Ultimate Gloom logo

█ Price: £14.95 █ Publisher: Guildhall Leisure 01302 890000

Gloom's back, and this time it's on CD! Time to rekindle the bloodlust and get yomping down those dark corridors...

Never one to be impressed by an endless list of spells and plot about evil wizards, runes and all that kind of stuff, the all out action approach of Gloom got me instantly hooked. Now the reins have been handed over to Gareth Murfin for the third, and according to the title, the final installment in the series.

As is increasingly common these days, Ultimate Gloom is a CD-only release. Not only do you get the new Gloom 3 on the disc, but you are also given the original Gloom and Gloom Deluxe too. There’s also a bunch of new levels from the general public made up with the Gloom editor (which is included also). Quite a package all told then.

It’s par for the course that CD games come with flashy intros, normally pre-rendered 3D sequences and a soundtrack. Ultimate Gloom makes a comically bad attempt at setting the scene with a narrated introduction which comes complete with scrolling subtitles and a zombie picture. The voice over sounds like it was recorded in a biscuit tin by a depressed Geordie, then slowed down to half speed to sound scary. Nice try guys.

What’s the difference?
If you were hoping for a stream of technical advances since the last edition you will be disappointed. However, the main game engine is significantly faster with options to play different versions optimised for 020, 030, 040 and 060 CPUs. Specifically the speed increase you will get is 26% (020). 14% (030). 60% (040) and 3% (060). Unliked Trapped 3 though, you won’t be bombarded with fancy lighting effects as your plasma bolts hurtle down corridors, and neither will you see any texture-mapped polygon enemies. Why? Mainly because speed is an essential ingredient in any decent shoot ‘em up, and at the end of the day that is what Gloom is.

So that is the advances out of the way. Disappointingly, most of the other changes are for the worse. The first thing that hits you (after the improved intro screens) is the amateur look of the graphics. The first level texture maps are very poor. The ground is plain tiled lino and half of the walls have little more than a coarsely stippled colour graduation for detail. This is an unfortunate choice as the scaling of the textures clashes with the dithering as you approach the walls.

Worse still, all the enemies you come across appear to be on casters – they just slide around the place with barely an animation frame between them. If the developers weren’t going to bother animating the enemy sprites properly they should have at least given themselves and excuse for it – switching the soldiers for Daleks would have done the trick.

Maybe the following levels could have pitted you against mutant arm chairs and angry skateboards. Then again maybe they should have just bothered to animated them properly.

You will see they’ve obviously put a lot of work into drawing a highly realistic gun that pokes up in front of you throughout the game. Or is it a hot-dog? The sound effects are another disappointment. The satisfying ‘splat’ of exploding zombies is still present but the main gunshot sound has graced a million and one PD games over the years and is surely due for retirement by now.

Gloom on a rope
Despite all of this, it’s still Gloom. The opportunity to go shooting off your plasma gun around a whole new set of levels is not to be sniffed at. The two-player mode is still there and it is still just as good fun to double up and play with a mate.

As with Gloom Deluxe, you can choose to run a few different versions of the game to get the best from your system. The display options are ‘Gloom 3 Ze Dc’ (which the documentation warns against using as it will crash – good job they put that in then). ‘Gloom 3 Ze’ for general use, ‘Gloom on a screen’ which allows you to select any available screen mode (such as a CybergraphX or Multiscan display), ‘Gloom in a window’to play in a window on Workbench and ‘Gloom iGlasses’ which offers a real 3D display if you have some of those 3D glasses Escom were trying to flog a while ago.

I was interested in seeing how it went on a CybergraphX display with an 060, but the set-up program crashed on the CybergraphX test machine. Never mind.

The best bit
It’s ironic that the best bits of this CD are the two previous Gloom games. They both knock Gloom 3 for six. If you don’t have either of them, then this is a good opportunity to get all Gloomed up, especially considering the knock-down price. Most of the score here is for those games. Had it been Gloom 3 on its own you’d be looking at something nearer 70%, but the overall package amounts to a decent re-release.