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Memento Mori II (Doom) (PC) artwork

Memento Mori II (Doom) (PC) review

"It starts out good, but then becomes great. "

One neat thing about the old-school online Doom community was just how into those fan-made levels and games people got. We're talking to the degree that there still are sites online containing level-by-level reviews of many of those .wad files. For a guy like me, who got into this stuff way late, this was a godsend. Instead of flying blindly, I could do a bit of research to find out which ones were legitimately worth my time and which ones ran the risk of detracting from my love of these games.

So, after going through Memento Mori, the logical next step for me was to immediately start up Memento Mori II — another 32-level full replacement for Doom 2. A number of guys who crafted levels for the first game returned and were joined by several additional developers with the added benefit that people had more experience under their belts and were able to craft levels that were more technologically advanced while also not containing the occasional glitches that did somewhat mar the original.

As one of those online level-by-level reviews said, this led to an unexpected problem. While the first game might have had the occasional issue, it was also a labor of love possessing an amazing amount of creativity. Here, while things are far more polished, it was hypothesized that all the work going into making things technologically sound would up a detriment to those excited bursts of creativity.

And you know what? For a large chuck of Memento Mori II, I could see what that guy was saying. Many of the early levels were fundamentally sound and enjoyable to play, but it took a while for things to elevate to the level where I felt I was playing something memorable. Hell, for a while, I wasn't sure if I should try reviewing this one because I was playing it through April and May and then had to take a hiatus from reviewing due to the combination of an intense work schedule followed by an even more intense vacation schedule. Simply put, when it was time to start this review, I could scarcely remember anything about most of the earlier levels.

Fortunately, I do keep notes when I'm playing these games and I'm also a bonafide professional at BS-ing my way through most situations, so minor details such as large holes in my mind where game details used to reside don't even register as actual inconveniences!

Memento Mori II starts off like you'd expect from a Doom .wad — with a pair of short and easy levels designed to ease you into the game. However, the third stage, …And Hell Beneath was a blast. The action wasn't overly challenging, but it had the intricate sort of design that I fanboy over when I'm in the mood for this sort of demon-blasting. Tons of switches to press, with each one opening up something, often another switch to hit. I could play entire games worth of levels like this, so I was ecstatic.

After that, things sort of blended together for some time. I enjoyed nearly every level — even if a couple were a bit darker in areas than I prefer — but I didn't find myself getting thrilled by sewer stages such as Frustration or TechLabs such as Stigmata. If one stood out in my mind, it was because its developer went light on ammo and/or health pick-ups, making things more tense and grueling than they were in other stages.

Things changed for me around the middle of the game, though. The 14th level, A Question of Time supplied a fair number of teleporters and traps and the intensity just picked up from there. Following it was The Devil's Coterie, in which I found it a struggle to simply survive the early going. Shooting the living hell out of various soldiers and Imps was easy…and then I realized that the room you start in has a large, open window in its back. And outside that window are Cacodemons who will be awakened by you shooting those cannon fodder foes. And, well, it then was time for my second attempt at the level. And third and fourth and fifth until I finally figured out a strategy to last more than a minute or so.

By this time, I was in Doom heaven and there was almost no coming back. Maybe one or two levels down the stretch weren't all that good, but the vast majority of them were great, as well as often quite challenging. A lot of the developers were very adept at trap-placement, ensuring that I had to be on my toes at all times. I just had to make sure I had plenty of time when I set down to a stage because many of them were massive.

Look at the 19th level, The Shaft, for example. You have an elevator with the various key doors stationed around it, as well as an accessible area where you get your first key. Each of these areas is progressively larger and more complex than the one before it, leading to a level that almost feels like three or four smaller stages that are all connected. Or No Way Out, the 23rd stage. This one is kind of like The Shaft, except with a different means of connecting a quartet of different areas. This time, you start out in a room with a teleporter and where you wind up at is determined by which side of it you step on. Look above it and you'll see three sides with colored icons, signifying which key you'll need to progress through that side's area; as well as an uncolored side where you'll initially go in order to start finding keys.

And, if you don't count the 30th level, which typically disappoints me when talking about Doom 2 or any of its .wads, this game ends with straight fire. The Silos is loaded with heavy-hitting foes and also littered with a number of switches that have to be hit in order to remove a barrier blocking off access to the exit. Corporate Hell is divided into two sections: a small, but fun, city area and a massive multi-leveled building that is littered with challenging areas. And the penultimate level, Kings of Metal was designed by Jens Nielsen. He was a prominent designer in the first Memento Mori and his levels were among my favorites there because he's a master of creating those intricate, tricky levels that make you scour the entire map for switches while being harassed by enemies every step of the way.

After a slow start with a slew of good, but unremarkable, levels, Memento Mori II really picks up with a bevy of large, complex and difficult stages. For a good chunk of the game, I was perfectly sure that this sequel was notably inferior to the original, but based on the strength of its final half, if you asked me which Memento Mori is superior, I don't know that I'd be able to give a definite answer. So, let's just leave it at: They're both a blast to play through and if you're a fan of those old-school Doom games, you could do a lot worse than either of them. Both feature a lot of talented designers who put in the work to create numerous great levels in games that might not be perfect, but are lots of fun to play through.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 28, 2022)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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