Serious Sam: Double D PC Review

It would seem absurd to proclaim that FPS games are a dying breed, considering it’s nearly impossible to go one month without one of those games getting released. For mainstream shooters like Call of Duty or Halo, the market is as thriving as ever.

Rather, the statement better applies to the style of FPS games as they were known in the 90’s: long stretches of corridors filled with thousands of enemies and thousands more of ammunition to mow them down. Back then, the FPS genre cared less about realistic cinematics and more about providing an adrenaline rush that no energy drink could replicate (they didn’t exist at the time, after all).

With Duke Nukem’s long-awaited return alongside the desire to see him disappear forever, the onus stands on Serious Sam’s broad shoulders to soldier on the spirit of the 90’s with his bullet-soaking series in the upcoming release of Serious Sam 3: BFE. But before that…he’s going 2D.

It takes an Indie developer to make an Indie 2D platformer, so Croteam has hired Mommy’s Best Games to handle Sam’s not-so-serious transition from First Person Shooter to 2D Side Scroller, a move that has been handled almost seamlessly; everything that has made the Serious Sam series stay relevant has been reproduced faithfully here, including the most important feature: mowing down endless legions of enemies with highly destructive weapons.

While the shift to 2D offers a slight advantage in seeing which direction enemies will be teleporting from,  Double D is no less frugal in bombarding you with things to kill than its 3D predecessors; Baddies have a habit of teleporting out of thin air to attack Sam, and in addition to series mainstays like the ocular Gnarrs or the screaming Suicide Bombers, a new host of oddball opponents have been created for this game, and many seem like some fourth grader’s heavy-metal inspired fantasy; you’ve got monkeys on jetpacks throwing banana grenades, dinosaurs outfitted with lasers and rockets, caterpillars wearing berets and wielding automatic weapons, and living pancakes that explode on impact and bleed syrup.

Depending how you react to any of the enemy descriptions above, this is either the most awesome game you’ve ever heard of, or the stupidest. Regardless, there’s no denying that the action is as exhausting and head-banging as it ever was, and the guns are just as deadly…or deadlier in fact, thanks to the new Gun Stacker mechanic. By collecting the necessary components, Sam can stack one gun on top of another, allowing simultaneous fire and extra damage, with up to six guns capable of being stacked at one time, in any combination so desired. Want to have a tower of tommyguns, or a stack consisting of rocket launchers, lasers, and grenades? Perhaps an all-chainsaw combination with a flamethrower on top, just for kicks? There’s no real strategic element to any of the combinations, just stick with whatever looks cool and burn through that ammunition.

Speaking of shooting, Double D goes for a Contra-style system of aiming, though heavily modified to allow precise aiming in every single direction while also being able to move and shoot at the same time. As an alternative to FPS controls, it works just fine, but it can oftentimes be difficult to make out which way the target reticule is aiming at when the screen is practically bursting with exploding enemies, exploding grenades, and pretty much everything else that explodes. Enemies range from small and insignificant to massively taking up several screens at once, and even with a combination of the two the game never hitches in the framerate, thanks to the simplistic but effective Monty-Python-like parallax that virtually stitches characters and backgrounds together. Curiously, an option for 1920×1080 resolution does not currently exist in the options, and must instead be programmed manually. There is also an extra amount of story than is per the norm for Serious Sam, with talking heads exchanging corny jokes and one-liners throughout. It’s dumb, but doesn’t try to beat you over the head with its simplicity like Duke Nukem Forever.

Ultimately, that’s what defines Serious Sam as a whole: A dumb, thrilling action experience filled with lots of (often humorous) secret areas, collectible challenges, and varied level designs that takes Sam across several time periods, from ancient Egypt to the Jurassic era. Few shooters exist nowadays to simply play on a gamer’s need for visceral entertainment, and Double D proves that there’s still a market for mid-school (which would be where I would place gaming in the 90’s) shooters, regardless of dimension.

8/10

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Version tested: PC

Also available on: Xbox Live Arcade

Developer: Mommy’s Best Games

Publisher: Devolver Digital, Croteam

Genre: Action/Shooter