Friday, August 23, 2019

Spear of Destiny: Castle

The castle, the part where we return to the castles we spent six episodes trying to get out of. As a certain cartoon mascot would say, "What could possibly go wrong?"

Straight out of the elevator, two faces of Hitler. That one gave me a right old laugh. It looks like this level is a maze, straight from the start. There's only one route to my right, so I take it. An SS dies and no shouting can be heard. Oh, this is going to be one of those levels, isn't it? Yep, lots of little guys in cubby holes. They're not put in there cleverly, its not like I don't know they're probably there. Way to drop the ball, iD. Just a while of this, with the odd searching for the level's twenty secrets. I discover an interesting secret about a third through the maze, a room with columns followed by a long hallway with two officers and no way out. Very curious.
The next area is a five door room leading to three areas. The south area leads to a room with a few enemies and some locked doors. Of course, enemies behind the locked doors open them, and with their elimination I do a quick scouting. Trucks huh? That must've cost a lot of time and effort. I return to the other areas before continuing on. The north mostly contains a medikit and the east a series of blue hallways that also contain a key. I continue on, through a couple of enemy filled rooms before finally coming across the exit, and a gatling gun in a room that I can't get to. Interesting, was the enemy alert behind the door an intentional tactic on iD's part, or am I just misjudging things. No matter, I decide to not spend anymore time on this level. The exit contains a surprise, a mutant. An indicator of what's to come no doubt.
"Barreling through the castle" is the level title. Boy, Romero sure loves his barrel puns, because there's no doubt this is Romero. A nice and gentle Romero level, a secret in the little opening alcove reveals three boxes of ammo and a chaingun. The area outlying this sorely needs the firepower, as a nice smattering of enemies surround the two doors out of the alcove.
The gimmick of the level soon reveals itself. After a choice between two doors (one of which only held a secret) the second reveals barrels herding me through several killing zones full of enemies. The few I can see the end of don't appear to have any entrances. A secret not too long after finally breaks the score counter. I have 1,000,000 points. We finally get some regular undead hanging around. Back to fearing the silent killer. A few more close calls and I reach as far as I can go in this direction without a key. Back to check the other doors...and walls. So many walls so little time.
A little side door I almost miss contains a few dogs and an undead who thinks he's being sneaky. More dog food on the ground, so far the only unsecret health items. Thanks, Romero. Another door I almost miss as an officer so eager to kill me he screams before I even open the door. At least the dog has the courtesy to wait until you're dead first. Lots of guys trying to be sneaky on this one. The room past them just opens up with a bunch of officers eager to gun you down. Almost bought it. At least there's a key in this room.
It opens up the door very near to its location, featuring more patrolling officers in a wide open area. Very effective trap location. There's a further alcove inside this area with a SS and an undead. Not so effective. Unfortunately at this point I have to start the level over again, because while secret hunting I accidentally lock-off the secret level. You know, I could be playing Shadowcaster right now. This is real fun, I'm not ticked off I died three times to the same undead or anything!
When I reach past the point I had to restart on, (thanks for making it impossible to get 100% secrets* too guys!) I'm nearly out of ammo and ol' BJ looks like he's been missing his peas, if you know what I mean. The northernmost locked door, near the start becomes a bit nail-biting now. Is there going to be a horde of enemies? Are there going to be a few, that now, are quite challenging? Why am I dragging this out? Its the later. Another dude in the elevator. It was clever once, guys, now I always prepare for it. Still having five secrets left to get and a health percentage that's currently single, I guess its time to hump the wall again. A hidden prison brings me up to a much more reasonable 58%. That leaves four locked doors on the southeastern side. Which had the undead I died three times on.
Its just more undead, but at least there's some non-secret health items. Joy! Onto the secret level.
At this point, I want to say I've taken two breaks during the writing of this section. Several days. I just want this game to be done with at this point. A sign of quality design, I might add. The level's name is Pushwall Panic! which makes me briefly ponder the meaning of life, the universe and everything. There was the Aardwolf maze in 3D, but this one you're supposed to just waltz through if you find it. To quote George Lucas: "I may have went to far in some places." Well, Tom Hall, and I'm just assuming its Tom Hall, you went too far.
The way the level works is that there are a number of pushwalls in a corridor, 0-3. These pushwalls usually lead to other corridors, but sometimes there are rooms at the end of them. Sometimes treasure, sometimes a horde of undead. I'm not feeling it.
One interesting level design choice is a series of four-way rooms, each with four doors. Some of these doors are locked for no reason. There are enemies in these rooms. Its interesting. Not good, not bad, but interesting. At the end of this maze, there's a long spiral corridor full of officers guarding the key. Its very weird, but its too late to start questioning key locations in this game. There is a completely locked room, but it contains nothing.
