My secret shame is that I have never played a Serious Sam game. I have nothing against the idea of a fast-paced, deliberately-ridiculous, arcade FPS – in fact I’d prefer that to the overly-serious military shooters of late – I’ve just never gotten around to playing one. But now Sam is here in glorious 2D, and it’s as good a place to start as any.
[Disclaimer: Mommy’s Best Games provided us with an XBL key for Serious Sam Double D XXL.]
Last year saw the arrival of Serious Sam Double D to the PC, and now (this very day, in fact) Serious Sam Double D XXL makes its way to Xbox Live Arcade, with all the features of the PC version plus local multiplayer in both co-op and head-to-head.
If the name of the game rings a bell, that’s probably thanks to this amazing video but, just in case, it’s a side-scrolling, 2D shooter that piles ridiculousness on top of ridiculousness in the much same way it encourages you to stack guns on top of one another.
The first time you’re introduced to a Biomechanoid you might think this is an early boss battle, but no – the game has just decided to throw this ridiculously large, lumbering alien borgosaur at you because Serious Sam – despite the name – doesn’t take itself seriously at all.
Enemies spawn out of thin air, filling the screen with bullets, bombs or sharp teeth. Luckily your arsenal consists of machine guns, shotguns, chainsaws, rocket launchers, and more, and thanks to the gunstacker (which is exactly what it sounds like) you don’t have to choose, just stack them high as a murderous pile of pancakes and vuvuzelas (don’t ask). Not only that, but you can upgrade each weapon with various types of weirdness, like a money-magnet chainsaw, time-slowing shotgun shells and, my personal favourite, the deadly, crawling bug mod for the grenade launcher.
The game’s first act takes place in an ancient Egyptian pyramid, full of as many deadly spikes as it is enemies, but luckily you can cover the spikes in a thick layer of corpses to gain access to secret areas. It’s not fool-proof though; even when the spikes look safe they can kill. It’s not a big issue, but despite the hundreds of enemies in the first act, it was only ever the spikes that killed me. Checkpoints are plentiful, and cutscenes are skippable, so death is only a temporary setback, but it’s still irritating to die through no fault of your own.
In co-op mode, Sam shares monster-killing duty with Huff, the gun-loving hick from the gunstacker video, complete with some suitably off-the-wall dialogue. Due to the sheer number of enemies on screen in single-player it’s hard to tell if there’s an increase in co-op, but the difficulty is noticeably ramped-up to suit.
The friend I roped in for co-op found the constant death-dealing repetitive, but still appreciated the game’s design touches and attention to detail. When we were faced with rocky crevices literally crammed full of enemy corpses and found that blasting was the only way through she actually said, “Ok, that was pretty cool.”
Any game with “Double D” in the title is almost-certainly going to dabble in sexism, and SSDDXXL doesn’t disappoint. One day I’m sure we’ll look back at 2012 as the year we started to take notice of sexism in games and question its place in our most favourite of pastimes, but as with any big change, these things take time. With SSDDXXL it’s obviously trying to be tongue-in-cheek and take a stab at sexism in games itself, but it doesn’t manage to do so without also taking part.
It’s a shame, because the cutscenes featuring the enemy General talking to his Lieutenants are genuinely funny, but any showing Sam’s needlessly buxom AI companion or a Femikaze are cringe-worthy.
Serious Sam Double D XXL might not have the precision and focus of your Metal Slugs, but it’s also not trying to emulate those classics. It trades instead in excess on all fronts – ridiculous banter, hundreds of enemies coming at you and a stack of guns to deal with them…. If only the sexism wasn’t in excess too.
Still, it’s a big, frantic shootfest, and the added multiplayer gives you another reason to keep coming back.