You can probably name hundreds of franchises that would fit better mechanically and thematically with Doom than Super Mario 64. It’s a fusion that shouldn’t work—Doom‘s fast-paced hyperviolent shooting doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with Super Mario 64‘s platforming and exploration. But despite the fact that even it’s very concept is fighting against it, Doom: The Golden Souls is a largely enjoyable wad that manages to make the most out of its concept.
Like Super Mario 64, Doom: The Golden Souls throws players right into a massive mansion filled with locked doors and plenty of paintings that serve as portals to other worlds. Inside these painted worlds are all manner of coins, demons, and the titular Golden Souls in place of stars. Your objective is simple. Get the golden soul, unlock the doors, and kill every last demon in sight.
The multiple paintings allow for some seriously varied environments, from a creepy castle packed with demons to a dense jungle serving as a homage to Donkey Kong Country, and my favorite, a level set inside the world of Vincent Van Gogh’s iconic landscape Starry Night. While the level themes may be drastically different, you can expect the gameplay to be about the same in each. Explore a level, either collect all red coins or just get to the end, get the golden soul, rinse and repeat. However, unlike Super Mario 64, there’s only one golden soul per world, and virtually no reason to ever re-visit one once it’s done. This leads to only sixteen “actual” missions (Not counting the bonus games or the hub world), assuring that the wad doesn’t run too long or wear out its welcome.
The core gameplay is, for the most part, Doom as you remember it. Strafe around, dodge projectiles, fire back until anything in your way is dead. And as far as that goes, it’s done pretty well. There are a comftorable mix of old and new weapons, with favorites like the super shotgun being complimented by rainbow lasers or oversized cannons. The enemies continue the trend of new and old, and while some of them are great, others are a lot more annoying. Obscure Mario baddies, such as sniffits, translate to Doom‘s gameplay wonderfully, but some of the others are a lot less fitting. The transformation of Lost Souls into Boos is one of the wad’s worst elements, and the frequently-occurring fire flowers just eat up damage like there’s no tomorrow. But, at the end of the day, Doom: The Golden Souls‘ combat is still Doom. The platforming, on the other hand, is a lot more hit or miss.
Some of the basic platforming works out fine, and it’s not too hard to be jumping all around a level, but some of the challenges later on seem to put too much faith in the iD Tech 1 engine’s capacity for platforming. The worst example of the bunch was one of the last levels, a series of floating islands including a network of razor-thin bridges, which was bad enough to nearly turn me off from Doom: The Golden Souls entirely.
Still, even with all of my issues, I couldn’t bring myself to harbor any ill will against Doom: The Golden Souls. The presentation is top-notch, the levels are stunning, the combat is solid, and the ability for Doom modders to push the envelope and transform the decades-old shooter has never failed to stun me. Even when it fumbled, Doom: The Golden Souls could bring a dumb smile to my face. And in a mod like this, what more can you ask for?