My 2 Cent Take on Escape the Cavern
Cavern - Peter Kasting
DooM2 (Limit Removing) - Solo Play - 91127 bytes
.: OverviewThis is a single-player map that plays on Map01 of DooM2, and requires a limit-removing source port. It is a compact, but intense, level that will keep you on your toes almost continuously.
.: Map DesignThe map is designed to be inside a vast cavern, and is nicely non-linear to the extent that you can see virtually all the places to which you need to get. The trick is to find the least punishing way of doing so. But more on the gameplay later. The main path you need to trod loops around onto itself, and you'll criss-cross the path a few times. By and large, however, the direction you need to take is quite intuitive, and you will not find yourself getting lost. On a couple of occasions you'll need to get paths to rise up out of the lava; I admire the way the author has put all the geometry into a fairly compact (didn't I use that word before?) space, while ensuring that you will not get stuck behind a rising wall or stairs. There are four secrets in all, with two of them being quite easy to find, and a third relatively easy to find with some exploration.
.: Architecture and AtmosphereAs the name of the map suggests, the theme is mainly one of rock and stone (although the author makes a curious choice of creating one path and stairs in grey concrete). The "architecture" of the map comes reasonably close to representing a huge cave with tunnels threading their way through the rock. The cave floor is damaging lava, and is an important element in hedging the player in and restricting maneuverability. The rock walls are mostly bare, but you probably won't notice as you flit from cover to cover as the enemy harries you. The metal interspersed with the rock provides a pleasant contrast, and texture alignment is competent. The final "arena" is meant to represent a hellish temple, with marble texturing and the obligatory MARBFACx textures, and it has a pleasing appearance.
.: GameplayThe map starts nicely, requiring you to leap across the lava and amidst enemies to acquire your shotgun. After that, all Hell breaks loose. [Okay, so I exaggerate. At least some hell breaks loose.] Enemies from around the cavern take aim at your cojones, with the singular aim of putting an end to your lineage. Of course, this presents good opportunities for monster-infighting. The risk of dropping to the damaging lava below as you evade the fireballs makes for some tense moments. There are traps. Oh, yes indeed, there are traps. Nary a step of your progress will be cheaply bought, as successively tougher baddies suddenly reveal themselves. Mostly, it is well done; but eventually I learned that reaching for a key or some goodie would inevitably result in getting my hand slapped down. Still, I didn't mind, as the fights are generally fair.
At the beginning there is just enough ammo with which to manage, so long as you play carefully. Your ammo situation gets better as you make progress, and once you pick up the backpack you'll be well-stocked. However, I felt that there was a serious shortage of rockets, especially as you are pitted against some real heavies. This required a lot of cowering behind walls and waiting for the trembling in my knees to subside, when I could have been charging in, guns-ablaze, as any self-respecting Space Marine ought to do. The weaponry is mostly adequate for the task, but the muzzle of your shotgun and chaingun will seriously overheat while you seek out heavier armaments. Armor is lacking for virtually the entire map, unless you get lucky and find the green armor in a secret area. Additionally, health is doled out in meager quantities, requiring you to play carefully. Or save often.
.: Wrap UpThis map is fun and chaotic, if somewhat difficult, and looks very nice. Seasoned players may be comfortable at HMP or UV skill, but others may want to try a lower skill level to avoid the tedium of constantly taking damage and restarting the map.