By: George Weidman
There I was, witnessing the manliest scene to ever appear on any videogame ever. A few button presses pushed this glorious man-train in motion, and once the smoke settled, I had no clue what to do with myself. What I saw: “Serious” Sam perched atop of a soaring pterodactyl, flying high above the ancient canopy of a Jurassic jungle, hoisting a shotgun duct taped on top of a Tommy gun duct taped on top of a rocket launcher duct taped on top of another rocket launcher duct taped on top of a chainsaw, blasting away at an endless horde of jetpack-piloting chimpanzees zig-zagging precariously around his flying prehistoric mount. It’s the Citizen Kane of gaming.
Continuing his career as the least-honestly named character ever, “Serious” Sam Stone’s latest game, Serious Sam Double D, is a 2D Soldat-styled shooter that is absolutely ridiculous. Sometimes it’s ridiculous in a lame way, and sometimes it’s ridiculous in an awesome away. Let’s start with a bit of the lame, particularly within the name: Serious Sam Double D. Double D, two D’s, 2D. Get it? Har har. Almost all writing in Double D is an exchange of similarly lame jokes between Sam and the female sidekick Netricsa, and as a less-socially-relevant Duke Nukem, the characters and world of Serious Sam just don’t feel as exciting and edgy as other shooter IPs. One enemy, a suicidal stack of pancakes stuffed with vevuzuelas, is just brimming with “random humor” lameness.
Serious Sam: Double D isn’t made by Croteam, instead it was done by Mommy’s Best Games, a “boutique” developer of little downloadable Xbox arcade games such as Explosionade and Shoot1up. The ridiculousness factor of their other games is pretty high, and they’re a good fit for Sam. With Croteam granting them some professional marketing resources and the freedom to play with their IP, they’ve worked out a pretty sweet deal for their latest game. They’ve done a surprisingly good job at making a 2D Serious Sam game, and Double D faithfully sticks to the rules of the franchise. Levels are themed after ancient historical epochs, guns hover and glow eerily above the ground, and the soundtrack consists of quiet ambient tracks for exploration and grinding 90’s metal for combat.
“This game is all about shooting guns! Motherf***king guns!” bleeps Dobule D’s bucktoothed live-action pitchman. He’s right. Like other Serious Sam games, combat almost always devolves into long bouts of holding down the “fire” button while running in circles around mobs. This can last minutes at a time. Ammo rarely runs out, enemies sometimes spawn infinitely, and you have the wacky ability to duct tape guns on top of other guns. At Double D’s wildest moments, you can barely hear the music over the constant gunshots, and the screen becomes barely visible underneath the layers of blood and projectiles. The sheer gratuity of the affair never actually gets frustrating or tiring— in fact, all the crazyness makes for a hell of a fun time.
The gun stacker allows for an unlimited combination of weaponry, and the best weapon combinations are truly outrageous. A flamethrower attached to a chainsaw makes for a devastating close-range solution. For bosses, simply attach all the rocket launchers and grenade launchers you have together for one super-explosive-launcher-thingamajig. Though the specific combinations of stacked guns are nearly unlimited, there’s some tactical decision making involved here thanks to the limited number of connectors available. Another wacky tool is the throwable jump pad that can be used to create elaborate double-jumping maneuvers. It works on enemies, too.
What a Mess
There’s one serious problem with Double D, and that is its criminally short length. I beat it in three and a half hours, and while there are some extra challenge modes to help with the replay value, most are frustratingly hard and unsatisfying to win. Another problem: the game looks like a mess. Environments and characters are drawn in a style that is so oversaturated with conflicting colors, textures, and details that it’s sometimes hard pick out Sam from the background.
The animation skeleton that Mommy’s Best used isn’t visually impressive or conducive to gameplay either. Everyone’s animations are segmented by limb, and so all character movement looks more like unnatural flailing than actual animation. Everything moves with a bit less flow and precision than it could have if the developers drew each frame of animation by hand, and gameplay suffers as a result. Moving Sam around doesn’t feel very quick or responsive, and it’s hard to tell what characters are actually doing when they’re moving around.
Is it Worth Your Money?
Double D retails for $7.99, and while this may look like a reasonable price at first, it doesn’t after considering that it’s over in less than four hours. It’s a very entertaining three and a half hours, and is worth your money if you’re in need of a cathartic release, but it still feels like Double D ends before it can show off all its tricks. The throwable jump pad was something that didn’t get any real opportunities to shine, and even the inventory screen that manages the gun stacker, Double D’s primary selling point, looked unnaturally thin at the end of the game. Some multiplayer options would’ve been icing on the cake, but a slightly longer campaign with just one more hour of content would have sufficed. Despite its length, a satirical shooter is totally doing something right when a puzzle involves stacking bodies of enemies high enough to escape a pit. Though there are better values out there, Double D is worth the $8 for liberal spenders. Otherwise, look out for it as a must-purchase sale item.