Despite some shortcomings, Serious Sam Double D’s juvenile humor, appealing visuals and absorbing gun stack system make this spinoff a quite enjoyable experience.
What makes the Serious Sam series so great? Is it the breakneck action, the solid gameplay, the variety of weapons and enemies, the superb level design, the nonsensical story or all of the above? As its name suggests, Serious Sam Double D is a two dimensional spinoff set in the Serious Sam universe and in one way or the other, it’ll make you reflect upon the aforementioned question. Double D takes some of the aspects that make Serious Sam such an excellent franchise, at the same time it incorporates some inviting new features.
Although the most apparent change is that this game makes use of 2D visuals, those who have played previous entries in the first-person shooter franchise will notice many familiar elements. For example, the risqué and juvenile humor has been impeccably translated into Double D. Silly jokes have always been an important part of the experience, so thankfully, fans of the series will be happy to hear that Double D has some genuinely funny moments. Nods and winks to other franchises (such as Tomb Raider or Duke Nukem) are also quite common and the self-aware humor constantly breaks down the fourth wall.
The main plot is absolutely absurd, but then again, Serious Sam has never stood out for its deep thought-provoking story. Actually, the only purpose the lighthearted story serves is to provide some shallow motivations to put your arsenal of weapons to use, allowing you to shoot everything that moves. And what a delight this is.
But while the game is a 2D side-scrolling shooter, the over-the-top and extremely visceral action so characteristic of the series still remains unchanged. The way in which you dispatch the different enemies differs dramatically, though. As in most side-scrolling titles, the main objective of the game is to move from left to right, killing enemies, unveiling secrets and so on and so forth.
To kill enemies, you have a varied arsenal at your disposal and the way in which you use it feels fresh and unique. Double D’s most notable addition is the gun stack system which allows you to stick guns one on top of the other to use all of them at the same time. This system allows for some really bizarre combinations: do you want to stick four shotguns together? Sure. Five rocket launchers? You got it! What about a combination of all different weapons? Please, go ahead.
The way in which the system works is quite simple. You drag and drop guns to either connect them or disconnect them (given that you have enough connectors) and naturally, combining weapons significantly improves your firepower capabilities. Serious Sam has always been about dealing with incoming waves of enemies and using your arsenal in the most effective way possible. The stack system definitely maintains that underlying quality, making this 2D experience both satisfying and compelling.
While all the weapons have been taken from previous games (including the pistol, shotgun, laser gun, rocket launcher, machine gun and grenade launcher, among others) there is a plethora of new enemies and even though most of them don’t feel as creative as say, Cucurbito the Pumpkin, Sirian Werebull or Beheaded Kamikaze, their addition doesn’t feel contrived. New enemies include a flying monkey that attacks with banana-shaped grenades, a lady kamikaze that holds two big bombs close to her chest, a mutant made of pancakes with vuvuzelas attached to it and so on and so forth. While most of these new enemies don’t bring the same level of panache the foes from The First Encounter and The Second Encounter had, they are pretty ridiculous.
Of course, the main gameplay is completely different to that of the first-person shooters. Unfortunately, controls don’t always respond precisely to your input which can be quite cumbersome at times. Thus, while it’s great that the trademark style of action is a huge part of this spinoff, the illusion is shattered as soon as you realize that the tools the game provides are cumbrous to execute. The control issues become more apparent as soon as the action heats up: switching weapons, stacking guns or aiming precisely, proves nigh impossible when dozens of enemies surround you. Additionally, jumps have a “floaty” feel to them which feels awkward and leads to some cheap deaths.
Sadly, the controls aren’t the only shortcoming. While fighting hordes of foes on the first-person shooters was thrilling and deeply satisfying, the same endeavor can be a chore in Serious Sam Double D. Here, those enemies who pose a threat (hint: most of them) can kill you in matter of seconds. Even fighting some of the multiple bosses feels much more difficult than it should.
Additionally, the game is quite short (it takes 4 to 5 hours to finish the main game,) but fortunately, the challenges that are found as collectibles add longevity to the overall experience. These challenges, which can be found hidden in caves, underground facilities or secret rooms, range from “beat this level in a certain amount of time,” to “survive this scenario as long as you can.” Personally, I’ve found most of these hidden levels really hard and frustrating and I threw the controller more times that I like to admit, but then again, players who look for a challenge might enjoy them much more.
Who would have known that the Serious Sam series could be adapted to an enjoyable, action-packed 2D experience? Unfortunately, some shortcomings prevent Double D from becoming a much better game. Nevertheless, its juvenile humor, appealing visuals and gun stack system make Serious Sam Double D a quite enjoyable game and those qualities alone are more than worth the price of admission.