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Sunday 13th December 1998:

ABW: "All Black Within"
(Size: 900k. No Alternative downloads.)

This is an intricate but fairly small proportioned metal map - the layout twists and winds back and forth, while the actual size of the rooms is usually on the smaller side for a metal map - not too small though -, it rarely feels cramped, and there are a few large rooms and a cool outside bit (gotta love outside bits). However, there is one very distinctive feature about this map, and that is the amount of detailing the map author has crammed in - the map is absolutely full of detailing - ribs, columns, light fittings, grilles, texture variations, and all sorts of decorative additions. This gives a lot of interest to the map's architecture, along with the varied texturing - while in some places there are perhaps a couple too many textures, in others there are some attractive and rarely used textures, such as the pale copper colour in the second screenshot, and the dark green runic textures in the outdoor area. At any rate, a lot of the detail certainly catches the eye, and makes you appreciate how much attention the author has paid. But there are a couple of negative results to this - firstly, as well as catching your eye, the detail can often catch your player - a lot of it sticks out somewhat, and can prove awkward and cumbersome in places if you are not careful. This could have been alievated if the author had made more of the details and trims flush with the walls, rather than jutting out as almost all do. Secondly, it can be all a bit too much in places, occasionally there seems to be a surfeit of detail in areas that would be just fine relying on the design alone.

Gameplay is challenging, and admittedly plenty of challenge does arise from the scenery, it can be a bit too easy to get stuck and then trapped by monsters, and when combined with the relative sparcity of health, this can lead to a bit of a struggle. However, with care, the gameplay is fine and fun, and barely relents as you trek back and forth through the map - there is a constant stream of Ogres and Knights that need a good slapping. The map makes good use of it's design and spaces in this way - there is a certain amount of backtracking sans monsters, but in general there are no underused rooms, and plenty of action. The ending is pretty satisfying too, although you are well tooled up, and it's not much of a challenge, it's fun and the final monsters are used well. Well worth checking out to hone your skillz.

TDA: "The Doctors Abode"
(Size: 450k. Alternative downloads: TDA / TDA)

Aaahhh yes, Mr Jones, do come in, Doctor Enforcer is ready to see you now..... Hehe. Well, it's an unsual name for a map, and in general this map doesn't really adhere to any strong medical theme, apart from one rather amusing area that contains the gold key. This is a standard base map, with a few unusual touches, most noticably the use of lava, and in particular the use of the lava balls which are triggered to fly off to great heights, which gives a rather surreal feel. There are some nice architectural touches too, such as the rafter designs shown, the cool truncated circle doors, and a nice ledgey outdoor bit (not too keen on the square walls there though). It's always cool to see original touches like this, however, there are some dodgy architectural aspects: the corridors between areas are rather plain, some areas lack the attractive details (compare screenshots above), and most corridors are noticabley dark, even pitch black in places, which could be atmospheric, but I found it a little irritating with Grunts shooting from where you can't see them. Overall the map does have enough original ideas to keep your interest though, though it would have been better if all the map had been to the standard of the more detailed areas.

Gameplay is as you might expect, in the decent and fun base style, mowing down plenty of Grunts with your double shotty. However, there is one big flaw, not to do with fighting, but under the gameplay criteria, and that is getting out of the first room, it requires you to shoot a switch which, while in clear and open view, has no real indication it is a switch (though it does actually appear as a proper switch after you activate it). Although this is not a serious problem (just hit everything is sight with the axe!), it's a bit careless and could prove frustrating. Once you are past this little obstacle, it's all fun, and the quantities of enemy and sparcity of health give it a nice challenge for a base map. There is also a useful Quad that is placed in a funky position requiring a thoughtful jump to reach, though unfortunately there are no other secrets. As is often the case, the gameplay could have been more climactic at the end, and the aforementioned "doctor" themed area had an obvious and cool idea that wasn't implemented. But overall, it's a fine, fun map.

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