Retro Review: Blood - Cryptic Passage (PC)

Review-Blood-Cryptic-PassageMany know of the brilliant first-person shooter Duke Nukem 3D, which was packed with raunchy content, oodles of aliens to gib and massacre with an array of deadly weapons, maze-like missions and plenty of cheesy one-liners. Blood, on the other hand, is a lesser-known gem from the late nineties. Instead of sci-fi themes and nudity, there were horror tropes and extreme levels of gore, with enough dark humour to put a sadistic smile on any nasty player. Back in the day, Sunstorm Interactive crafted together two great Duke 3D expansion packs, and even stepped in to cook up the Cryptic Passage add-on for Monolith Studios' cult-classic shooter.

The story really isn't anything deep or special. Sometime after the events of the main game, the singing, sarcastic anti-hero Caleb discovers that some cheeky git has robbed him of an ancient scroll that is powerful enough to mess up, according to the manual, “the balance of power in the otherworld”. Whatever that means. Quite honestly, if the scroll could affect the levels in Cryptic Passage in which scripted events like warp-zones appearing or structures smashing through out of nowhere, that would have been a lot cooler. Regardless, included is a short cutscene for the expansion's ending which helps wrap everything up in a somewhat satisfying way just before cutting to the credits.

This new chapter, consisting of nine levels and a secret mission, will take place first at the Boat Docks, to which Caleb will find himself in urban areas like a Gothic Library and even an Old Opera House, before plundering more gothic areas like a Lost Monestary and the underground passages of a dusty Graveyard. One of the most interesting levels takes place upon a not-so relaxing ride on a Steamboat, meaning an easy escape from the nasty things that go bump in the night is nowhere to be found. Included are four BloodBath maps for multiplayer use, featuring nifty things like gates to trap players with and monorails to ride, or just interesting bits of scenery like turbines and ritual chambers.

The quality of the maps are excellent and remain very consistent throughout. There are many passages to explore, secrets to plunder and sights to marvel at. The add-on also has new textures that give some locations a bit of a different look compared to the original levels in Blood. Interactivity with the environment is still present here, for Caleb can tamper with things like organs and forklifts to move things or to let the bad dude make a sadistic quip. An occasional pop culture reference can be found every now and again as well. On top of all that, there are plenty of health and ammo stashes to be found, which may make it seem a bit generous on easier difficulties but will be a blessing on the tougher ones.


Referring to the last mission specifically, the Castle is a very big and expansive final battle, packed full of baddies ready to be massacred. There are numerous parts of the building to explore, each of which really emphasize the amount of effort that the map-makers put into its design. At the very end, the Lord of all Nightmares guarding the scroll will reveal themselves and commence battle. Despite the cramped conditions, the copius amounts of ammo and the invincibility pick-up will make this fight none too difficult. Regardless, considering the grand amounts of effort put into detail and the substantial amount of enemies defending the Castle, it makes for a brilliant final mission on the whole – in fact, it's one to rival those from the original game!

Whilst the Boggy Creek is a very grey and ambient secret mission with a fair amount of resistance, the level design here is not too special or memorable compared to others. Nevertheless, there are some crafty enemy placements and scripted events where the things that go bump in the night will come out and play, and the fact that the starting point is in a boat with Death, who travels around the swamp for souls to harvest, is a cool concept. Yet, there could have been some more room for improvement, like a big reward at the end to congratulate the player for finding the secret level, even if stumbling across it is not too difficult of a task.

Cryptic Passage remains very consistent with plenty of levels to paint red and countless enemies to perforate.

The usual assortment of demons and gun-wielding grunts of the Cabal are hell-bent on putting Caleb back into a grave again, and are plentiful in number, meaning Caleb's quest will certainly be no easy trek. There are no new recruits to their dark army, nor are there any bonus weapons to be found or any other creepy tunes aside from a thirty-second ambient song used during the credits. Even the fearful Lord of all Nightmares is nothing more than the lava-regurgitating Cerberus and his dopplegadger twin-brother clone...or, in other words, another Cerberus.

Compared to the main game, there are few puzzles to be found, which is a tad disappointing. There will be moments where the human enemies may fall into the water and be a pain in the backside to put down, due to their impeccable accuracy and ability to swim around at top-speed without the need for oxygen. There are even a fair few gltiches here and there, such as a pillar that will spawn oodles of hellhounds when activated as many times as you wish. Whoops. Thankfully, platforming segments are few and far in between, and underwater segments in the BloodBath levels are rare.

On the whole, Cryptic Passage remains very consistent with level quality and difficulty, offering a whole new chapter stuffed with plenty of items to loot, things to interact with, levels to paint red and countless enemies to perforate. Its handful of glitches, the lack of puzzles and the underwater segments where a shotgun-wielding Cultist can drop in to glitch out and cause havoc do admittedly degrade the overall product, but only on a relatively small scale. This passage is a brilliant trek to travel through, meaning replay value remains considerably high. Any fan of this hidden gem of a game will love getting their hands bloody in this one.

Blood - Cryptic Passage (PC) Gameplay

Last Updated ( 24 June 2015 )  


(Link to this comment) virusbomb 2015-06-25 19:26
this game looks great! how did I miss this back in the 90s?
(Link to this comment) cjblfc 2015-06-25 19:57
This and Blood were amazing back in the day. Fond memories of these games.

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