it add to the total or is it like Doom's armor? And why so many armor suits in the first four minutes of play? None of that makes sense to me.

    And now to admit - I cheated. How? Well, I went into the WAD and changed some of the weapon stats. I made the boomerang attack faster, I also increased the damage, and I made sure that visible blood would spawn on each successful hit. I also reduced the rate of fire to the musket/shotgun and fixed that terrible spread. Before, I couldn't use that gun in anything but close quarters. I also increased the speed of the bow. It's a BOW. Slow projectiles and "bow and arrow" don't mix. It's still too large of a projectile, though. I also LOWERED the weapon coordinates to saner levels where I could see. This took maybe 20 minutes, half of that looking at the wiki on which setting did what. After ironing out all that shit, I played the whole thing and I loved it.

    This is a great mod. It just needs a little more polish. Now, I'm off to play the whole thing again to see if I missed anything!

  • Doomed - Marc A. Pullen
    Doom/Doom 2 - N/A - OGG Support - 33.05 MB
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    I knew the name Marc Pullen was ringing a bell, and that's probably because he worked on the soundtracks for Hacx and GothicDM 2. If you've ever touched EDGE in your life, you may know him better for his work on the 2001 TC QDoom, which was his last project until now. But now, like so many other great names from Doom's past that have come out of the woodwork in the last couple of years, he's back. His new release, Doomed, is a set of 15 metal tracks in .ogg format (plus two short title/intermission pieces) that you can either think of as an instrumental album or a music resource. As a soundtrack, it reminds me a bit of Quake 2. In case you want to listen to the tracks outside the game, there's a link in the textfile to a set of higher-quality .wav files on Pullen's SoundCloud profile.

    One reason Doomed works as an album is that, although I assume these tracks were composed digitally, they all feature consistent instrumentation (a couple of different guitars and a drum set), as though they were all created by the same band in a studio. My ear isn't really trained for metal music, but Doomed sounds pretty damn good to me. Like most of the metal that I've found enjoyable, Pullen's tracks feel sort of like they're on a pendulum swinging back and forth between two different moods, which in Doom terms translate roughly as "You're not dead yet but there are more demons hiding in the shadows up ahead" and "Oh shit they're here SHOOT EVERYTHING." Each individual track covers both moods, instead of some being one mood and some being the other, and when you combine that with the repeated instrumentation, the result is that they all sound pretty similar to each other. It has the potential to feel either very consistent or very repetitive, and since those words mean basically the same thing when you get down to it, it's really up to your personal opinion. I don't think it's really a problem; each song stands on its own merits, the album is too short to become monotonous, and players probably won't care in-game. This compilation would be a great resource for a large project where musical consistency is an asset but Jimmy/Stewboy MIDIs just won't work that well. It would probably fit best with a ZDoom-based project with a more modern vibe, especially a megamap where the music changes as you enter each new section or a TC with a large number of maps. But regardless of whether you're looking for music to use as a resource or just to listen to, this is some great stuff.

  • Secretdoom: Disrepair 2 - Cyberdemon531
    Doom 2 - Single Player - ZDoom Compatible - 31.07 MB - (img) (img) (img) (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: Ofisil
    Secretdoom: Disrepair 2 is a 11-level mapset, where, apart from the first two-to-three, most stages are fairly large, although, thankfully, not TOO large. In terms of looks, it is divided between two styles: a very bland, arctic exterior, and lots of Quake II-like high-tech base interior areas full of brown, dark green, and grey; areas that are far better, although they do get boring after five or so levels. It would be nice if things would get more "hellish" as you get further into this wad. As for the action, it's nothing to write home about, at least initially.

    Up until Map05, stages consist of very large areas, with a few enemies sprinkled around, usually placed in such a way that it's a piece of cake to kill them, since they almost never ambush you, not to mention that the ammo is insanely abundant. Even if you speedrun through this, your arsenal will always be up and ready for ANYTHING. Even after Map05 where things get somewhat slaughter map-esque, the gunfights feel more like speedbumps than dangerous encounters. Is Secretdoom: Disrepair 2 bad? No, but, on its own, it's just "good." It becomes far better when coupled with a mod, or at least when experienced in Nightmare.

    PS: The 11th AAAAAAAAAAAA stage which is filled with Serious Sam-like suicide bombers is the worst of the bunch. Literally a map where all you do is shoot groups of these annoying morons.

  • The Tunnels - HellBlade64
    Doom 2 - Deathmatch - ZDoom Compatible - 1.71 MB - (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: walter confalonieri
    So, this is a deathmatch map made for Zandronum and almost any ZDoom-compatible port made by HellBlade64. Layout is just a basic large maze with few details, some middle junction structures (one with a plasma gun, and if you get that you'll become the master of this arena), and dead end rooms with SSG and some boxes of shells or a backpack placed in random fashion. Also the said rooms aren't a spawning point.

