My 2 Cent Take on Xeno-Pen
Xeno-Pen - Roy Ford "LaserJock" Coherent Inc.
Doom2 vanilla - Solo - 43715 bytes
.: OverviewThis is a single map for DooM2, but once again the use of WadEd and BSP v1.2 as the editing tools of choice hint that this is an early-era mod. Surprisingly, however, it is well-constructed and with challenging gameplay. And it's not too shabby-looking, to boot. There is a little back-story in the text file, but as expected, "It is your job to infiltrate the "pen" and retake it." To a certain extent, the story has driven the author's design choices, but this is not a bad thing in this case.
.: Decent Map Design & AppearanceThe map is reasonably well laid out, and is mostly done in a base theme. Although this is a very linear map in terms of progression (i.e., there is no backtracking and few side areas to explore), you will loop around and return to an area near your point of origin. There are outdoor areas as well as occasionally cramped corridors, but at no time are you at risk of being overwhelmed. To mix things up the author puts you in traditionally-done base areas, a "library", a computer area, a garden (complete with "reflecting pool"), and underground passageways.
Architecture is somewhat plain, but the texture choices provide for some nice-looking areas. If there are texture misalignments, they are not obvious. The one texture choice I question, and one which has the potential to cause confusion, is the use of the DOORRED texture for the bars to the pens. I naturally assumed that they required the red key to open, but then I saw the red key in one of the pens. Turns out, you don't need the red key for those bars.
.: The Name of the GameplayAs the name of the game suggests, you'll see a lot of enemies in "pens", but if you imagine it'll be like shooting fish in a barrel, think again. The author has strategically placed some enemies in areas that will make you scamper for safety. Some of those in penned areas have nasty teeth, and they're more than happy to use them if you don't get out of the way in time. Mostly, the fights are quite fun, but the chaingunners in the open area near the start were a pain in the tuchus, and the archvile above the garden was a little tedious to dispatch with the weaponry at hand. There are a couple of little traps, which the seasoned Doomer will have no problem surviving. Overall, however, the fights are fun, and lend themselves to encouraging monster infighting.
There are a few strategically-placed powerups that many players will appreciate, and the weaponry is generally adequate to discipline the rowdy masses. There is a goodly amount of ammo, armor, and health, and if you find the secrets you'll be fat and happy. You are given what you need as you progress, and at no time did I find myself scrambling for sustenance, or backtracking to pick up any goodies I may have left behind. The blue armor seemed redundant to me, but you'll need to pick it up in order to score a 100% kill rate.
You will need to collect all three keys to complete the map, but they are easy to find and won't leave you scratching your head. There are a total of 6 secrets in the map, but the secret area near the start has two sectors marked as secret, thereby pointlessly increasing your count. The final secret is a narrow sector at the exit switch, meaning you'll never complete the map with 100% stats.
.: Wrap UpThis map may have been created over a decade ago, but it's competently designed and nicely implemented. It should provide ten to fifteen minutes of a nostalgic romp through the DooM Playground.