The following sentences are tortuous and long-winded
Since editing the Armadosia review to include its new /idgames url this morning (following the /newstuff thread it appeared in) and the subsequent bumping of the database file's timestamp which was reflected on snafu, I thought I had better actually write a post!
So let's look at three WADs with this in common: in each, the gameplay is restricted to a square of, in Doom engine terms, relatively small size.
Tiny square maps
The following is a not-very-complete review of Congestion: 1024. 32 maps, the playing area of each of which does not exceed a 1024x1024 square, although scenery and control sectors e.g. for monster teleporters are allowed outside of it. This is another project in which mappers are asked to make maps with some arbitrary predefined restriction, to make it more interesting (see also the 10 Sectors contest, the in-progress "1 monster" megawad, etc.)
There's no denying it's a technical marvel. In such a small map you can go to town on the amount of detail you put in, since you don't have to maintain that level of detail over a more normal-sized map. But, this is as much a curse as it is a blessing, for gameplay-wise the maps are extremely cramped. Also, they tend to be unnaturally hard and by that I mean they contrive difficulty by not having enough ammunition or dropping large monsters on you in tiny rooms. More than one map drops an archvile on the exit that you can't hide from easily, which is no fun when you're down to your last 3 shells and 14% health. Some maps, instead of being inside a 1024x1024 square, are on top of a 1024x1024 plateau, and set up that if you fall over the edge you die, instantly.
Unfortunately some bugs exist in the final version, teleporters that don't go off properly, texture misalignments created by dodgy nodebuilders, the usual. At least they bothered to make a fixed version in which there weren't any maps which p/rboom flat out refused to run.
Some notable maps:
- 2 is very different-looking from your typical Doom map and also tries to make up in height what it loses from being restricted in width. Look for all the grass and rocks and so on. See also: 8.
- 4 takes the height difference thing a stage further - over half the map is a 3d bridge! This is fake floor-over-floor taken to new extremes. See also: 15
- 7 is called "Dead Small" and is, guess what, a Dead Simple clone. It is all in one (relatively speaking) "big", very attractively made, room. Indeed I liked this one so much as to waste an hour making demos for it (I really need to do a demos update soon)
- 11 is the one with the broken teleporters and is unremarkable save for the surrounding building scenery which silently collapses as you progress round the map. I remembered this because it seemed very creepy.
- 32 is the One Everyone Talks About. Whenever a community project is released, one or two maps get all the attention. This is usually because some well-known and respected mapper says "mapXX is really innovative and amazing and you should play this wad just for it blah blah blah" Before you know it sheep effect kicks in and everyone's saying the same damn thing.
Anyway that's not to take anything away from this which is nevertheless rather beautiful. You're on this weird stone structure floating in the middle of an apparently endless black void. Don't fall off the sides. Monsters keep teleporting in; the most striking moment at which this happens is when an army of cacodemons appear miles off in space, and slowly float in...
- 27 sees you stuck on top of a mountain waiting for a load of pillars to take a month of sundays to descend. Naturally monsters teleport in while you wait. It's notable mainly because I like the four spiderdemons on far off mountains that you can kill by finding the slightly-concealed switches (just don't fall off the sides, again)
- 30 finally starts off enclosed but eventually opens up to reveal the baleful glare of an Icon of Sin. After that it makes you wait and survive three long platform descents while monsters appear all around you until you can press the self-destruct.
So in summary, like I said, this wad is very well made and so forth, but I found it annoying to play very much.
Parody of tiny square maps
Okay after that some joker made Congestion: 64. You'll either find this funny or you won't - personally, I thought it was hilarious. Spoiler warning: skip to the next heading if you don't want to know what happens. It might be funnier to see for yourself.
So anyway. Last chance about that spoiler warning! ... Okay then.
You have 32 maps which are literally the size of a teleporter each. The first map is "press the exit switch which is right in front of you". The second is "press the exit switch which is behind you". Then it starts to get really complicated. The switch is behind a (very thin) door, or at the top of a lift, or requires a staircase to be built before it becomes accessible.
Then - horror of horrors - there's a monster in here with you! Later maps do the obvious things. Map15 has two switches, a smaller, less obvious-looking one next to the main one. Map32 requires you to kill Keen.
So it goes on. Lifts, drops, invisible walls, more monsters, and even keys, barrels and teleporters come into play. And finally: a baron and a BFG, then an Icon of Sin and a rocket launcher.
The whole thing takes about two minutes to play through - except for Map14, which is only the second 5-minute door I've seen in a released level, and is quite boring to wait for...
Tiny square maps with crazy colours!
Whether or not the timing of this release was just coincidence with C:1024 is not known, but "The Army of Black & The Forces of White in Room 666" is basically a nastily hard, tech-styled map entirely within a 666x666 square. With one twist - the palette has been reduced to one bit per pixel.
The colours don't help. You pretty much can't see anything of what's going on and I never managed to get far. You're stumbling around this cramped area shooting at a crowd of large monsters with no cover and not much ammo and you can't see shit.
However if you do as I did and delete the PLAYPAL and COLORMAP lumps from the wad, you end up with a small, nasty, 666x666 map that is in all fairness quite entertaining! At least once you've worked out some tactics and that. It can be very frustrating if you don't.
Anyway if you do decide to play this slice of monochromatic mayhem, you'll have to remember it replaces MAP31, not MAP01.