Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour PC Review
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!” BOOM! are familiar and unforgettable scenarios for anyone who has played the Serious Sam first person shooters. Those games gained a following over the years, due to its throwback to old shooters of the 90s that focused on mowing down enemy hordes without much crap to get in between the player, their weapon and the face of a Gnaar. While fans sit twiddling their fingers waiting for the fourth instalment, the independent developer, Crackshell, known for the game, Hammerwatch, has brought something to ease the wait with Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour. The indie scene is no stranger to Serious Sam – back in 2011 a trio of indie games in various genres (Endless runner, RPG, side scrolling shooter) popped up to support the release of Serious Sam 3: BFE, but they sadly received a lukewarm reception. Things are different this time around, as Crackshell knows what makes Serious Sam tick and expresses those ideas within this twin-stick shooter.
It’s strange it has taken this long to merge the madness of Serious Sam into a twin-stick shooter, because it maps well to the top-down perspective, and Crackshell has made it feel right at home in Bogus Detour. Serious Sam is set in big 3D open spaces where players need to use their quick reactions to shoot down huge waves of enemies while being able to strafe out of harms way. This is exactly how it works in Bogus Detour, with wide maps littered with enemies who are all out to seek the player with overwhelming numbers, but now, instead of dodging from a first-person view, you are using the 360 degree freedom of the top-down perspective to do the same evasion and shooting tactics to survive, although, with the move to top-down view the spacebar now acts as a dodge roll instead of jumping. One of the reasons why Bogus Detour feels great to play is because of how this genre can mimic the main gameplay of Serious Sam – even the controls are as easy to use to move and shoot as it is when playing a first-person shooter.
Not only is the action familiar for fans, but all the standard weaponry from the games make their way into Bogus Detour. Classics like the cannon, laser gun, tommygun, mini gun, sledge hammer, rocket launcher, flamethrower all return to slot in with the new gear, such as the shaft that blasts out lightning bolts. And if you some how manage to run out of ammo, then the trusty pistol with an unlimited supply has you covered, although, with so much ammo scattered around, it’s rare to find yourself without some bullets or energy. It’s nice to have a solid selection of weapons available, but there is a clear bias with certain weapons when it comes to their usefulness on the enemies. The laser gun seems to be the weapon I was using most often, as it’s fast and does a decent amount of damage that I felt it was one of the few weapons well equipped to tackle any monster thrown at it.
What I am saying is that everything in this game is so Serious Sam. Remember Egypt? Yep, it’s a starting level here. Red, yellow and blue card keys to unlock progression to the next part of the level? Yep, those make a return here as well. Beheaded Kamikaze, Kleer Skeletons and Gnaars? Got those as well. There isn’t much that is well known in the Serious Sam games to be missing here across the 10 levels available, These levels aren’t all based in Egypt. The campaign moves across the ocean to Greece and digs itself into the Mediterranean before finishing up inside some huge buildings.
While the environment might be different across each level, they all share similarities, they are packed with enemies to kill, keys to find, plenty of pick ups to restore health, ammo and armour, and lastly, many secrets to hunt out. Bogus Detour has great map design that supports the hectic nature with wide battlegrounds allowing for mass battles, but also throws in areas that require more tactical movement, and the top-down angle offers plenty of view to give players enough time to respond to the incoming danger. My only issue is that I wish there was some sort of map, as it’s easy to get a little lost within the later stages when looking for the next key card, as the landmarks don’t always help to act as pointers in the grand size of the level when backtracking. At least the flood of blood splatter and carcasses left by yourself are amusing signs to know that the area has already been explored.
Bogus Detour is not just a direct translation from FPS to twin-stick shooter, as the developers have thrown in extra mechanics. For starters, there is an experience and level up system, with each level giving the player stars (stars can also be found hidden within levels). These are then used to acquire new or upgrade existing abilities. This could be combat, survival or weapon based, such as gaining more maximum health, faster movement speed, ricocheting bullets or decreased reloading times. It’s a good fit for the game, as it promotes experimentation in the different perks, because once the campaign is beat and you decide to move up to the harder difficulties (easy, normal, hard and serious) where things become extremely challenging, the level progression is reset back to the beginning, giving players the option to build their character differently the next time around. As for beating the game on normal, it proposed a decent challenge that I met a few game overs. For people who might want to try save scum the game, there are no save points in stages, so once all the lives are gone it’s back to the beginning of the level. People might find that rough when stages can last 40 minutes, but the game is just a blast that I was roaring to get back into action and get my revenge on the git that gave me the deathblow.
Up to four players can tackle the campaign together through online cooperative play (I’ve been told that local cooperative play for four players is currently in the works and will come later in a patch), and as you can imagine, it works fantastic and is an absolutely madness of death and destruction. As with most things, playing with friends not only makes it more fun, but the increase amount of enemies and bullets demonstrates a wonderful frantic mess. Turn that up even more when it comes to the game’s survival mode, where the cooperative limit is increased to 12 players, as they are tasked with trying to survive 8 waves of increased opposition. And if you are a person who just wants to blast mates, then there is the 12 player deathmatch where shit really just hits the fan with unmeasurable amount of colourful bullets flying in all directions. One thing to note is that online was rather dead. Last night I checked before finalising this review and currently two rooms were hosting campaign games. I even hosted one myself and it took about five minutes before someone else joined the room. Hopefully it picks up, otherwise I recommend grabbing friends to play with. It won’t cost a bomb to purchase, as at £10.99 it won’t devastate the bank account, and with system requirements that allow its lovely pixel art to run on any old machine, friends should have no barriers joining in this brilliant co-operative experience.
For the creative players, there is support for Steam Workshop for its inbuilt level editor. This is actually quite respectable in allowing to create levels for multiplayer and single player, even going as far as to package a few together to build your own Bogus Detour campaign. It has the power to do a lot – recently I saw someone create a Bomberman multiplayer stage for the game that replaced the model as a Beheaded Kamikaze as they dropped serious bombs to blow up walls and other players. It’s a powerful and simple tool to extend the game’s life, and people seem to be into creating content so that the less savvy people, like me, can let the others do the hard work for us.
Crackshell has managed to drip every ounce of Serious Sam and rework it into the twin-stick shooter formula with immaculate imitation of the first-person shooter its based upon. Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour looks great, plays fantastic and has enough challenge to offer something for even the serious fans of Serious Sam – it is literally those games portrayed into a different genre. Even if you have never touched a Serious Sam game before, this pixel 2D shoot-em-up is an amusing blast of arcade entertainment on your own, but an absolute bucket brimming with joyous madness when you bring friends along, making it an easy recommendation for people looking for their next 90s action fix.