Serious Sam, despite the ironic title, is a game that never takes itself too seriously. The first game in the series spent a good amount of time mocking peers such as Duke Nukem and taking a good knock at Hollywood (everyone should remember running away from a stray boulder while whistling the Indiana Jones theme). This was never a bad thing at all, in fact it’s exactly what I liked about the series, non-stop mindless firefights all taken in jest.
While Serious Sam has enjoyed success for some years now, its fourth instalment was handled by Mommy’s Best Games, a small indie developer, who flipped the series on its head from an FPS to a retro 2D side scroller.
Serious Sam Double D XXL continues the tradition of not taking itself seriously and looks to tap into your childhood. Can you remember back all those years ago playing with toys and making wild adventures full of crazy tag teams and villains? I know I was always sending the great Red Ranger and his trusty sidekick Karate Monkey off to fight the Evil Blue Hair Troll and his minions of Action Men, with unimaginable weapons at their disposal. Well it’s this childhood madness that Double D XXL taps into, with the usual headless kamikaze guys and quick footed dinosaurs complimented with a vast array of completely crazy bosses. Starting with a gigantic Gorilla General toting rocket launchers, a chainsaw arm and a cigar, you’ll fight huge mutant pet hamsters, evil pancakes with fork legs and a magma creature on a pogo stick all while riding a penny farthing if you fancy it.
This for me however wasn’t really the best part, the biggest success in Serious Sam DD XXL lies in its gun-stacking system. Childhood genius at the core, this system allows you to combine any six guns you choose into one unique behemoth. Any combination you can think of will work with my personal favourite being the chainsaw-shotgun-rocketlauncher-machinegun-flamethrower … or the “Rayne-Maker” as I dubbed it. Don’t think that you’re limited to real bullets though, oh no-no, Mommy’s Best Games have thought hard and packed the game with all kinds of ridiculous attachments from the air buffer, which allows Sam to float, to a shotgun that sends an army of bees to sting your enemies to death.
Gun-stacking is completely over the top and so easy to use but for anyone thinking they could stack six rocket launchers together and rule the world, you’d be wrong. Ammo becomes quite scarce as time moves on, meaning you need a good variety of hardware to survive and considering the enemies change constantly, close range and long-range really need to be considered.
Looking hand drawn in places, Double D XXL looks great in its cartoon theme, colours everywhere and a vast selection of settings all tied up with humour in spades, it feels like the love child of Golden Axe and an episode of Robot Chicken. This unfortunately also leads to some of Serious Sam Double D XXL’s issues. The level design is hit and miss feeling on occasion just a bit too basic. While the settings vary, most levels only offer a small amount of alternate routes, these are simply detours to find upgrades which then require you to trek back to that linear path meaning it’s best to rush through each level as quickly as possible, especially if you want that elusive high score. The humour lacks consistency too, whilst good in places it often relies too heavily on some cheesy one liners that only go to highlight the voice acting which in itself feels a bit rushed.
For this release of Double D XXL, which was initially a PC exclusive, Mommy’s Best Games have added co-op and this is another hit and miss point for the game. Co-op modes include running through the campaign with your best bud as well as Challenge mode which plays out like Horde mode and Arena mode where you and your mate can go head to head with your favourite gun stacks. The Campaign and Challenge modes are a lot of fun, the Arena mode is a big miss. Going head to head just feels weird in such a simple game and it never really provides a challenge as hitting your foe eventually falls down to luck with you both firing feverishly at each other. Perhaps the biggest negative point will be the lack of online co-op, this for me isn’t a big issue as I’ve always longed for the older days of couch gaming but in an age where online gaming dominates the world I can’t imagine this going down well with the masses.
So just how good is Serious Sam Double D XXL, and is it worthy of your hard-earned cash? YES! It’s pure old school fun and with crazy guns and enemies galore you really won’t get bored. Yes it has its faults, the humour isn’t going to win any Oscars any time soon and the levels are pretty linear, but with simple controls and gameplay the focus is on enjoying yourself and lets face it, that’s why we play games right?
If you’ve got 800 MSP spare I say grab a friend, jump on your sofa and just have a blast the old school way.