This is the third huge release from Mark Shan in one year. His first, named Magic Lamber: Power Of The Sewer, was released back in September 1999, and showed some quite promising signs. But it was not a great experience, just an episode of below average levels. Next came Magic Lamber Forever, which was a really big improvement. Although the gameplay was quite rediculous at times, and there were still a few below average maps which let it down. This final release from Mark, Progetto Genoma, finally gets it all spot on.
There are 12 levels in total (including a boss map), and every one of them look fantastic. Mark has a style very similar to Brian Griffith - huge rooms with great supports and block architecture. These levels aren't quite base, and aren't quite palace. Texture combinations have been done very well to give alot of atmosphere. Such as greys and browns mixed with bright blue lighting to create a fantasy/palace atmosphere. Many custom textures have been used, most notably alot from Quake3, and they all work great and make the levels more unique.
In Magic Lamber Forever, there were many times when gameplay would get too frustrating, with hundreds of small enemies coming at you at once. Mark has worked more on his style of mass-killing, and it is far better here. Many times you will be walking along, or have just pressed a button, and a dozen monsters will come from holes in the wall to kill you. There are too many ambushes to count. Fortunately, none were too frustrating, you just have to figure out how to kill everything best.
Over 1100 enemies are supposed to be in the pack, but if you don't find the secret level it's only 800. And you don't want to find the secret level either, it's one corridor pasted a few dozen times and 30 soldiers done every one of them. If Quake2 doesn't crash on you, then you'll only end up wasting all your ammo.
All the monsters are included, with a great mix all throughout. Even in the very first map you'll be fighting Gladiators and Commanders. The fight really does heat up straight away, and doesn't cool down again until your finished. I played all 12 levels in one sitting, and it took a helluva long time to complete. I was a little disappointed by the end though, as you only have to fight Makron in a big room. After fighting multiple bosses at once (two Tanks at once on three different occasions!), I was expecting a bit more after I had saved all my cells, rails and powerups.
If I had to find something wrong, there were still a few times when it seemed as if a previous room had just been pasted alongside it to make a second room. And a fairly big problem - speeds. I have quite a good computer (PIII 450, 128mb, TNT2) and at times it was quite slow. That is the price to pay when playing in huge rooms with many monsters on screen. Also, those who aren't a good shot better try to conserve ammo a bit, as sometimes it can be a little low after wasting a few dozen rockets on Tanks and Commanders.
One thing is for sure, this is no easy task. It is harder than your usual Q2 maps, but I never got frustrated with it. This really rivals Jed's Light for best Q2 release of the year. A fantastic experience.