The Serious Sam franchise is known for its bizarre, frenzied first person shooter action. Though each entry into the core franchise has followed the same blueprint, developer Mommy’s Best Games has taken our beloved Sam and tossed him into a dual-stick shooter and platform hybrid. While this genre is well represented on XBLA, none of them come close to replicating the insanity of Serious Sam Double D XXL.
Originally released on PC in August 2011, the “XXL” extension comes with the addition of challenge levels, two-player co-op, gun upgrades, and additional tweaks that vastly improve upon the original. As with previous entries, the plot is frivolous, but there are enough short cutscenes and juvenile dialogue to remind you that one does exist. Sam’s deceitfulness leads him to traveling across different time periods in order to chase after Mental and his endless horde of enemies. You’ll start in Ancient Egypt, move through the Jurassic period and end up in pre-eruption Pompeii.
It’s a light story at best, and only serves to really connect the levels in some sort of coherency. The real draw to the series has always been the non-stop carnage, and the outlandish enemies, both of which XXL excels in. Sam will come across familiar enemies like Beheaded Kamikazes and Kleer Skeltons, along with some rather interesting newcomers. The addition of enemies like a living pile of pancakes with vuvuzelas or a large, green, helmet-wearing caterpillar with three sets of arms fit in perfectly with the outrageous nature of the series. Enemies come at you fast and in large groups, but the relentless onslaught leads to significant slowdown as the framerate drops as the action intensifies.
Aside from dodging bullets and battling huge-scale bosses, each level contains a large amount of hidden items and areas to uncover. Once the Jump pad becomes available, you’ll spend much more time trying to reach areas that were previously unreachable. Visually, characters and environments are nice and bright, but occasionally the camera can zoom out a bit too far, making it hard to pinpoint your exact location. Mixing up the run and gun scenarios are levels based on using vehicles with Sam racing over dilapidated ramps towards the exit. The variety is appreciated, but coupled with an abundant amount of checkpoints, XXL lacks the challenge of previous entries.
The most touted feature here is Gun Stacking – allowing up to six weapons to be stacked on top of one another, all to be fired at unison. Stacking guns together requires a connecting arm, often found in secret areas around the levels. It may sound like a simplistic feature but their is actually a lot of depth and strategy to stacking the perfect weapon. The combinations you can create are insane and your arsenal is further enhanced with purchasable add-ons like ricochet bullets, bee swarms, and shurikens (ninja stars). Include some ammo upgrades, and the Gun Stacking mechanic add a nice layer of replay value to each level.
Each press of the trigger will cause you to go through ammunition rather quickly, so there’s a risk you’ll exhaust your supplies in moments, leaving you to progress with only your weakest pistol and some chainsaws. The ability to save up to eight combinations of pre-set gun configurations allows savory players to take a more strategic approach to resource management. Any unwanted augmentations can be sold back too, so you don’t need to feel stuck with a certain upgrade that isn’t working for you. One can only hope that Gun Stacking becomes a staple for the series.
At any moment, a friend can join in to provide you with some much needed assistance. Unlike previous games, this is not a different-colored Sam, but a new playable character named Dan “Huff” Huffington. The co-op adds an entirely different thread of dialog than in single player, but sadly this experience can only be played locally. For those who would like to show their competitive side, their is a lackluster head-to-head mode. The interesting Challenge modes are unlocked by collecting hidden Mommy’s Best Games’ icons, allowing you to only use specific gun stacks to complete the challenge. They aren’t too difficult to complete, and your best times and kill streaks are tracked on an online leaderboard.
Serious Sam Double D XXL does a great job of capturing the spirit of the Serious Sam series. While it does suffer from some framerate issues, it is likely to provide enough entertainment for fans of the series looking for a fresh twist to a familiar formula.