We all know about (and probably love) the adventures of Sam “Serious” Stone. A few years ago his adventures were expanded through the Serious Same Indie Series, in which indie developers remade the beloved shooter in their own style. One of these, Mommy’s Best Games, trade the first- and third-person perspective for a corybantic side-scrolling shooter with Serious Sam Double D back in 2011. This year, Mommy’s Best is back with Serious Sam DD XXL.
Though the latest installment doesn’t do much to change the core game mechanics (jump and shoot), it still has plenty to offer. Frankly (and as the title might suggest), the game is jam-packed with content. It boasts over thirty new levels and also includes new weapon upgrades and abilities. Weapons in DD XXL are the bread and butter (literally), of the game. Upgrades can completely alter the way you play, and with such a massive amount to find, they push you to explore each level, as well. By doing so, you not only modify your weapons but also unlock secret side mission rooms. The Gunstacker system is a brand new feature in DD XXL and allows you to, quite literally, stack guns on top of each other in almost limitless combinations. Though getting to mix and match different guns and upgrades is exciting at first, the result is an unnecessary amount of firepower, drastically decreasing the difficulty of an already fairly simple game.
Serious Sam DD XXL is extremely lacking in the visuals department. Though the majority of the game’s graphics are reminiscent of side-scrollers past, even the better-looking bits are thrown off by the inconsistency of the visuals. What could be good, then, just ends looking out of place. In addition, frequent framerate drops frustrate both gameplay and visual experiences, especially in areas with large amounts of enemies or while playing co-op. Unfortunately, the auditory element of the game’s atmosphere isn’t much better. The voice acting is subpar; this is especially true for Sam, who spends the entirety of his dialog screaming. The voice acting combines with a metal soundtrack and loud sound effects to create a cacophonous, unbalanced mess.
The story, like that of most games in the Serious Sam franchise, is so shallow that it’s almost non-existent. Sam must defeat Maxilla, Mental’s right hand man. In order to defeat the last of Mental’s forces and Maxilla himself, Sam must travel through time to various locations, like Pompeii and Jurassic Nova Scotia, destroying whatever gets in his way. Beyond that, though, there is little plot to be experienced. The bulk of DD XXL’s writing consists of ridiculous one-liners and parodical references to other iconic shooters, like the Duke Nukem series. You will find little, if any, character or plot development in game. For most fans of the franchise, however, this is a familiar recipe and will suit them just fine. The familiar plot is joined by familiar and unchallenging side-scrolling gameplay. Simply run to the right, shooting your practically unlimited firepower at anything that moves, and you’re guaranteed to be successful. The game requires little to no strategy, though players may have to fiddle around with their gunstacks to decide which combination tickles their fancy the most. The story is short, and players can expect to beat it within an hour or two, but those bent on exploring the worlds to discover every secret and weapon will find themselves putting in significantly more time.
The co-op and challenge features provide extra gameplay opportunities. However, co-op may be even more unchallenging and more frustrating than playing alone. The lack of a split-screen option requires players to move at about the same pace and stay relatively close together, greatly limiting exploration and strategy opportunities. The additional on-screen chaos may be too overwhelming to some, as well (as it was for me). The challenge modes must be found and unlocked in the original story, and some may find there is little challenge to be had in these modes.
On a brighter note, DD XXL does manage to do what Serious Sam does well: ridiculousness. Players will find upgrades, dialog, secrets, and some enemies to be a bit on the silly side, and the game holds a consistent atmosphere of fun, hectic zaniness that manages to keep the game enjoyable despite its mundane and unoriginal gameplay. Players will find something worth loving, even if it’s something as ridiculous as tripping dinosaurs with butter spills, fighting flying kittens, or making their enemies bleed donuts.
Serious Sam DD XXL does little for newcomers to the series. Its simple gameplay, lack of a plot, and over the top everything may be gamebreakers to a large number of gamers. Fans of the franchise, however, will find everything they love and expect from a Serious Sam title in DD XXL. Though focusing in on a different perspective, Mommy’s Best succeeds in bringing players a zany, action-packed side-scrolling adventure. Despite its many flaws, fans of the franchise will still find the game fun and enjoyable. Gamers looking for a challenging, satisfying side-scrolling shooter, however, may need to look elsewhere.