I played a lot of shareware Doom growing up, but I never really got into downloading maps online. We only had one phone line, and as a result I didn’t have much of an on-ramp to online communities until Doom had been disregarded in favor of newer and shinier games.

Decades later, I found myself getting back in, after seeing the review and a screenshot of Ancient Aliens in the 2016 Cacowards. This wasn’t the greys and browns of my childhood, but something new and vivid. It was still Doom, but it wasn’t afraid to be its own vision of Doom. Same monsters1, but a new architecture, a new setting, a new vocabulary of shooty game.

I’ve spent way more time with Ancient Aliens than Dooms 2016 or Eternal. It launches faster, it’s less involved, and honestly it’s a comfy experience even though it’s weird in a way that cannot be commercially viable.

Since then I’ve played a handful of new wads2 every year. Some impressed the hell out of me, some I found boring or frustrating, plenty just kind of middling, but in general the modern vision of classic Doom is a fast and fun shooter with an unimaginably vast array of content that costs nothing beyond a tiny bit of disk space and the joyful process of discovery.

In Too Deep

I was introduced to Time Tripper in a social space, where a few of us were talking about wads we loved, so I gave it a shot.

I struggled hard in an early playthrough! The visual style early on isn’t completely distinct from Eviternity or other OTEX-using work. You get dumped in, and there are arch-viles (the one enemy that still has a ranged hitscan3) right there. As you progress there are checkpoints for saving, lulling you into a false sense of security if you’re a quicksave junkie.

If you’re not a fan of the pistol start4 (I’m not), you might get frustrated when you change levels and end up with the single shotgun instead of your prior armament.

As I played a bit more, I started to really enjoy how different it was from other Doom stuff. While it has a similarly wild palette to Ancient Aliens and others like it, Time Tripper goes full GZDoom with lighting effects and sky effects. It has checkpoints in a few places, (but I still quicksaved a bunch.)

I ended up doing multiple playthroughs; the second was right after the first, but on “Normal” difficulty instead of “Light” like my first time through. It’s much less monstrous than Sunlust, which was unplayable on UV5 and a struggle on HMP. Normal is probably on par with Ancient Aliens on UV? I should replay both of those again…

My third play-through was on “No Miss or Bust,” where everything goes down in one shot. It’s fast, intense, and only one spot felt unwinnable.

The secrets are good! Some are useful tidbits, some are amusing, and some are huge changes to entire stages.

The Restless, The Tender

The music in Time Tripper goes places. Some tracks are an ambiance that breaks in to an interesting melody. Some tracks are psychedelia with a drill beat, like if Terry Riley was your Hard Normal Daddy. More than one track has a vocal line. (I learned that GZDoom has a module player!)

My favorite is possibly “The Forever Plane,” which has some really interesting syncopation going on.

I will caution you to not listen to the whole soundtrack before playing, because it spoils something enjoyably surprising late in the game.


If you’re Doom-curious, I’d recommend Time Tripper after getting some familiarity with Doom canon, Dooms 1 and 2 for sure, but maybe Ancient Aliens as well. I think Time Tripper hits harder with an appreciation for what it changes up, and it’s so good that you want it to hit like that.

If you’re a Doom connoisseur, Time Tripper is hopefully something you’ve had a look at, but if not, you will probably appreciate the sweeping changes from a more vanilla experience.

Time Tripper is available for free at https://heckscaper.com/tt/ . The instructions there are probably good for Windows users. Linux and Mac people will probably want to plug their correct filesystem paths into something like:

/Applications/GZDoom.app/Contents/MacOS/gzdoom \
    -iwad ~/Sync/doom-wads/DOOM2.WAD \
    -file ~/Sync/doom-wads/pwads/timetrip/timetrip.pk3

The soundtrack’s at https://lapfox.bandcamp.com/album/time-tripper-circuit01-abyssal to stream or download on a name your own price deal. Again, it’s worth holding off if you plan to play the game, for spoiler reasons.

  1. well, except for a couple new ones 

  2. Doom and mods traditionally came in .WAD files, which is Where All the Data are. Some modern Doom content comes in .pk3 files but whatever, they’re wads in spirit. 

  3. an attack in a shooting game that operates as an instant scan to see if it hits, instead of existing as a visible and potentially dodge-able projectile in the world. In Doom 1, bullets and shotgun pellets are hitscan attacks, while rockets and fireballs are projectiles. 

  4. when you start an episode in classic Doom you have 100% health and a pistol, and as you progress through the episode, stuff you find carries over, so if you find the rocket launcher in E1M3 you can use it on the bosses in E1M8. If you play with pistol start rules, you start every level with the pistol. 

  5. Doom has different skill levels. UV is “Ultra-Violence” which is hard, HMP is “Hurt Me Plenty” which is medium, and there’s also “Nightmare!” which isn’t even remotely fair.