You ever wanted a mashup of the best of the SNES era (Mario in particular) and Doom? No?
Too bad, you’re getting one anyway, and you’re gonna freaking love it. Note that a copy of Doom 2 is required though!
GET IT HERE: https://batandy.itch.io/goldensouls2
BUY DOOM 2 HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2300/DOOM_II/
I did say I was gonna look at this way back when, and I think we’re overdue. So let’s talk about one of the best Doom level sets ever made. I’m talking about Golden Souls 2! This is a very, VERY different take on Doom, paying clear homage to Nintendo’s 16 bit era with colorful levels and platforming on top of the excellent high speed shooting Doom’s been known for since the 90s. Now, don’t let the light-hearted Mario-esque level design fool you, this is still Doom at its core, and it’s one of my favorite level sets ever made. Now let’s dive on in!
That dastardly Cyberdemon plans to use your bunny as a demonic sacrifice to bring back the Icon of Sin! Well, Doomguy’s having none of that! Armed with just his trusty pistol starting out, he’s gonna be running, jumping, and coin grabbing as he slays (almost) every demon in his way to save his precious bunny! …And the world.
And that’s where the first big thing that’s different shows up: This isn’t a linear affair. Golden Souls 2 uses a Mario World styled map! You’ll have to beat levels to unlock new paths on said world map, but will also have the option to re-visit old levels for things you missed, or even things you may not have been able to reach without a key from another area…
Like I said, this is a very SNES (And Mario in particular) inspired megawad. So you’ll be seeing lots of bright colors, which admittedly help the demonic enemies stand out quite a bit in some cases. Platforming is also a major factor in this, so have that jump key bound and ready to use! Jumping is as useful for getting around as it is evading enemies, none of which are hitscanners this time around! Everything is projectile based, so your mobility will help immensely in avoiding damage. And when I say jump, I mean JUMP. Compared to GZDoom’s standard jump height, you go quite high in this one, which is good given all the platforming you’ll be doing. Thankfully, being an FPS and all, Golden Souls 2 tries to avoid relying on anything super precise and usually gives you quite a bit of breathing room on your jumps.
Exploration plays a big role in this, perhaps moreso than any of Doom’s vanilla campaigns. Along with the usual things you would expect to find such as new guns, and the health and ammo you need to keep going, Golden Souls has coins. LOTS of coins, and Big Coins too! Said Big Coins are often secrets you’ll have to search for, but thankfully there are more ‘look for out of the way things and explore’ type secrets, not the wall humping look for a mis-aligned texture kind you tend to see in regular Doom. But what are all these shinies for, you ask? Well, let’s get into that.
Another big change from vanilla Doom is that the world has several shops you can buy items from! These include ammo, health, armor, and most importantly…Permanent upgrades for all your guns! Every world has a shop, and every shop has a Golden variant of an existing gun…But you can’t use just any coin for these babies…Nope! You need those Big Coins I mentioned earlier! In other words, secret hunting nets you some very powerful, permanent upgrades to your arsenal!
So from the getgo, let me summarize what we have here:
- A big world map full of levels that you can freely revisit
- Secret hunting that’s fun and rewarding
- A generous helping of coins in each level allows you to stock up between runs and ensure you’re ready for what’s next
- Levels that mix platforming and shooting, and make it work
Do I have your attention with all this yet? Because it just gets better as we go, let me tell you. Much like a lot of Mario games, the world map has themed areas that each have their own thing going on. You start out in typical lush, green plains…But you’ll also be exploring spooky forests, coastal resorts, haunted sunken ships, haunted houses, and eventually Hell itself…I mean, it IS Doom! Much like a good Mario game, half the excitement is in what comes next, with each world offering new surprises and challenges that keep the experience fun and fresh the whole way through.
And each world, in true Mario fashion…Ends with a big fortress and a boss fight.
Like the worlds, every fortress has its own unique theme, with the first one being a typical Mario style castle interior full of lava ready to melt you. But make no mistake, this is just the first fortress. Every fortress gets its own theme, some not being very surprising for the worlds they’re in, and others being unexpected masterpieces that go into territory you won’t even expect. There’s a reason I’m primarily using only screenshots of the first world in this writeup, and that’s because this is-at least in my opinion-a Megawad you absolutely need to experience for yourself as opposed to be telling you every last thing about it. I’m just giving you a taste, I want you, the reader, to be the one that enjoys the full meal for themselves here.
