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Monday 17th September 2001

Jackboot: "Jackboot Hero"
(Size: 560 k. Alternative downloads: Jackboot)

A medium sized map in Tiddles' notorious industrial style - dank stone walls and more rusty rivetted metal trim than you can shake a Rotfish at. Grilles, vents, and hi-tech light details are used, along with occasional pipes which add more visual flavour. Thus the style is fairly typically industrial, however, good variety in designs keeps it more interesting than average. For example, the start is enclosed in curved walls (with similar curvature cropping up later on), neat beam work is featured in some areas, and a curvey outdoor area breaks up the base style. Nothing really grand here, but each area has some good design that stands out - though more complex and interconnected designs would have been more interesting. The details also could have featured as a more integral part of the design. Build quality and lighting are up to the usual high standards, though more ambient sounds would have enhanced this map.

Although the layout is straightforward, there is some useful exploration in side areas, as well as a single interesting secret. Gameplay is consistent and good, using base monsters in copious numbers to provide satisfying combat. In particular, packs of Rottweilers are used more than normal, which are easy but fun. There's a mixture of straight up shooting, ambushes, and a couple of those notorious Enforcer "bunkers", but nothing too outrageous. Tough monsters are brought in towards the ending, which is well set-up and a good challenge. Supplies of fair and well balanced, but there's no skill settings. A final warning: at one point a "trick" jump is required, which is an interesting aspect of Quake to include in normal single player, but could frustrate some players?? If you're used to tricks then don't read the following: To get past the locked door, you'll need to run along the wiggly path above the lava, and jump off the slope towards the long window - it might take some attempts to get the right bit of the slope.

Sm28: "Structured Chaos"
(Size: 830 k. Alternative downloads: Sm28, Sm28)

A map whose disparate multi-author origins are hardly relevant. Although divided into architecturally distinct areas - an outdoor base/canyon complex, a well connected subterranean area, and a deeper catacomb - these are linked both by a common theme and sensible connectivity. The flavour is a sort of dark, dank, lo-tech industrial style, with green/brown/blue-tinged brick walls, rusty metal details, ominous red lights, and wooden crates. The architecture is diverse but consistently good - the outdoor section with it's towers and walkways is clearly the highlight, and thus well chosen as the finale. Other areas have nice touches and good use of angles, the catacombs demonstrating a good, oppressive atmosphere. It would have been nice to see some of the dramatic touches of the outdoor area used to enhance the lower areas, which are - particularly in the connecting tunnels - sometimes adequate rather than outstanding. Lighting is rather gloomy, but otherwise good, as is the build quality.

The exploration is reserved for the outdoor area, and only amounts to a choice of which order to visit the towers in. There's also 4 secrets, the couple I found were nicely positioned and useful. Gameplay provides a good solid challenge, and seems to tread a fine line of constant difficulty but with enough items and options to keep going. Base enemy early on lead into escalating numbers of tougher monsters. Monsters are sometimes well placed to maximize their strengths, but at other times attack in crude but entertaining hordes - the ending is an effective mixture of both, and has a wide range of combats as a good, satisfying finale. Items are reasonably well supplied (sometimes hidden in shadows), though it's a good idea to fight hard to avoid losing too much health or armour. Unfortunately skill settings are not used so it could be very hard for some players, even if caution is used.

Alk13: "The Looming Madness"
(Size: 3.4 meg. Alternative downloads: Alk13)

A large Egyptian level touted as the darker, gnarlier sequel to Alk07 (review). It certainly shares the Egyptian theme, but with a fully different textures, which haven't translated as well from Daikatana (and other games) as well as one might expect. This gives a cruder and less elegant look than the previous map, though it's still a consistent theme. Architecturally the map avoids recognisable Egyptian / temple designs, and is mostly "an Alk map by numbers". Thus, the designs are solid and angles are well used, but it feels quite arbitrary and is hardly more distinctive than a re-textured Alk11 (review) would be. However, right at the end of the map there are two more impressively designed areas, that also eschew Egyptian designs, but have more dramatic and memorable architecture. It's a pity the more distinctive style of those areas wasn't present earlier in the map. Build quality is fine, but lighting is mostly unsourced, a curious omission.

There isn't much exploration, but there is one very nicely placed, and useful secret. The mostly two tier layout does mean that at some points if you fall off the upper tier, it's a long way to get back up. Gameplay also sticks to the Alk tradition of being tough and continuous, though a good ammo balance should make it enjoyable for most players. Medieval monsters are used, along with some custom monsters, including Scourge of Armagon's ever-so-cute Gremlins. The latter usually just attack in gangs, but are sometimes well placed to show their entertaining characteristics. Combats are a blend of normal fighting and ambushes, which are frequent but initially "light". Later on such surprise attacks, though predictable, feature waves of monsters, which proves a more exciting challenge in the final arena. Weapons are in fair supply, as is ammo, so it's a well balanced map. Skill settings tend to affect weapons rather than monster numbers.

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