The Adventures of Square Episode 1 - Review

A few months ago Doom modder and musician Jimmy released a demo of a project he'd been working on called 'The Adventures of Square' It was a neat fun demo with a few cool ideas, and now him and his team have released the first full installment (and hopefully not the last) of the Zdoom mod. It's standalone so you only need to grab the file and play (if for some reason you don't have Doom)

At first glance the very basic art-style may throw you off, but after playing for a few minutes it's very clear it's not a gimmick. Everything is put together so well that it feels really solid and it only takes a couple of minutes to get into the groove of the game. The basic setting is that you're Square, and you have to rescue Dr. Octagon from the Circle of Evil. That's essentially it, but you're barking up the wrong tree if you're looking for Hemingway in a Doom mod anyway.

There's a lot more to TOS than just the light hearted theme and art style however. The levels are exceptionally well designed...both detail wise and in a game play sense as well (more on that later) The fairly simple texture art does a great job at highlighting the architecture of the levels, and whilst earlier levels have basic layouts later ones twist and turn up and down and take you through mass sprawling locations. 2 later levels are much more nonlinear in their approach which is a refreshing change, and the episode finishes with a pretty great finale (the end title felt a bit anti-climatic though*) The levels are just a great joy to play through, and take the initial premise of TOS from what may seem like a joke comedy wad to a solid and entertaining game in it's own right.

Gameplay is actually fairly tough; there aren't really any bullet-sponge enemies to deal with but they deal good damage and more often than not in a large area you'll have enemies shooting at you from afar with powerful projectiles you'll need to dodge and avoid whilst taking care of whatever's in front of you first. It's always challenging, and each enemy is fairly entertaining to fight. When beaten they explode into globs of paint which spray around the environment, and makes fighting enemies really satisfying. The new arsenal of weapons are great to use, with my only complaint being that a dedicated long-range weapon would of been useful at certain points. You chew through ammo very quickly, but each level is packed full of secrets to replenish your ammunition supply should you run dry. Don't run into the game expecting a cakewalk, however it's not unfair at all. It's put together by Doom veterans who know how to put together a challenging but not unfair game play progression, so don't fear for a difficulty spike or an unfun slog that will kill the mojo the game has.

The sound design is great - each gun feels great to use with satisfying noises when you both shoot and kill an enemy. There's light ambient noises in levels, not enough to stand out but they do their purpose. Naturally the TC also has an original soundtrack, which was pleasant to listen to and helped things along (my only disappointment was the lack of the boss theme from the demo...hopefully it'll re-appear in Episode 2)

Square also has some voice-overs and enemies also have speech, but they're drowned out almost completely by the music and other sounds. I'm not sure if a sub-title option is available but if not that's something that should be considered for the next release. Of course there's a ton of puns in the mod, and a few jokes that made me chuckle towards the end as well.

Adventures of Square is a great package, and the next episode promises to visit some pretty entertaining locations as well. I can't think of any big criticisms excluding that the difficulty may catch you off-guard, but it is by no means unfair though - the majority of attacks are projectile in nature and will just make you watch yourself a bit more carefully. It's a great mod and I recommend a play-through ASAP.

link to Zdoom topic for The adventures of Square Episode 1

*A recent update to the mod added some graphics to the ending sequence, so this point no longer stands. Nice work guys!