Serious Sam earned its place in the annals of first person shooters for its near parody of the genre, eschewing a traditional “Save the World” narrative in favor of a paper thin plot overshadowed by simple, balls to the wall zaniness replete with an assortment of strange enemies and firepower. The philosophy behind Mommy’s Best Games’ Serious Sam Double D XXL was to adapts the madcap action of the original game into a new, 2D perspective. In doing so, they’ve succeed. The 2D action, however, is simply not fun enough to uproot the entire experience from the lowest levels of monotony.
Serious Sam Double D XXL is actually a re-release of Serious Sam Double D for the PC and picks up after Sam’s previous battle with his nemesis, the time manipulating Mental. After receiving reports from NETRICSA, Sam’s Cortana-like AI partner, about anomalies in Earth’s past, Sam must travel to various locations in Earth’s past in order to defeat the remnants of Mental’s forces currently under the command of his right hand man, General Maxilla. Sam’s quest will take him to Ancient Egypt (yet again), Nova Scotia (during the Jurassic era) and then to Pompeii where he will fight an all out war against Maxilla himself. The setup is far more exciting than the actual game which consists of linear levels that require very little strategy outside of “run to the right” to reach the end of the level. Utilizing a control scheme reminiscent of dual joystick shooters, moving the right stick will allow Sam to aim in all directions while plugging away at the limitless supply of cannon fodder , several of which are modeled after familiar Serious Sam villains. With the slight exception of armored foes, there is no strategy involved with killing enemies. They’re simple minded and fighting them is less interesting than watching paint dry.
Serious Sam Double D XXL comes with two features that are worth an eyebrow raise. The Gunstacking system is just that: by collecting connector pieces, you’re allowed to literally stack up to six weapons on top of each other in any configuration of your choosing. Want two flamethrowers? How about two flamethrowers and a machine gun? Why not go the distance and create a gunstack comprising of two flamethrowers, two rocket launchers, a chainsaw and a machine gun? Despite limited to a number of guns, the result is an appallingly absurd amount of firepower that will turn enemies into piles of red goo with very little effort. Weapons can be upgraded by spending currency to modify its properties like increased rate of fire, upgraded ammunition and the ability to affect Sam in some way. With all of these ridiculous weapons in play, its fairly surprising that ammo seems rather scarce, especially when you need it the most. There are areas in each level (typically near boss or mid-boss areas) that respawn ammo packs but too often were my guns left firing blanks.
Another feature, which sounded better on paper, is the Corpse Piling ability. On certain occasions Sam will find himself on the precipice of a spike pit or will need to find a way out of cavernous secret spots. In these areas, enemies will constantly spawn around you and as they are killed, their corpses will stack giving Sam the ascending surface he needs to advance. As interesting as this sounds, it is implemented poorly. The idea doesn’t take into account the unpredictability of where monsters will fall once killed. Trying to “game” the monster’s corpses into the places you need them to stack is more trouble than its worth. I experienced a bug in one area where the monsters stopped respawning altogether before a passable hill could be made, making advancement nearly impossible without a last minute dose of luck.
Outside of the gameplay frustration, Serious Sam Double D XXL fails at trying to be funny with ham fisted references to other video games and weak, Duke Nukem-inspired one liners, and terrible voice acting on Sam’s part. The game’s graphics run the spectrum of decent to nightmare fuel bad as a result of the hodgepodge of art styles. Some elements are better designed than others, such as the Kamikazes and Femikazes and the newly invented Vuvuzelator pancake monster is certainly amusing. It’s worth noting that the shop vendor’s walrus-like features make him resemble Mythbusters’ Jamie Hyneman a little too close for comfort. Other creatures, namely the final boss Double Diva, are the product of nightmares powered by bad Taco Bell. On the whole, there’s a sort of “cheapness” to the visual experience. I’d hate to call it terrible, but there are better looking downloadable games out there.
Serious Sam Double D XXL ultimately fails to come up with a good reason to keep you sticking around. Once the main game is complete (it took me just under two hours), there’s an additional a head-to-head mode to challenge friends online as well as campaign co-op (I tried neither out of my complete disinterest by the end of the game). A serious lack of fun and no desire to break free of its own monotony are reasons enough to avoid the game altogether. Spend your money on something else.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.