Just a quick glance at any of the screenshots below should give you a good idea of the tone Serious Sam Double D XXL is aiming for. The bonkers side-scroller has just made the leap from PC to Xbox 360, but should you take this opportunity to lock and load with Sam if you haven’t had the chance yet?
When someone mentions Serious Sam to me I’m thrown back to when I was 13 and he was actually kind of cool. For someone whose most titillating gaming experience before that point was the rather detached violence of Age of Empires, the insanely over-the-top brutality of Serious Sam was all too alluring.
For a couple of years after those heady days of my youth Sam went into hibernation, but now, with Serious Sam Double D XXL he’s back with a bang! Or, rather more accurately, he’s back with a whimper as it’s pretty tough to make much noise with such a mouthful of a title. Plus, this is just an Xbox 360 port of the PC version that came out not too long ago, so it may not have been as long a wait as I just made it out to be.
Anyway, Double D sees Sam take to only two dimensions and settle you into the role of omnipotent observer rather than plonk you in Sam’s big boots and throw you into the fray. That’s because, instead of the first-person shooter that so many equate Serious Sam with, Double D is a side-scroller. Don’t you worry, though. There are still plenty of awful wisecracks and almost as many enemies for you to kill – presumably with the quality of the wisecracks.
If your wisecracks fail you (and they will), then Sam does have a rather handy arsenal to mow down the mindless peons rushing him. It includes a rifle, that forms the core of Sam’s armaments, and everything from flamethrowers to shotguns to chainsaws to add some flavour. Double D’s killer hook, for lack of a better description, is the ability to build stacks of weaponry that can be used all at once, exponentially increasing the damage that Sam can output at any point.
It’s a good thing that it does, because Sam needs all the help that he can get dealing with the hordes of enemies that swarm the poor man at any random point. There seems to be a never-ending supply of low-level grunts that the game flings at Sam in the hopes that one of two of them might slip through the hail of gunfire.
Sam’s super cereal
In fact, that’s the modus operandi for the vast proportion of the time, as the idea of difficulty scaling is apparently not one subscribed to by the developers of Double D, Mommy’s Best Games. Instead, they just send more and more enemies at the beleaguered Sam, to the point that it gets rather ridiculous. In fact, at several points the only way to progress through the stage is to kill so many enemies that you can clamber over the corpses in order to reach places otherwise inaccessible.
It may sound like mindless pleasure, but it works out rather poorly actually, with each stage you trudge through feeling more wearisome than the last. There’s a dreadful monotony to a lot of them and often I found myself turning off the console simply because the endless act of killing the same few enemies over and over again was failing to hold my attention when confronted with other, more interesting things, like the blank wall outside my window.
Even the odd moments that should make things slightly more interesting, like the occasional boss fights and the all too brief asides where you get to do something vaguely interesting like ride a motorcycle, are either over before they’ve even really begun or do very little to change up a formula that quickly becomes boring. You just seem to hold down the trigger – constantly.
That’s not to say it’s all bad, of course. Gunstacking, though it quickly turns formulaic, is a blast when you’re building your first stacks and the ways that you can customise your weaponry can occasionally be downright brilliant. A gun that fires a swarm of bugs that eat their way through anything? That’s just genius.
Unfortunately, even the good parts quickly lose their sheen. There’s something entertaining in Double D XXL’s barmy gunplay, I suppose, but you have to be willing to look for it. The problem is it’s actually rather hard work to get there. Ploughing through monotonous waves of enemies and downright awful writing to find occasional gems means that, by the end of it, Double D is simply a bit of a slog.
Serious Sam DD XXL, by Devolver Digital and Mommy’s Best Games, is available now for Xbox 360.