The crypt of the Mastisons, long-time enemies of Garrett

Five decoy candles

The courtyard aboveground

A pleasant church

Review by Anarchic Fox

Mission Name: Escape from Blackstone Prison
Author: Hit Deity
Mission Type: Undead Crypt
Map Size: Tiny
Difficulty: Easy

No. Times Played: 3
Difficulties Played: N/A (there's only one)
Loot Found: 1885 out of 1905
Secrets Found: 4 out of 4

Pros: Great exploration, a good story backed by many readables. Winner of the 64^3 contest.

Cons: Not much sneaking; a poorly-placed (but vital) button.

Bottom Line: A very worthwhile little mission. Even if you don't like the undead, it's still worth playing (since there aren't too many of those up and about).

Escape from Blackstone Crypt is a fun, and amazingly compact, mission. In the space of a contest mission (usually enough for some ten to twenty minutes of gameplay), this mission gives a half-hour's worth of fun exploration and interesting reading. It does have rather few AI for its space (I counted five), meaning that most locations in the mission don't require sneaking; on the other hand, the exploration of the crypt and the buildings above it is great. The various locations fold around each other in complicated ways, giving the crypt area a surprising circularity, and the above-ground locations a surprising quantity of rooms; and almost every one of new rooms, crypt areas, and such has something interesting in it (a readable, some powerup, or treasure). The secrets are (bar one) not too hard and not too easy to find, and rewarding, although two of them are required finds. Treasure is generally awarded to thorough exploration and minor challenges (evading the undead AI, finding the required switches); meeting the loot requirement is not a frustrating task. Finally, the level is set up so that the progressive exploration and key-hunting (well-executed, for once) give a solid sense of accomplishment, so that even if you end up unable to find the switch in the Mastisons' crypt (and you probably will; it's too well-hidden), this won't kill the enjoyment as it does in many other levels.

The mission starts tense (though I'm dismayed by the timidity of its introductory zombie), and maintains a fair amount of tension until the very end; nevertheless it doesn't match the atmosphere of the better undead missions. On the other hand, the story of Escape from Blackstone Crypt is unusually well-developed; in addition to starting the mission with a twist on the usual premise, the player discovers a demonic plot while exploring the crypts, and is able to learn of the uses to which both the enemy thief and the undead-creating faction (in addition to a late Keeper) have been putting the place. The mission thus provides antagonists whose drives and recent actions are explained (though the expositions are brief, most missions don't provide even this), in addition to explaining the demon-summoning setup which you must sabotage, all the while throwing in additional readables that build the crypt as a setting and give some humorous asides (the Hammerites' debate over the bronze statue had me laughing). One complaint I do have is that you start with an objective that presupposes knowledge of some of the books in the level; this objective should have triggered during the course of the mission. Nevertheless, Escape from Blackstone Crypt's plot is, in all, unusually strong; along with the fun exploration, this makes for a very good level.


Story: 7 -- Very detailed for such a small mission. It adequately explains Garrett's undertaking and current situation (although it gives him some knowledge prematurely), with two separate antagonistic elements (the thief and the undead creators), both of which have a quantity of backstory. No twists occur (beyond the one that starts the level off), however, and the plot, though detailed, is not exceptional.

Atmosphere: 6 -- Suitably creepy, occasionally even startling; in addition, the extra readables provided do a lot to flesh out the setting, sometimes even providing a nice laugh. No memorable use of ambients or unforgettable moments/details, though.

Gameplay: 7 -- Very little opportunity for sneaking, though what there is of it is solidly designed. Lots of exploration, loot- and key-hunting, and switch-finding, most of which is very well done (perhaps giving the moral that sometimes it's best to leave out the AI).

Architecture: 6 -- An amazingly complicated design in a small amount of space; still, while all of it looks good, none of it is of exceptional visual quality. Texture choice and use are technically solid. A fair amount of architecture beyond the absolute minimum is present.

Reviewer's Score: 1.5 silver ( 6.5 on the ten-point scale)

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