    The spawning points are instead put in the crossing section of every tunnel, with an SSG in the middle of it. That is OK if you play with 4 players, but playing with 4 players is... pretty boring.

    But, on the other hand, if you want to raise the player count and put some spice in the gameplay (I added 16 bots after playing with 4), you will be discouraged from the too far weapon spot, leaving you disarmed against your opponents!

    And everything is covered in a dark purple fog, which gives a creepy and cool atmosphere to it.

    Overall, this map was pretty bland and not really fun to play.

    If the player spawns were put at the SSG, and the arena was made smaller a little bit, it could be a much better playing experience; otherwise, this a bland level. Skip to other better deathmatch levels than this one!

  • Mutiny (A Doomworld Community Project) - Various
    Doom 2 - Single Player - Limit Removing - 5.3 MB - (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: Not Jabba
    Mutiny is a 16-map community project spearheaded by 40oz as part of his return to mapping. It's intended as a spiritual successor to the many gritty cyberpunk wads of the '90s, including STRAIN, Hell2Pay, and Hacx -- no-budget fangames from the golden age of video gaming, when the primary aesthetic was over-the-top cheesiness and the dystopian future was favored as a fun backdrop for brainless action heroes rather than a vehicle for political symbolism. Everything about Mutiny is designed with this aesthetic in mind, from the texture set to the gameplay gimmicks, and the result feels distinctly retro. On the other hand, the level of detailing and the finely tuned gameplay could only come out of the 2010s (even though the wad is mostly vanilla-compatible), making this mapset feel like sort of a modern update to the classic concept.

    True to its predecessors, Mutiny's story is so campy it's fun. You're playing as a UAC marine who's been betrayed by the corporation and left to die, so naturally you immediately go on a one-man killing spree, only to discover that the UAC has been conducting terrible experiments. Unlike many of the wads it draws inspiration from, Mutiny doesn't have custom monsters -- but since most of those older wads just used weird-looking reskins of Doom monsters, that's fine with me. The zombies are meant to be loyal UAC marines, probably hopped up on some superdrug, and the demons are meant to be experimental mutants. It works.

    Mutiny is about as close to being a managed project as a community wad can get, and it shows in the quality and consistency of the levels. In addition to laying out a cohesive concept and a resource set in advance, 40oz stipulated that every level would be a collaborative effort -- prospective mappers had to work in pairs, or even in larger groups. This helped to ensure good quality control, and it also kept any given mapper's distinct style from running wild and creating a hodgepodge feel among the different maps. Don't get me wrong; I love the sort of community project where every map is completely unique. Mutiny is a very different animal, though; it's built around a single idea, and the consistency really works in its favor. If you were following this project's development, you may remember that involvement eventually started to wane, and a glance at the mapping credits makes it pretty clear that 40oz went through and wrapped everything up at the end, polishing up not-quite-finished levels and adding a few of his own solo efforts to reach the desired 16 slots.

    Even the soundtrack was tailored by the project management, which is something I'm a big fan of when it comes to community wads. Instead of having every mapping team select their own music, 40oz appointed Alfonzo to pick all the tracks. The resulting soundtrack mostly comes from Jimmy's 30 in 30 compilations (though it has a few other interesting tracks by different composers as well), and it's heavy on songs that sound like they could have come out of '80s and '90s console games or action movie soundtracks, as well as some slower, moodier pieces that fit well in Mutiny's darker, more atmospheric levels.

    The custom texture set is another thing this wad has going for it. As far as I can tell, all of it was created for Mutiny, and it mainly revolves around dark, grungy base textures punctuated by very bright colors. This combination creates a lot of contrast and gives the maps a pretty unique feel. The nearest thing I can think of to compare it to visually is (unsurprisingly) 40oz's UAC Ultra, but whereas that wad was mostly gray, black, orange, and red, Mutiny throws a lot of green and blue into the mix as well. The effect is pretty great -- just see the screenshots. In another nod to the classics, the last few levels take place -- where else? -- in a cyberspace setting characterized by abstract bars of color and a black void surrounding everything.

    The levels are pretty tough, though not extreme. Monster counts are moderate, generally falling between 200 and 300 for the larger levels (with a few exceptions), and the difficulty tends to come from cruel and liberal use of chaingunners, Revenants, and Arch-Viles in a way that often reminded me of Plutonia and its sequels. The whole thing reaches its climax in 40oz's "The Brain" (map 31), which features a Cyberdemon elevator battle followed by an assault against many layers of well-entrenched enemies in the boss chamber, and finally a beautifully choreographed slaughter battle against constantly teleporting Imps, Revenants, Mancubuses, and Arachnotrons in the big, open courtyard. The one thing that really changes dramatically from level to level is the use of space, and in many levels, spatial reasoning is a big part of the challenge. You'll be working your way across huge chasms to reach enemies sniping at you from the other side, trying to escape from ambushes in tight spaces, fighting across height differentials, dealing with big lifts and lowering walls, and strategizing to avoid or traverse large swaths of nukage and lava, all while puzzling out some pretty challenging and complex layouts. It's a wild ride. The cleverly and beautifully constructed architecture, and the huge affect it has on the gameplay, is one of the biggest reasons that many of Mutiny's levels stand out.

