Title Death Mask Company Alternative Games / Apache ID Game Type 3D Action Players 1 or 2 Compatibility All (1 meg required) HD Installable No Submission Joachim FroholtProfiled Reviewer Review Remember when Doom was released on the PC, and we didn't have anything like it on the Amiga? And the experts kept saying that something like Doom wasn't possible on the Amiga at all, because of the Amiga's way of handling graphics, and the simple fact that 3D stuff needed more processor power than the typical Amiga had (remember, most games back then would run on any Amiga with 1 Mb ram, and software companies weren't really eager to exploit the possibillities of better Amigas - too much of their revenues came from sales to A500/600 owners). So, what were we to do? Many of us decided to wait. Games got better and better, technically at least, and the A1200 became more and more popular, so we hoped that our patience would eventually be rewarded. Others decided to get themselves a PC, selling their Amiga in the process. In fact, the release of Doom might be one of the most devastating events ever for the Amiga market. Anyway, I was one of those who elected to wait. For a long time, nothing much happened, at least not on the surface. But talented coders worked hard to prove that Doom was possible on the Amiga, and 3d engines began popping up everywhere. Unfortunately, few of these made it into games. Most of them were simple experiments by demo coders, and featured little more than a camera moving through a 3d labyrinth. But one day in the autumn of 1994, a company called Apache announced their attempt to produce a real Doom clone for the Amiga: DeathMasque. Apache kept their promises, and the first Amiga Doom clone, now called Death Mask, was on the market early in 1995. To make a long story short, Death Mask disappointed. I'll give you the gory details later. Fortunately, other coders perserved, and about half a year later, two Doom clones appeared at once: Gloom, from Black Magic, and Alien Breed 3D, from Team 17. Both were instant classics (AB3D even had a 3D engine which, in many ways, was more advanced than the Doom engine!), and you'll find reviews of them here on the AGDB. More games followed: Fears, The Citadel, and some others, although none of these could beat Gloom or AB3D, atleast not in terms of popularity. About half a year after the launch of Gloom & AB3D, another game came to claim the throne of Amiga Doom clones, Breathless, from Power Computing & Field of Vision. This game was playable on standard A1200's, but really impressive with some extra horsepower. In my opinion, Breathless was the first (Amiga) Doom clone which actually looked more polished than Doom itself, at least when there were no enemies around. After a while, Gloom and AB3D were upgraded for more powerful Amigas, and things just got better from there. Nemac IV, Genetic Species, Quake, and even Doom itself. As I write this, Shogo and Soldier of Fortune are just two of the many 3D shooters on their way to the Amiga. But, anyway, things sort of started with Death Mask, and as I said.. it's not particularily good. The game comes on two disks, and it will run on just about any Amiga (although if you only have 512 kb chip ram, you're not getting the full package). The game starts with a reasonably good logo, and an atmospheric tune (which starts off as promising, but soon becomes boring and dull). You're then greeted with an in-game screenshot and a message telling you to press the fire button. If you decide not to press the fire button at this time, you'll see some more screenshots, some weapon statistics and a decent image of an alien. But let's assume you do press fire, okay? Because doing this will send you to the main menu. If you haven't already been scared off by the low quality of the aforementioned screenshots, you might get excited about the options on offer: Speed (Low, Medium and Fast, although there's no point in having it on low unless you've got the reactions of a threehundred year old tortoise), 1 Player Game, 2 Player Game and 2 Player Battle. Having already seen the screenshots, you will know that the game employs split-screen mode to get two warriors in at once.. wow! Not even Doom does that! In fact, almost no PC games does it - shame on PC game producers! Selecting a one player game, you'll be asked to either type in a level code or play the game from the beginning. The level code thing is the first flaw of this game, although most other early Amiga Doom clones used level codes as well. What they should have used, of course, is the save/load technique used by Doom and most other games like it on the PC. Well, you can't save games in Death Mask, but you do get three lives to waste before it's game over (although you'll still have to start the current level all over again if you lose one of the lives, d'uh!). Then it's on to the actual game. The first thing you'll notice is the horribly poor choice of in-game colours. Most of the graphics seem to be in brown, grey or a yucky green! Granted, Doom didn't look particularily colourful either, but this is plain ugly. The next thing you'll notice is the split screen, even in one player mode. Then there's the lack of texturemapped ceilings & floors - these consist of ugly colour gradients and nothing else (well, the ceilings seem to have some lights, but they just look like strange, white blobs). So far, not so good. When you actually start