Very few games have quite the set of testosterone-engorged testicles that causes Sam “Serious” Stone to walk funny. Sam gets a full 2-D treatment in this indie-developed title, Serious Sam Double D, and he once again finds himself amid ancient landscapes and numerous monsters with one thing on their mind: Kill Serious Sam.
If you’ve played any of the previous games, you’ll find a lot familiar here. You have to save the world once again by making it from point A to point B, stepping on switches to activate doors and mini-events along the way. Enemies still spawn randomly behind you out of nowhere, and you get a cache of heavy weapons to disincline them on their mission. This time, however, Sam has a new tool in his arsenal: the Gunstacker. The Gunstacker is sort of the same idea Sigourney Weaver’s character had in Aliens: Slap two weapons together to make one super badass weapon. But Double D takes it a few steps further. If you have enough of the stacker pieces, you can connect up to six weapons, capable of firing all at once. With shotguns, Tommy guns, rocket launchers, and even chainsaws, the combinations are near limitless. The catch is that you have to do some serious searching to find all the weapons and stacker pieces scattered throughout the game’s 18 levels. And to find them all, you’ll need to make some creative use of the game’s other new addition, the deployable jump pad.
Early in the game, you’ll find the deployable jump pad, which lets you right-click to toss a pad onto nearly any surface, even on some dead enemies. This lets you jump higher than normal and access areas you couldn’t before. But it’s the developer’s creative use of it that makes it noteworthy. Since the pad is magically removed when you right-click a second time, you can fire it to jump at any given time. This makes it a handy tool in combat for hopping over Beheaded Kamikaze’s and other exploding enemies. The coolest, and trickiest, maneuver requires you to navigate up tight channels, firing the pad from left to right in order to climb to the top. Tough, but satisfying. I did notice a glitch with the jump pad in some of these instances that caused the character to shoot straight up, allowing you to bypass major chunks of any given level and causing some event and spawning issues. It also made some of the backgrounds look wonky and I frequently fell out of the game area.
The game’s overall visual style is usually very good, and the hand-painted backgrounds and environments look top-notch. Whether I was blazing by towering pyramids in ancient Egypt or escaping the wrath of Mount Vesuvius in Pompeii, I was generally pleased with the graphics. Unfortunately, when it comes to character design, things are a bit uneven. Most of the enemies, new and old, look great. A lot of fine detail and shading work makes them pop. But there are a handful that didn’t get the same treatment and end up looking dull and out of place. In particular, the lava monsters riding pogo sticks were given a simple two-tone matte color that completely clashes with the detailed designs of other enemies. Sam himself hasn’t changed much, and while he’s recognizable he’s also not much to look at, literally. He’s very tiny. And since the game’s in 2-D you actually have to look at him. It’s time to face it, Sam: skin-tight tees are so out.
Humor has played a big part in all previous Sam games, and with a title like Double D, this installment is no exception. You’ll stumble upon movie references (including Dune and Inception) and meme-related jokes in many of the secret areas strewn about the levels. Sam comments a handful of times on the hotness of Netricsa’s new holographic representation, and since the characters aren’t fully voiced you’ll hear their exchange as a series of sighs and grunts. Even the crab-faced main boss of the game asks you to hurry up at one point because he has plans to watch a Charles in Charge marathon after he kills you. The funny offsets the insane amount of violence you cause all around and helps Sam fill the shoes of the 90s action movie heroes he emulates.
My one big gripe is that the game is single-player only. To me, Serious Sam is all about kicking ass and taking names with a couple of your buddies riding along. I’ve played through the original title and sequel countless times, but none of those trips has been solo. Killing waves of Kleer Skeletons and cycloptic Gnaars by yourself lacks the thrill that comes with shouting to your partner that more enemies have spawned directly behind him as the screams of the Beheaded Bombers grow louder and louder. I know that this is an independently developed product, but to Mommy’s Best Games: Can my friends come over and play, please?
The Good: The Gunstacker rocks! Mostly great level design and visual aesthetics. Funny as hell.
The Bad: Some inconsistencies with enemy design and a lack of multiplayer. A number of minor bugs and glitches.
The Ugly: Charles in Charge is a great show, isn’t it?