Review: Serious Sam Double D XXL

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When you think of Serious Sam, no doubt you envision circle-strafing around hordes of galloping skeletons and headless screamers. But Sam’s had a number of 2D outings as well, thanks to Croteam licensing their boy out for some unorthodox adventures. Double D was the first of these, a side-scrolling romp that replicated the chaos of your average Sam game in rather unique ways. Decidedly indie, both in scope and production value, Double D nevertheless offers some serious action across a wide range of levels and modes, and even opens the door to co-op if you’ve got a frag-minded friend to bring along.

At some ill-defined point in the future, Sam “Serious” Stone has defeated Mental and now wanders space and time with his head-based AI Netrisca in search of action. He stumbles across Mental’s forces back in ancient Egypt, and does what he does best. Turns out an eclectic collection of baddies is up to no good across history again, so Sam sets out to make them all dead. From familiar Egypt, he’ll fling himself back to the time of the dinosaurs, and then back forward to the day Pompeii came down with a bad case of lava flows. In each of these eras, you’ll find aliens, monkeys, mutants, insects, and more to blast with a highly-customizable array of weapons that you almost never seem to run out of ammo for.

Let’s go ahead and talk about these guns, because this is by far the most distinctive part of the game. Double D has a surprisingly slim selection of firearms compared to other Sam games, with only eight for you to blast away with. However, and this is a legendarily huge however, you can stack these guns atop themselves to create a veritable wall of firepower. This is the gun stacking system, wherein you find copies of guns and connectors and attach up to six weapons together, making a mixed-purpose supergun. You could stitch three shotguns and three machine guns together, throw a chainsaw or flamethrower in there for close-range action, or stick nearly one of everything together to make a bullet-spewing, flame-belching, rocket-launching, laser-blasting stack of doom.

But wait, we’re not done here! Each individual gun has four possible upgrades that can give it entirely new capabilities. These can be destructive, like split shots, poison, or ricochets; utilitarian, like propelling you through the air or producing a shield; or just completely out there, like launching pats of butter or bees. Upgrades are bought from a charming monster-man, with the currency being some kind of mind-control boxes that drop from enemies. It’s a fairly generous economy, allowing you upgrades for pretty much every gun you find, especially if you’re scouring levels for secrets and killing foes down to the last. You need to be searching high and low anyway, because you certainly want as many guns and connectors as you can to round out your monstrous arsenal.

Your gun-bominations should make short work of Sam’s 2D foes here, which is good because they can show up in similarly overwhelming numbers as the 3D games. Most levels have a fair bit of exploration and platforming, aided by a very clever and super fun jump pad you can throw out wherever you want. But the last leg of each level is usually a big brawl with a healthy mix of titanic foes and filler fiends. Several of the old stand-bys are here, from gnaars to kleers, and foot soldiers to headless kamikazis. But there are newcomers as well, and they are just as all over the place as your arsenal. We’re talking jetpacking monkeys, mind-controlled dinos, pogo-sticking lava dudes, and (I swear I am not making this up) stacks of pancakes playing vuvuzelas. And if that wasn’t bizarre enough, the big bosses are probably as weird as this series ever gets, Serious Sam 2 included.

I suppose that’s the only thing that might put someone off this rollicking little platformer, the style. Double D is animated in that classic online style that I really should learn the name of, where 2D characters have all their joints rigged to provide smooth animation, even if the individual parts are stiff. The enemies themselves, then, are highly-detailed renders in bright, garish colors that can only really be described as grotesque. Seriously, when you see some of the giant bug monsters, you’re likely to recoil from the screen. It feels weird, coming from the cartoonish models of Serious Sam 2 to this sort of faux-realism, and the dialogues during short cutscenes aren’t going to do anything to set you at ease.

Still, as long as the look and feel aren’t too alien to you, this is a wonderful Sam-style platforming romp. There are enough stages across the three time periods to last you a good four hours, and you’ll unlock a mess of challenge arena and head-to-head multiplayer stages along the way. You even get a sort of New Game + mode after you beat it once, where you keep all your guns and upgrades to challenge higher difficulties with. But even without all that content, it’s just a really fun, clever approximation of Serious Sam’s chaotic action. The gun stacking system and new foes bring a lot of life to Double D, and Serious fans looking for a change of pace need look no further.

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