Okay time for the conclusion of 2007! And the one I didn't cover is none but:
Feb 2007: All this and Wolf3d!
Well I could ignore a few levels near the end, and say that this is just typical very high quality Thomas work, because that's really exactly what it is and shouldn't imply any negativity at all. Of course I'd have to give it the mention for being the most levels in any set to date though.
Then you reach Level 68. And you wonder why everything is so all of a sudden different. Shading and ghosts, and a new music. Who allowed that to get in here?? But honestly besides those few weird things it's just another level. Nothing big (in fact it's somewhat small).
A little later you find the exit, and press the spacebar [or mouse button] a couple times to get into and past the statistics screen. And right away you notice a couple awfully weird things, that you wouldn't know about unless you'd already heard or read about them, or watched Balames87 play these levels a couple years ago for stathmk. An unusually stretched screen. Another new music track. A timer in the bottom corner. And if you try pressing Esc, Pause, or any F-keys, you'll notice something more: either they don't work or force you to lose a life when you return!
That's just some abbreviated comments to wet appetites from a full blog post of mine you can read here
[reading blog post...]
And by now you should already get the point: This is one mighty weird and unique level. Certainly not one of the excellent, but normal, levels that Thomas makes. I feel too bad for never doing Part 2 yet. But I can put summary comments on here.
After you walk through either one of the portals, you are in a room that looks identical to the start of the original's E3L4. And there's another timer in the bottom of the screen. Yes - you are on another time limit - but it's a mighty long one compared to before. And you have work to do.
I still don't feel like spoiling the rest in its entirety, but this is only a partial list of some of the stuff you'll find as you play through the rest:
-At least three more oddly familiar looking areas.
-The Doom Space Marine and Duke, some of BJ's greatest spiritual successors.
-Pictures of girls you must press that act like switches.
-You'll be feeling deja vu in this level itself at some point...
-You might think another gold or silver key is useless when you already have one. But it is really?
-At some point, probably as you near the end of the girl portrait hunt, you'll emerge back into the same room before you entered one of the black holes. You'll see a band of guards, and yes, it's really a band.
-Got the clock stopped? Well there's even more surprises, and I'm not spoiling them all! At least there are some thing you can do again now, but you'd better be daring enough to risk all your progress to find out, and you'd better not guess wrong or you'll lose a lot of work. The first time I played, I sure wasn't willing to risk a thing.
-For kicks, play again and let the timer run low (and out) on you.
-Exited with all 100% ratios? You might notice something different coming from your speakers.
-And too many other weird things and easter eggs to even put a number on. I'm not spoiling another one!
Perhaps at first you were frustrated with how hard it was, or maybe you enjoyed the challenge. But after the dust settles, only one thought should remain in your mind: This level is pure genius
. Like, the best thing made for Wolfenstein 3D. Ever. And do you recall the mod's name? It eerily fits the scene!
And a little playing time later, you'll be done with the mod. Don't expect another climax though, just another good piece of work by Thomas as you fight to the final boss. I don't think Level 69 is just the climax of the mod; it is the climax of custom Wolf3D modding altogether. I honestly think I've spent more time, and had more enjoyment, with this level than with all other 69 levels combined. And when Thomas is the mapper, that's quite a tall statement.
Eventually, I think you might even come around to thinking that everything Thomas did here is just a bonus in comparison! Not to discredit his excellent work at all, but it's hard not to think: if those other levels had all been terrible, but I know this level was something so special (yet had no spoilers as to just how), would I play the mod? Ultimately, I probably would.
There's no doubt ATAW is the best mod of 2007, since Level 69 alone is the most ingeniously amazing mod of all time. Possibly there is only one person in the community who can truly top that. And he has work in this mod.
And there it is, the ultimate 2007 grand finale I had promised and eluded to many times!
(Oh, and just as a side note, we're through 5 out of 10 years after this. Halfway done looking back.)