Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour
The Serious Sam concept is one that’s well-suited to all kinds of genres beyond FPSes. Really, there aren’t many games that can’t be improved with more guns and countless swarming, screaming, headless monsters. So it should be no surprise that when the Hammerfall developer came around with their own top-down Serious Sam shooter, it was a natural fit. Better still is the inclusion of some more modern mechanics, like dodge rolling and a skill progression system, as well as huge, detailed levels that lend themselves just as well to careful exploration as the old Encounters did. Even a few pain points in the design weren’t enough to stop me from blasting through this compact adventure and wish for more on the other side.
Framed as a fictional game-within-a-game, Bogus Detour tells the tale of Sam’s sudden deviation from his path in The First Encounter, as he follows the trail of an orcish commander in Mental’s legion. The path takes Sam away from Egypt, all around the Mediterranean, before ending in a high-tech moon base. As you might imagine, there are a few thousand soldiers, aliens, skeletons, and mechs in the way, and you’ll have an ample arsenal with which to address them. Missions will mostly see you collecting keycards to progress through the area, though some will have slightly more involved tasks like repairing a ship or hacking computers, something Sam is entirely capable of doing since it still boils down to collecting McGuffins or pushing buttons.
I’d like to focus on the additions first, because Bogus Detour has some neat upgrades over the mainline games. You’ve got quite a few new guns here (some fresh from Serious Sam 3) alongside old friends like the super shotgun and laser cannon. The Devastator replaces the grenade launcher as a sort of rapid-fire short-range rocket launcher. A railgun called the Eraser provides a very satisfying stand-in for the sniper rifle. There’s also a poisonous goo gun, a bouncing sawblade launcher, the literal, actual lightning gun from Quake III, and a few secret weapons that I won’t spoil for you. All weapons, new and old, are designed with top-down action in mind, and offer you a wide variety of deadly options for the massive melees you’ll be getting into. The nature of battle here, along with the proliferation of ammo, does mean that rapid-fire weapons like the minigun, laser, and lightning gun tend to have the most value, but you will definitely find uses for every armament you come across.
There are new enemies to test these glorious guns out on as well, and it’s here that I can start picking a few nits. All the main classics are here, from gnaar to kleer to good ol’ kamikazes, and they work great in their swarming 2D incarnations. They went with the Serious Sam 4 alien soldiers here, both laser-slinging footsoldiers and beefy commanders, who can take some serious punishment to dispatch. Newcomers include fishmen, some kind of cyber ninjas, giant man-eating plants, huge spiked turtles, and land mines. Those last couple are not exactly welcome inclusions, mind you, especially the blasted land mines. They’re used in almost every mission, are not visible (or destructible) until they’re close enough to hurt you, and can really mess up the pace of exploration.
I guess this is as good a time as any to get into my big complaint about this game, which is the encounter design. Let it be known that, overall, Bogus Detour (I keep trying to type Bogus Journey) is full of fun, chaotic battles that use its top-down perspective and diverse enemy lineup to the fullest. However, there are plenty of fights, probably at least one per mission, that are likely to frustrate you in some way. The most common issue is how much the game likes teleporting enemies in right on top of you, instead of at a manageable distance. This is a huge issue when kamikazes are warping in, because these enemies do not work as enemies unless you have some distance to address them at. 90% of my deaths in this game have been from enemies spawning way too close, with no way to blast or dodge away from them before being instantly exploded. Other issues include an over-reliance on insanely thick rocket-launching foes, fights in mine fields, an extended sequence where your only weapon is a sledgehammer (STOP DOING THIS, SHOOTER DEVS), and the final boss sequence which is tuned to just be the most annoying thing ever.
You’re gonna get frustrated playing Bogus Detour, is what I’m saying. But I’m also saying that you’ll have enough fun besides to forgive it. The levels are huge and lushly decorated, and really the whole detailed pixel art style is a fantastic plus here. I loved exploring for secrets, which often awarded stars used to upgrade different abilities, which are another fun aspect of the game. There’s some real creativity in a lot of the areas, with the ways they connect and how secrets are hidden behind different features and mechanics, and that was great to discover as I pushed forward through the hordes. It’s certainly not a perfect adventure, but Bogus Detour has more than enough sights to see and monsters to mash to keep you on this bizarre journey.