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All in all quite a good game that is spoilt by the mazes. I realise that they were all the rage in the early 80s so I forgive the game that, but it has spoilt it for me. Minus the mazes it is excellent. With them it is OK.
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Years before “Doom” was associated with a hell-gate on a Martian moon, it stood for Doomawangara, a remote, dangerous planet that has been the final resting place of adventurers foolish enough to seek out its treasures. Of course, in the Doom trilogy, you play just another fool in that queue, but you have advantages over those previous visitors- namely: game restarts, game saves, and unlimited UNDOs (depending on your interpreter).
The Doom trilogy is not fair by today’s standards. You will not beat the games on the first playthrough (nor the 30th, most likely), and each of the games has at least one puzzle edging on “completely insane”. Still, if you are okay with insta-deaths, mapping (including some mazes), and don’t get too ornery when you have to hit up a walkthrough (luckily, there is one for each game on the IF archive written by Richard Bos), there are enough nice, satisfying moments that I’d still recommend it to people looking for a fun, old-school distraction.
Still, it’d probably be best to give some advice on how to play these games-
1. These games continue the Phoenix tradition of not using “EXAMINE” (or any variation thereof) for looking at objects. Everything you need to know about an object is listed in its room or inventory listing.
2. Map everything, even when it costs you life to do so. The games are very much designed for trial-by-error.
3. “Rods” are supposed to be wands, I guess, and as such, they are meant to be waved.
4. There are several chemistry-related puzzles, so keep that in mind.
5. Read closely. Sometimes your one hint concerning something will be some throwaway bit of text that is printed and never mentioned again.
6. Figuring out the order of doing things is often part of the puzzle.
7. Type “HELP” early on to get an overview of any game-specific notes or commands.
Ok, let’s get to the game itself.
Countdown to Doom
Countdown to Doom has its share of issues working against it. Of the three, it’s the only game with an actual timer (400 moves, I think), adding an extra bit of pressure where there is enough already. The timer doesn’t end up being a huge deal, as one spends most of his or her time figuring out how to solve individual puzzles, and figuring out the most efficient order is a kind of fun last puzzle (and the timer isn’t so strict that I felt like my order-planning was even all that necessary).
There are two mazes, but all mazes in the series have a logic to them so figuring out that logic can be satisfying. Still, they will require mapping.
Speaking of mapping, CtD does the thing where exits to one location are not always the opposite direction to get back. That alone can drive me crazy, and in this case, it is exacerbated by the fact that “can’t go” messages often take up a turn (besides the aforementioned mazes, there are several areas that you only visit for a limited amount of turns, and there is annoying trial-and-error as you discover which exits are even available).
Still, the animal life (which, throughout the series, is often comprised of dinosaur-like species or other well-known tropes) and the variety of locales are interesting and imaginative enough to keep one going. There is also some usage of “action sequences” (my term, not the game’s) that are used to even better effect later in the series.
I feel like I should only give at least three stars to games that I can recommend to any player. As such, I can only give two stars to Countdown to Doom, as I think its difficulties make it largely inaccessible to the modern IF gamer. That said, though, I’d recommend it to people looking for an engaging but challenging distraction.
Notes on this version-
I personally had to cheat at a couple points, and more so than the other games, I found variations in walkthroughs (because of the different releases) on the net, so if anyone would like a hint or nudge, feel free to send me an e-mail at roody.yogurt at gmail .
For anyone who wants to cut down on the mapping (or get an idea on the amount of mapping involved), I’ve uploaded my own map, made in GUEmap 2. You can download the GUEmap version here or as a PDF here. Be warned that the map *is* spoilery, though, and it doesn’t even cover the most devious maze in the game.
(The full write-up of the series can be found at joltcountry.com.)
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