It takes me all the way back to the start, but I finally find somewhere I haven't already explored. Something no doubt full of undead. I'm not wrong. Not completely, there are a lot of undead, but a lot of SS and guards too. Far more than my measly supply of ammo can defeat. Down to the knife. This is going to end badly. Surprisingly, there's another key hidden in a subtle hidden area after my rather successful knife fight.
The last room has a real oh, crap moment. You think you've gotten all the undead, but then you find a couple more, shoot them, and then realize there could be many more here. That realization is cut short a few moments later when you realize they're all ambush undead.
"Castle Hastle", huh? I also blame Romero for this. Sure, he could've just given the title, but he isn't known for making suggestions on other people's levels. Starts off making you wonder where the enemies are. A slightly sneaky undead becomes my victim. Okay, is there anyone else, or am I going to be ambushed? Both, the tell-tale sign of a door opening reveals that the hordes of the undead are on the prowl. Better run away down the hall, where I am greeted by a barrel maze. Joy. Another mutant, blamo. I just about escape this barrel maze before an undead who I presume was following me, guns me down as I chase after a different one at the maze's exit.
I go the other way this time. A different mutant becomes my prey. No doors opening this time. Interesting. I go back to get rid of that other mutant, he's alert. Were these the only two undead who could hear me? I cautiously go through this area, now appearing to surround a central castle. Gunning down every mutant I find, of course. The barrel maze proves to be a solid dead end in the middle of the bottom area. That leaves all these doors to be opened.
Starting from the south eastern doors, I fight my way through a guard, some dogs and three officers. It was a bit tense. A bit, because I saved before entering this section and reloaded from there several times. This area contains several medikits outside of a secret. Its a miracle.
Northwest area this time. A quick bursting through several different kinds of enemies, including a small group that is curiously deaf to the deaths of their comrades, yet the areas that would be a natural trap have no enemies. Its here that I discover a couple of secrets, one with some treasure, like most at this point; Another, inside this secret, leading me to the first locked area, but sneaking up on some undead.
The second key is behind another locked door, requiring the same key as the exit, which leaves some questions as to the security to this area. Too late to question logic in this game. You know what's real fun? A maze with mutants just hiding in the corridors. This maze turns out to lead to the elevator. I get out of there before I get shot in the back by some sneaky mutant.
Okay, maybe Romero just named all the levels. Militant Mutants are what we have for this level's title. Maybe that's how they remembered it, the ol' Stan Lee method.
Enemies right out of the gate, and their deaths trigger no sound. Undead or actual peace and quiet? The latter turns out to be true. I go to the northern door. Its a maze full of crosses and undead. I won't talk about the utter joy I had upon finding this out. The maze leads me to the gold key. That's good at least, spent less than a minute and already solved a third of my problems.
Another secret passage to a different part of the level is soon found. Its obvious, because its in the doored room right behind the key. Its not subtle.
Because of this entrance into this room, I'm in a prime position to gun down the enemies in this room as they approach, save for a group of mutants hiding in a more central room. These are a slightly tense few moments, but they turn out to be no trouble. Unfortunately, a lucky guard's shot drains away all the advantage I had by having a few spare medikits.
I take the eastern exit from here, which includes some easily dispatched guards. The central, doored room here has a mutant in a winding corridor, who once again gets a hit on me. North from that is a hallway with a lot of doors. To the west is a door I can't open in a weirdly designed hallway. After that it goes to hell fast.  The first door I open has enemies, which alerts some enemies to my right on one of the doors. Not the other door, that guy is taking his chances. Enemies just coming pouring out of the doors, leaving me without any ammo.
I retreat, grabbing an ammo box I saved for later. I return and get rid of my previous problem, creating the same problem as before. This is becoming a nazi clown car. A few tense, almost knife-fighting moments, I break for the interior, hoping to find ammo. I get another box to ease my problems. A little further, the key and another box. Well, no wonder.
Returning to a doggy area with an unopened door, I almost bite it to a mutant assault, but its worth it. Treasure and ammo and health. I'm back at full force. Now to check that locked door to the west.
More rocky walls, at least they're full of treasure. A mutant I happily gun down, as I already know his companions have left him. More treasure, more mutants, one almost gets me. Then finally the level exit...exits. This isn't suspicious at all. One of them turns out to be a secret, which after a little secret hunting earlier reveals that I've missed three enemies somehow. Weird.

