DEVELOPER: Sunstorm Interactive
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: P75, 16MB RAM, DOS 6.2, Full Version of Blood
SIMILAR TO: Blood
CATEGORY: 3D Shooter
Review by: Emil Pagliarulo
Published: July 21, 1997
You thought the nightmare was over. Ophelia has been properly lain to rest, the Chosen have been avenged, and Tchernobog has been sent back to the Hell that spawned him. But the forces of evil are everywhere. Members of the Cult of Tchernobog have stolen a mystical scroll of great power, the use of which could upset the very balance of the Otherworld. It is up to you as Caleb, still in detestable human form, to travel to the darkest reaches of Europe, into the legendary Carpathian Mountains, and retrieve that which is rightfully yours. So begins your Cryptic Passage.
Cryptic Passage (originally titled Passage to Transylvania) is an all new episode for the full version of Blood. It comes complete with nine interconnected levels, a secret level, and four new BloodBath maps. Sunstorm Interactive, the developers of the add-on, first gained recognition for Duke It Out in D.C., their great expansion to Duke Nukem 3D. I'm happy to write that Cryptic Passage is even better than Duke It Out in D.C., and brings Blood lovers some truly unique and entertaining levels.
Blood's original levels vary in style and size, but most of them fall into one of two categories: those based on popular horror movies, like the "Overlooked Hotel" of The Shining and "Crystal Lake" of Friday the 13th, and those you just assume would be creepy, like "Dark Carnival" and "The Sick Ward." Monolith seemed to cover all the bases, and I really had to wonder if there was a horror-themed level that hadn't been done in the original. Sunstorm has taken a slightly different approach. Most of the new maps in Cryptic Passage are representations of places that you would not normally associate with being frightening, but the way in which they have been designed, within the context of Blood's gothic look and feel, make them in many ways better than the game's original levels.
Your journey starts at the "Boat Docks," where a mysterious force has waylaid your vessel, forcing you to take anchor. After rampaging through a fisherman's cabin and a lighthouse, you'll make your way into town, and on to the next level. The "Old Opera House" is as creepy as it is fun. Opera music echoes through the streets as the minions of darkness do everything in their power to prevent you from making the show. "Old Opera House" is an excellent level, and the building has all the trappings, from a secret door in the wardrobe to darkened rafters above the stage. Intentionally or not, the opera house is reminiscent of the theater from the book (and movie) Interview with a Vampire. From there, you'll head to the dusty tomes of the "Gothic Library," and then to the "Lost Monastery" of the ancient Holy Order of Carpathia.
Oddly enough, "Lost Monastery," which is the fourth level, is the map available in the downloadable demo of Cryptic Passage. This is actually one of the game's weaker levels, too, and may not have the kind of draw that one of the add-on's stronger maps, like "Old Opera House," would provide. Still, the level is decent enough, with a solid design and even enemy placement.
Level five is perhaps the game's most impressive map. "Steamboat" is just what the name implies, a steamboat known as the Carpathian Queen. From the moving paddle wheels, to the rotted out cabins, to the shadowy engine compartment, this level is a winner. Like the "Phantom Express" train of Blood's first episode, "Steamboat" is a moving level. You'll glide steadily down a murky river, and leaving the boat means instant death. Just describing it doesn't give this map the credit it deserves. Hats off to Sunstorm for such an original, and masterfully designed environment. Although I haven't tried it yet, it seems like it would make for killer BloodBaths. Unfortunately, "Steamboat" seems to suffer from the same problem as "Phantom Express." As soon as I began the level, the game locked up and I had to reboot. The only way around this problem was to play the game in Windows 95. In Windows 95, the level doesn't lock up, and you can proceed as normal. If you encounter this problem, I recommend playing through the beginning of "Steamboat" in Win 95, saving the game, and then rebooting to DOS and resuming gameplay from there. Trust me -- playing in DOS will give you much smoother gameplay. It's a pain in the neck, but seems to be the only way to get by the lockup.
From "Steamboat," you'll head to the "Graveyard," an expansive cemetery and series of underground crypts. If there's a type of map that is missing from Blood's original episodes, it is a fully sketched-out graveyard. Although there are a couple of small plots here and there, and the theme was covered somewhat in Blood's very first level, "Cradle to Grave," "Graveyard" takes the idea and runs with it. The skeletons hanging out of the drawers are a particularly nice touch.
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