    Well, that and the little details. See the multiple effects on map 01 that simulate light hitting water, or the quirky platform height puzzle on map 04, or the way the giant mastermind brain gets destroyed at the end of the final level. A lot of care has gone into every aspect of Mutiny, and those little extra touches are the icing on the cake. Don't miss it -- it's one of the best mapsets of the year.

  • Black: The Return of The Masters - Timothy Simpson
    Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 4.51 MB - (img) (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: gaspe
    Black: The Return of The Masters is wad for ZDoom with six levels. I don't really know how this took three weeks to be done (according to the text file), but I guess that most of the time was spent grabbing the custom monsters from Realm667 and writing the very long story which I didn't read. I wanted to see the first level before reading that massive wall of text, and it seems that it isn't worth it. The mapping probably took only one day.

    So, we start with 999% health against monsters that take too many shots to be killed (or the custom weapons are just shit), HQ decorations that look ridiculous even in a extremely detailed GZDoom level by Tormentor667, and music playing Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin. The first level is so terrible that I wished that everything was like that so at least I could laugh a bit, but the rest is generic bad stuff: combat is always frontal, and the layouts have only rooms or cramped corridors. This wad sucks.

The /newstuff Chronicles is a usually-weekly roundup of new items uploaded to the /idgames archive, and it is written entirely by community members like you. If you wish to contribute, the /newstuff Review Center is the place to do so. Register on the Doomworld Forums first if you don't already have an account, because you need one to submit reviews. Special thanks goes to the nearly 300 users who have submitted reviews over the past several years.

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Thanks Not Jabba for the generous review! Everyone worked really hard on their maps and it really shows. It also just occurred to me how small the file size is. There are a TON of new textures in that wad, mostly made from many small patches that are reused on other textures. All the maps and graphics and content zip up into a small 5.3MB package. Not that it matters today but that's a lot of wad in a small space :>

Anyone interested should also check out the Mutiny Mission Pack when its done. It will be an additional wad to run with Mutiny that fills in the remaining mapslots completing a 32-level megawad.

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40oz said:

Anyone interested should also check out the Mutiny Mission Pack when its done. It will be an additional wad to run with Mutiny that fills in the remaining mapslots completing a 32-level megawad.

Cool! Looking forward to this! :)

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gaspe said:

  • Black: The Return of The Masters - Timothy Simpson
    Doom 2 - Single Player - GZDoom - 4.51 MB - (img) (img) (img)
    Reviewed by: gaspe
    Black: The Return of The Masters is wad for ZDoom with six levels. I don't really know how this took three weeks to be done (according to the text file), but I guess that most of the time was spent grabbing the custom monsters from Realm667 and writing the very long story which I didn't read. I wanted to see the first level before reading that massive wall of text, and it seems that it isn't worth it. The mapping probably took only one day.

  • Units like weeks or even days are very unreliable metrics of how much effort was put into a map. I've mentioned this before.

    Here are a few ways of spending 20 hours on a map:

    - Roughly six-and-a-half hours a day for three days;
    - Two hours a day for ten days;
    - Two hours a day for a few days, with a break of a week, then another ten hours one weekend, with a break of a few weeks due to school, followed by four hours of finishing touches. Total time elapsed from start to finish: a month and a half.

    It would not make a lot of sense to look at the lattermost (build time: a month and a half) and say, "Ahh, this guy put WORK into his map!" while dismissing the former (build time: three days) as a mere speedmap, but I have a feeling that a lot of people do precisely this.

    There aren't many single maps released on a regular basis that a capable and efficient mapper wouldn't be able make in a number of hours that could be compressed into roughly a week, or even less, if he or she had the time and energy reserves to work on a full-time basis. Most one-person megawads can surely be compressed into less than a year and a half of dedicated work, even accounting for revisions and such. The only reason they are not is that most people aren't mapping machines who can dedicate much of their productive time to map design. So I would be wary of reading too much into interval-based build times, particularly because there is a lot of variation in the number of breaks people can take, and the average time spent per productive day (even two hours a day vs. four makes a huge difference, keeping the time to "realistic" amounts).

    I haven't played the mapset you are reviewing, but the answer to your first (implied) question is probably something like "the set was started and finished within a three-week interval but the average time spent on it per day probably wasn't particularly high." :)

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    Yes, okay, I know what you are saying and I agree with your point but maybe the next time check the context and if it's worth before writing a wall of text over a troll wad.

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