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Sunday 25th March 2001

Koohoo: "The Castle of Koohoo"
(Size: 2.2 meg. Alternative downloads: Koohoo, Koohoo)

A spooky, swampy, temple level (plus a start and final arena level), with an ambience that's unlike typical Quake but is still a very appropriate vibe. A sense of desolation is enhanced by gloomy lighting and a strong, moaning wind noise (from Unreal), to provide a genuinely eerie atmosphere. The level sprawls around an outdoor hub, with a cornucopia of collonades, catacombs and courtyards, connected by corridors and walkways (a few teleporters detract from the layout). Oily water is prominent, from small streams to a large maze of half-flooded rooms. The architecture is typically Vondurian, with lots of good, heavy, pillars and buttresses, and subtle angles enhancing all areas. The outdoor section is the most impressive with it's temple frontispieces, and many of the other larger rooms and courtyards have cool, angular, designs too. The colourful, rough stone walls, slimy vines, and arcane aquaeous details, fit the setting. However, the textures are often rather oppressive, which sometimes obscures designs and can make it hard to see in the darker sections.

There is good exploration: a few secrets and some side routes to find items, useful with scarce supplies at first. The level feels exploratory anyway, the variety of areas and complexity can leave the playing thinking "Woah, where the hell am I?", and there's a fair bit of swimming. Gameplay fits the eerie setting - monsters are unusually sparse given the map holds 124 (on Hard), but this is a very effective set-up, it gives a sense of tension and anticipation. Sure enough, there are plentiful surprises, ambushes, and lurking monsters, but nothing too outrageous combat-wise. A wide variety of monsters are used, occasionally in gang attacks. Skill settings are only slightly effective, but the combat situations are fairly amenable if you use cover and scenery well. The challenge escalates appropriately, however the finale, with a slimy Chthon, is uninspiring "dodge/shoot/die if a ball comes near you" business. A bit too blatant compared to the less hardcore but more atmospheric gameplay previously. A level to savour for the dark vibes.

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