Genre: Jump-em-up | Developer: Ribbiks, Grain of Salt | Year: 2022

I’ve never liked when people refer to things in games, like (an insipid example) the player controls in Super Mario 64, as “buttery smooth”. Have you ever held a buttery object in your hands? I have, and it pains me to tell you that buttery things are uncontrollable and slippery. Carried over enough time, the lingering feeling is of a mild unpleasantness in the hands.

On that note, here is a Doom wad composed solely of jumping puzzles. Jumping is implemented not through any advanced ZScript stuff, but by hacking in a weapon that spawns an arch-vile explosion inside you when you press fire. Metal! You might guess that it’s done this way – opposed to just relying on the fairly typical jump functionality some sourceports have – as a measure in compatibility, though since the wad comes with a handful of not-super-obvious config nonos (no HUD, no hardware rendering!) perhaps it’s more for the creative pleasure in making crusty, inflexible engines do what they were never meant to do.

This atypical way of implementing a jump obviously comes with its own nuances. Because you’re being propelled by an explosion that spawns where you just were, running at full tilt propels the player further horizontally, while a simple tap in movement gives more vertical velocity. The jump mechanic gives no fuck if you’re already in the air, here is your requested jump anyway, which makes certain things surprisingly easy. But out here, there is no air control at all – and woe betide the sorry fool who tries to neutral jump.

The structure of the maps theirselves is also interesting – taking a cue from many a collectathon platformer, the player is generally tasked with getting only a handful of gems out of the available ones on the map to clear. Again, this is not a particularly obvious thing to implement without modern scripting features, but they pulled it off anyway. Optional stuff in Doom mapping is generally more about whether or not you found the secrets than picking and choosing what you want to take on, but this approach keeps it from being too much like pulling teeth. If something’s too hard or you don’t understand it, you can go try something else for a bit – very rare in Doom wads.

You might look at Ribbiks’ name attached to this wad (along with Grain of Salt) and think this is an exercise in sadism. Perhaps it is – just less the “die instantly from a fall” type and more the “oh no, you fell, now you have to slowly climb all the way back up – also, half the map is a pure black texture, good luck idiot” type.

You can’t really dismiss it as just that, though. Having to fight Doom’s naturally fearsome inertia and an atypical jump every single inch up makes the view from the top that much sweeter.