Yes, what the title says. But this Halloween was a bumper night of retro thrills for me. I watched The Shining for the second time ever (and I still have so many questions, but we shan’t address those as I don’t want to spoil a forty year old film for you). Later, the early hours were spent watching a livestreamer play through the original Doom on the highest difficulty, and with fast monsters enabled. Even if you’ve never seen or played Doom, that should be self-explanatory. Anybody who has played Doom will know that the enemies move and attack pretty darn fast to begin with, and that fast monsters is very close to reaching bullshit territory. But it was oh so entertaining to watch.
It’s a game that I’ve written about several times over the years I’ve kept this blog, and will probably come to again at some point in the future. The legacy it holds is on a scale rarely seen, and the development and its deceptively simple mechanics continue to fascinate me. Over twenty years since my first playthrough on the much-maligned 32-X port, there are still phases where I play it regularly.
One of those phases occurred recently, hence the ZX Spectrum treatment. Of course, Doom began its life on the PC in 1993 and was ported to just about everything, but – and who would have thought? – the ZX Spectrum was not on that list. And not just because the system was discontinued a year earlier. Had things been different, I suppose a 2D, Robocop style game might have been an option, but it wouldn’t have been Doom. Doom is all about the bleak atmosphere and the desperate exploration; the intimidation of dark halls and the sound of demons getting louder as they close in on you. A platformer version adorned in cyan and magenta probably wouldn’t have pulled that off particularly well.
This being said, a port did arrive on the Spectrum, kind of: an unofficial, fan-made project surfaced in the late nineties, comprising a few levels and a selection of the monsters. And it did try to mimic the original’s visual. Impressive though it is, I’ve never been able to watch a playthrough for more than a couple of minutes, and I defy anybody to navigate the searing maze with their eyesight intact. Such are the dear Speccy’s limitations. I feel that more or less sums up what an official Spectrum Doom would have been like; ‘hellish’ seems a fitting descriptor.
As a bonus treat, I thought I’d try and convert the legendary At Doom’s Gate, Bobby Prince’s soundtrack to the very first level, into something that might have been doable even on the Spectrum 48K. I emphasise the ‘might’, as I’m far from an expert on sound and feel there are probably too many channels running at one time (four). Either way, my thanks to shiru8bit on Reddit for compiling the soundfont used here to rip and tear through such an iconic tune. Mmm… strident.