So what does one talk about if they don’t want to spoil the entire experience? What makes it good overall, I suppose.
As I said before, the levels themselves are a fantastic mix of Doom’s shooting, but also platforming. And when I say platforming, I don’t just mean hopping from place to place. I mean the things you expect to see in a good Mario platformer. Dodging environmental hazards such as cannons that fire at set intervals, spike traps that you have to time your jumps around when said spikes retract for all but a precious moment, sinking and rising lava currents, that kind of stuff. I’m talking the good kind of platforming you’d see in a good Mario title. It’s honestly amazing to me how well it works, as platforming and FPS are typically two flavors you don’t expect to go well together…Yet somehow mapper Batandy pulled it off here.
Exploration is the other element of this Megawad I absolutely love, because it’s constantly rewarding. Every level has coins, which as I mentioned, can be used to gear up between levels, often more coins than you’ll need at any given time…Which means there’s good incentive to come back to levels you’ve already cleared if only to scoop up more precious gold for your next shopping trip! And if you don’t happen to find all the secret Big Coins on a level your first time through, that’s okay! You can always give it another shot later, as this megawad lets you revisit old levels. It’s great because it means you don’t HAVE to be perfect on your first attempt of a level…You can just give it another shot later on when you’re feeling more confident or feel like finding what you missed on your first trip. Enemies thankfully remain dead though, so you don’t need to worry about spending extra ammo, or money to buy it for re-visiting old haunts.
Secrets aren’t just limited to Big Coins though: There’s several secret levels to be found, offering more Big Coins that you will likely need to unlock later Golden Guns…And you might even find a new weapon in one if you look hard enough. This means secret levels themselves are also a reward of sorts, giving you something that makes them worth looking for, as opposed to just being another map full of things to kill as is often the case in vanilla Doom. It’s this kind of reward for exploring and secret hunting that makes the maps so fun for me: You aren’t just finding a bit of extra health or some other temporary bonus, you’re getting long term benefits out of it.
And then there’s the music: I can’t ignore the music. Instead of midi, Golden Souls 2 uses a full on SNES based custom soundtrack. Composed using the SNES’s SPC music format, you get an absolutely authentic feel out of it that midi just wouldn’t work for. Given the overall SNES/Mario influence of this Megawad, the music is perfect and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’ll have familiar tunes to enjoy from various retro games that influenced this Megawad, as well as some original tracks on top of it, all done in glorious SPC style. So make sure you keep that music on, or you’re going to miss out on some great ear-candy.
And then there’s the guns, the star of any good FPS. I won’t elaborate too much on them because I want that to be something you, the reader discovers, but I will say they feel great! You’ve got some traditional firearms that you’d come to expect, but also some more colorful, playful weapons that are meant to go with the theme of the Megawad. All of them feel great, doing the jobs you’d expect them to do, and getting more awesome when you buy their Golden forms after enough secret hunting for Big Coins. Each gun has a particular role it fills quite well, and Doom enthusiasts will feel right at home with the arsenal. One thing to note though: These guns DO have to be reloaded, so make sure to watch that ammo counter so you don’t end up having to reload at an inopportune time.
The last thing I’ll touch on, the monsters. You have a mix of Doom favorites here, as well as some Mario styled takes on various demons you know and loathe. This blend of familiar and new strikes just the right balance where you’ll recognize a lot of classic enemies and know how to tackle them, but will still have to figure out how to deal with new twists on old favorites that have their own rules they follow. And you’ll come across at least one that I suspect you’ll absolutely yet, and then go “…Yeah, it makes sense.”
At the end of the day, there’s a ridiculous amount of custom content out there for Doom. What makes Golden Souls 2 a cream of the crop in such a vast sea of content? The amount of dedication and love Batandy has put into it, on top of just being really damn fun. Doom maps are a dime a dozen. But Doom maps that pay homage to one of the best eras of gaming while being incredibly well made and fun to play? That’s a rarity. The sheer quality and variety on display here alone is something to be admired, and admire it you should.
So, if you’re looking for something new and exciting to try in the world of Doom, absolutely give The Golden Souls 2 a shot. If you enjoy Doom and Mario and thought they couldn’t co-exist…Be ready to be proven wrong in the best way possible.
That said, if you absolutely want to see more of it before you try it out, I’ll be doing a more in depth look next week. A spoilerview, if you will.