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Saturday 28th November 1998:

Morbid_2: "Morbidity II"
(Size: 800k. Alternative downloads: Morbid_2 / Morbid_2)

Wow, this is some level!!! After the rather frustrating and unpleasant Morbid_1, this is an unbelievable improvement - apart from the indomitable Casspq1 (which will take some beating), this is definitely the best level I've reviewed here - why??? Well, it suceeds in all the required areas for a custom level (see the Criteria section on the Style page for more details), and in particular excels in the unique theme and superbly satisfying challenge it provides. The author has created this unique theme by taking the standard "metal" style, fading the colours of the stonework to give a sandy effect, added some great textures and very impressive structures to create a hugely atmospheric arcane temple style (the level actually starts with a fully appropriate base area). Architecture matches the theme well, it's generally excellent, with a huge amount of variety and well constructed rooms, that together with the clever lighting, give a real sense of foreboding.

Gameplay and challenge is the other main quality of this map, and the challenge is one of the best thought out and fun I have faced - all your Quaking skillz will be tested: fighting, aggression, reactions, tactics, observation and even thinking - this level requires it all. And the best thing about this challenge is that the author has made it reasonable and fun - there are never any really frustrating sections (even the lone trap is avoidable and marked), there is always enough ammo and armour, and just as important, room to manouvre (almost always), and the minor puzzles are logical rather than confusing. And if all this wasn't enough, the gameplay is even balanced - it starts easy and increases, via numerous mini-climaxes, to a testing and precarious finale - it's a testament to the gameplay in this level that I was saving often, convinced I was going to die soon, yet never did and just kept on going. Add to this cool and useful secrets and some great use of moving scenery, the end result is undeniabley *high* quality.

Still, there are a few minor flaws (there is NO perfect level!!!) - some of the fighting situations could get overwhelming if you don't use the secrets with care and keep your cool (which could put people off), all the manouvring and lava is a bit worrying, and the pit at the end doesn't fit with the rest of the level - some lava there would have been better. These are a minor flaws, though - overall this level is fantastic - it's straight in to the top of the "Metal Maps" section on the List page, and I recommend you download it right now.

Haunt: "Haunted Revenge"
(Size: 500k. Alternative downloads: Haunt / Haunt)

A large and impressive level, both in layout but more prominently in room scale, that is very reminiscent of earlier Mexx levels (which is a good thing) - there is even a cheesey story to go with the level, but it doesn't really compare to the Bishop saga. Basically, it's a big, tough medieval level that has plenty of variety and keeps the challenge going from start to finish. The theme is adhered to well, and there is a pleasing contrast between the cleaner styles on the surface and the darker, grimmer styles in the bowels of the level. Architecture is good, though it could do with a little more detail in some areas there are still some impressive sections, most noticabley the outside areas and caverns (I love the huge shaft in the first cavern!). However you pay a price for the cool outdoor bits - the main outdoor area is rather slow - not unplayabley so, and not bad given it's size, but a bit choppy.

Gameplay has a similar Mexx quality - it starts challenging, and keeps up the pace right to the end - and the end is satisfying because areas you have passed through fill up with "returning" monsters for your killing pleasure =). You do get plenty of shells and room to manouvre, which increases playability - but I wasn't impressed by the Shambler near the start - I thought that was a bit OTT given the lowly weapons and lack of cover. There are a couple of other potentially irriatating flaws - there are quite a few areas that you can fall into and not escape - in fact one I jumped into deliberately because there were a couple of Shamblers that needed a good Quadding, and then I had to "noclip" out, and there is one annoying section where you have to repeatedly jump up large steps above lava - this added nothing at all to the level. However, these flaws can be avoided with caution and saving, so this level is definitely recommended.

Junk: "Junk"
(Size: 900k. Alternative downloads: Junk / Junk)

Junk - rather an appropriate name. Not because this level is a pile of junk - it's actually rather good - but becuase this level has a certain haphazard, cluttered feel to it, enhanced by the large numbers of pipes in certain areas, and in particular the unusual textures for a base map - instead of the usual beiges and off-whites, blues, browns and industrial metal textures predominate. The overall effect is not displeasing, it gives the impression of the place Grunts and Enforcers go to holiday to when they get bored of the cleaner base styles and fancy something more grimy. Unsurprisingly architecture is very varied, though the theme is kept consistent. There are no really spectacular rooms, but there is plenty of detail (both functional and purely visual detail) and some cool industrial structures that are quite impressive.

Gameplay is good, in a typical base style, with some fun surprises - there are also some neat touches on the way, such as the room with the giant pendulum thingy. However, the gameplay starts a bit tricky, and as is common in custom levels, doesn't really build to an appropriate climax, though for the most part it is balanced and fun. The only other flaw relates to the aforementioned "junk" style - while most individual rooms have some vague purpose, the level as a whole doesn't really go anywhere - more coherency and even a minor plot would have helped - and the end, which could have been very cool from it's basic idea was a bit dissappointing. Nevertheless, this level is worthwhile overall.

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