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Doom (SNES) artwork

Doom (SNES) review

"After mere moments of playing through the first level of the first (of three) episodes, I was wondering if my killing machine of a space marine had been replaced by Stephen Hawking. You will move really slowly and choppily through levels AND the controls aren't responsive. There's a brief delay between you using the control pad and your character actually moving, which isn't a very desirable thing in an action game."

It's hard for me to not give Sculptured Software an "A for effort" compliment or two for their attempt to port Doom to the Super Nintendo. Considering the limitations of the hardware, one could say they probably did their best as far as aesthetics go. I was actually a bit surprised at how good the music sounded and the first-person graphics were at least faithful in spirit to the original. A few cuts were made, such as five of the game's 27 levels and one cannon-fodder monster, but the vast majority of the PC game was crammed into a STYLISH red cartridge. When I started playing, I was thinking I might just be in for a pleasant surprise.

And then I took control of my space marine and, just like that, my dream of having a somewhat enjoyable experience died.

It seems our programming team was so focused on making this port look and sound as much like true Doom as possible that they neglected every other aspect of the game, while also ignoring how the SNES' processing ability had no chance of properly handling the three-dimensional graphics with anything resembling competence. If Sculptured Software had decided to strip things down and simplify how things were drawn, things might have been better. Instead, they tried to replicate everything they could down to the tiniest detail a decision that led to a bunch of dark, muddy textures that, despite being pretty unattractive, still bog the SNES down to the point where the game moves at a snail's pace.

That is the biggest failure of SNES Doom. After mere moments of playing through the first level of the first (of three) episodes, I was wondering if my killing machine of a space marine had been replaced by Stephen Hawking. You will move really slowly and choppily through levels AND the controls aren't responsive. There's a brief delay between you using the control pad and your character actually moving, which isn't a very desirable thing in an action game. If you're running down a corridor and stop moving, you'll probably wonder if the programmers were big fans of ice levels, as you'll slide forward a little bit. This doesn't help when navigating around toxic waste and other damaging types of floor. You'll get stuck on walls, causing you to slowly back up to extract yourself...possibly while under fire. Gunning down enemies with your weapon of choice can be tricky, too, as the choppy framerate sure doesn't help you accurately point a gun at a foe.

Then again, that would be tough even if the game ran smoothly. If an enemy is up close and personal to you, they'll look just like they did in the PC version (if a bit more pixilated). However, if they're across a room or down a corridor, odds are that you'll only recognize their presence by either hearing them grunt, howl or bellow OR by barely noticing a few dim pixels that are twitching in the background. Or, if you're really lucky, by seeing the screen flash red sporadically while Mr. Hawking grunts in pain as his life diminishes. This happened to me a few times before I became overcome by disgust. I specifically remember a room I teleported to and killed the enemies that immediately assailed me. As I walked over their bodies to collect any ammo they might have dropped, I noticed that I was taking damage. I spun around in a circle, but couldn't see anything. I finally found the weakling zombie soldier sniping me to the point where my health was so low my marine's on-screen avatar was looking like he recently made the mistake of enraging Brock Lesnar. What should have been a non-threatening chunk of cannon-fodder actually was pretty damn close, but nearly invisible to me until I essentially was right on top of him.

Now, if you're a Doom-army loyalist like me, you might think this isn't much of a setback, as on computers, you can save whenever you want, so any problem is merely a quick-load away from being solved. If so, let me admonish you for being naive, as this feature also wound up being chopped from the SNES port. You pick an episode. You play through the whole thing. You never save. If you play on an easier difficulty level (which aren't particularly easy due to all these damn flaws), you won't be able to access all three episodes. Therefore, to beat all 22 levels, you'll be expected to sit down, endure horrible control (and enemies that don't become easy to detect until they're on top of you) and grind your way through level after level with no ability to preserve your progress.

The funny thing's that if the original computer game rolled like that, I'd be cool. On the PC/Mac platforms, you have responsive controls and smooth animation. The levels aren't long or particularly tough, so clearing one on a single life rarely is an ordeal. Eliminating the ability to save constantly would add the challenge Doom addicts desired so deeply they created insanely intense WADS such as Hell Revealed and Alien Vendetta. But this isn't the computer game. You have horrible controls and poor vision. You'll take hits from enemies before you see them...REGULARLY. You can't induce monsters to fight each other. The controls won't let you circle-strafe that darn Cyberdemon. You better know what weapon you want for any situation before entering it, as, instead of having one key for each one, you have one button for all of them. Have fun switching from your pistol to the rocket launcher when the plasma-blasting behemoth known as a Baron of Hell appears out of a mass of vague pixels. I know I did...

There's a difference between bad games and games that just shouldn't have been made. The SNES port of Doom fits into the latter category. I don't know that anyone other than the greatest Doom fanatics would want to play this game (it did come out nearly two years after the PC version) unless they compulsively NEED to play everything related to their avatar of games. And those people would be utterly offended at this atrocious trash. I know I am. I can excuse horrible fan-made levels because they were made out of love by people who just didn't have the talent to create something worth playing. This is infinitely worse a shoddy attempt to port a classic game to a system incapable of handling it in order to make money. It's nothing more than a slap in the face to fans of Doom.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (July 08, 2010)

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

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