Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Icon of Sin (2) (ICON2.WAD)

by Ed Cripps

If I had to guess I would say that the Icon of Sin is the most reviled of all the Doom II level "themes" where the them describes the action. Plenty of people try to do interesting things with the "Dead Simple" triggers in addition to the typical motif, and appearances of Wolf3D stuff in Doom usually presents with some bemusement, but I haven't seen a great many words about players really appreciating the perfunctory MAP30 standard. How odd, then, that Ed Cripps of Sin City fame elected to make an IoS map for his second released level! I guess we just weren't as wore out then as we are now. The Icon of Sin (2) is a MAP01 replacement for Boom-compatible ports, released in early 1999.

The (2) may present it as an alternative to the original, I suppose, so there's not much else to say about the story. It's got a more concrete setting than MAP30, occurring in an earthy, lava-filled portion deep in Hell. Some of the Boom details make this come to life, like pools of molten rock where the first major switch is hiding - along with a combat shotgun and a ton of shells - as well as a lazy lava river that moats off the base of the Icon itself and which gently pushes you to a teleporter. This in turn spits you out on top of the magma fountain glimpsed at the beginning of the level. I really dig the cooling lava texture used in the side areas, patches of relatively colder stone where slag bubbles up between them in the cracks.

Ed says the combat is insane on the higher difficulties but after the things I've seen it's pretty easy supposing some stupid flying monster doesn't get in front of you once you get into position on the rocket delivery platform. Your initial monsters are some imps in the opening lake, a couple of skeletons on pillars, and spectres in the tunnels. Well, there's one big surprise, an underground marble arena with a handful of Barons and spectres and a Cyberdemon in the center square who can't really budge. BFG bumping is a little awkward as a result but you can always just hose him down using the plasma gun. You technically don't even need to fight them since the switch that teleports you back to the main area is already open.

MAP30s, from my experience playing them, appear to be a pain to design for unless you're perfectly happy with all of the complications that arise when monsters telefragging is enabled. If you're not careful with your teleport traps you can easily slay the player dead. If you don't spread the monsters out, though, you run the risk of awkward situations like Memento Mori II's MAP30 where an entire wave of enemies set to beam onto the same spot turns into a telefrag pile-up as if they were trying to cram through one single door but started falling over each other. You also have to balance the frustration of the players against the length created by the obstacles they must pass through, especially if they're in the form of sector-switch-puzzles.

Some MAP30s have you make it through the gauntlet only to throw that last gotcha with the potentially frustrating component of timing your rockets, exacerbated by who knows what flying around and taking pot shots at you from the side. Timing isn't a factor in Cripps's ICON2; it's a short, pretty fun level and the readily available weaponry makes for a breezy play. Will you still love it if you hate Icon maps? Probably not, but you won't know unless you try!



  1. Cool review, but I have one question. Who is Kesler?