playing, it gets worse! Unlike Doom (and pretty much every clone), you can only move in four directions! When you point the joystick left, the player turns 45 degrees. This is supposed to be a first person shooter, not Eye of the Beholder! (suitably enough, there's an option to turn off the animation as the character turns around, making the game engine seem very like that of the good old flick screen rpgs). When the player moves forward, he will 'jump' ahead one square, although the 'jump' is animated to make it seem like the player's got more control. But let's forget about all this and stop comparing Death Mask to other games. The real question is: If we ignore the flaws of the game engine, is the game fun? There are several factors which come into play here. One is the level design. Inventive level design would surely save the game, but unfortunately, the levels are just old fashioned mazes. There also seems to be only one wall texture per level, which makes the mazes even more boring. Luckily, though, the creators have included an in-game map which can be called up by a keypress, so the problem of actually finding your way through the mazes is made a bit less painful. Unfortunately, the map covers the playing area, even when there's nothing happening on the other half of the screen (everything is split screen, remember?). Couple this with the fact that the walls of the labyrinths look the same all over the level, and the fact that the map doesn't show the direction you're facing, then needless to say that you'll have to reach for the map often, if only to see whether you read the map right the last time you had it displayed. By now, you'll probably think that I don't like Death Mask at all. Strangely enough, this is not the case. The game is, against all odds, a bit playable. Once you actually get used to only being able to move in four directions, and once you learn how to cope with the other flaws of the game, there's actually some fun to be had here. The two player cooperative mode is especially fun, although it often consists of the player who's taken the least damage going forward, while the other player stays put, displaying the map on his half of the screen. Speaking of the map, there is one way to make the game a lot more enjoyable to play, and that's simply to start a two player game even when you're only one player. Then you can use the second player's map to constantly keep an eye on where you and your enemies are. Once I thought of this, I raced through levels which had previously stopped me dead, and the game became a lot more enjoyable due to the fact that shooting monsters became first priority, not navigating through mazes. The aforementioned poor graphics will eventually stop being a problem as you begin to enjoy the actual game. Also, later levels have a nicer selection of colours and graphics, and some are actually quite atmospheric. There's not many sound effects, but some levels have background sounds which help create tension. One thing which I found to be a bit lame is that most (all?) monsters create the same noise when hit by a bullet - a rather humanlike "argh!" - not at all suitable for some of the nasty looking aliens. The selection of monsters isn't too bad, though, and different monster types behave in a different way, which is good. Unfortunately, the outcome of each encounter is really determined by the weapon you're carrying, and the game engine doesn't allow for the use of cunning tactics to outsmart the stronger foes. There are 35 levels in the game. When you have your trusty ally, the map carrying second player, you'll race through the first ten or so before things get a bit hairy. It might be worth mentioning that only one player need to reach the exit for the level to end - it's nice not having to drag the mapper along. Each level has a set objective, though they are usually very simple: Destroy that and that and reach the exit, or kill all enemies. But eventually, you will tire of moving through labyrinth after labyrinth, trying to find the best weapons possible so that you can defend yourself against the ever growing hordes of evil. And when the mapper dies early because of nasties in the starting area, you'll probably find yourself less and less inclined to go on playing, as the default mode of play is just too painful to be any fun. It strikes me when reading previews of Death Mask, that a lot of planned features didn't make it into the final game. This indicates that it was rushed out, in order to satisfy Amigans keen on spending money on a first person shooter. I don't know if these features would have saved the game, but I do know that the game does feel more than a little untested. The fiddly map system, for instance, would probably have been vastly improved if the testing department had done their job (or been given the time to do their job). To conclude, then, Death Mask is a slightly below average game. It certainly has it's merits, and if you manage to stop comparing it to the games it.. er.. tries to clone, you'll find that it can be a lot of fun. But it won't last very long. I played this game a lot after having just completed Soldier of Fortune on the PC, but I guess that says more about me than it says about Death Mask. Anyway, I got tired of the game halfway through, and I doubt I'll bother much with it again. There are far too many good first person shooters around for me to justify wading through endless labyrinths.