Box of ammo right outside the door, huh? I guess these "Gauntlet Guards" will be tough to beat. As it turns out the level is a series of corridors with wells on each end, a door on the opposite side of the corridor, and mutants walking behind the wells. Pistol start my Alfa. A lucky burst through, because good luck gunning them down, and you've got to deal with a horde of regular nazis out for blood. Its only thanks to a lucky secret find that I make it past this early part.
The level is curiously designed, you have a choice of two corridors, each with seemingly many doors, but most of those doors lead into the other corridor. Such a strange way to build a hallway. There's a series of 3x3 rooms to the east containing a bunch of things, but the real thing in this first area is the series of secret rooms, eventually leading you to the "gauntlet guards". There doesn't seem to be a way to get to the others, which seems lame to me.
Where the corridors diverge is at the end, each one having no way to get back to the other** and the doors inside lead in opposite directions. So I take the eastern corridor and the eastern door.
This leads to more snaking corridors full of enemies. To make a long corridor short, it leads to a 3-shaped room with a small group of enemies hiding out. Not really a problem. The area to the west of the three contains a few more mutants, getting close to killing me. Ammo hasn't been a problem, this level dumps ammo in your lap like the nazis are having a firesale. This maze proves to be most a source for score and an exit back to the main corridor. Onto the west end.
The west end turns out to not matter much as to which door you pick. Either way you're facing a horde of enemies. So many that they force me to retreat, dry of ammo and health. Takes a couple of retreats too, this is another clown car. Eventually I think the hordes arriving have stopped an advance carefully. A couple of attempts turn BJ into mush after getting ambushed by mutants. After these, I sneak up, or just get lucky on them. After clearing it out, I search the place for secrets, putting me back at full strength.
The western locked room is no problem now that my coffers are overflowing. A few mutants that try to be sneaky don't even get the first strike on me. The north contains a group of mutants guarding far more supplies than they are worth. Not a problem at this point.
The eastern locked door proves trickier, containing a normal smattering of enemies. Behind those enemies prove a clever trap. A horde of ambush-ready mutants. Clever, but not impossible for me now. Takes a bit of careful edging, but they fall in two different groups. On, to the final floor of the castle.
King of the Mutants. I should call this Stubbs's monster. They're not screwing around on this level. A horde of nazis coming from all directions as soon as you step off the elevator. Some able to get up close, some hiding behind columns. Probably should've given me more than a single box of ammo, guys! Takes some clever maneuvering before I manage to get rid of the guys outside of the columns. Got a full amount of ammo too.
So I explore, the first area I enter, to the north, has two doors, each some distance from each other. These two doors each contain a single guard. The guard is a trap, as several enemies jump out of a central room if you shoot in here. These are a bit of trouble as ammo is tight early on in this level. Another group of enemies lie deeper, killing me once before I alert them and pull back.
At the end of these rooms lies a long corridor full of mutants. They're not place in tricky locations most of the time, unlike in a proper maze. The end of the corridor has a large room filled with enemies. These have some carefully placed mutants that can really screw with you if you aren't careful.
This room has a single door in it, containing the silver key. This key unlocks the door at the end of the treasure corridor to your left. This leads back into the central hallway, and into a trap if you haven't previously completely cleaned the area out.
The UberMutant is kinda tricky. If you aren't careful, you'll get in a position where you can't get out of his field of vision, thus killing you. There's no easy cover here, but he seems eager to stay in the closed area he starts in, giving me ample ability to duck in and out of cover. With that, the castle is more or less done. There are mutants guarding the elevator, but they aren't too much trouble.

Three more levels. I'm feeling reasonably confident about it being all over soon.

*Okay, I don't know that for a fact. I don't care.
**Without backtracking

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