January 26, 2012 2:00 AM | John Polson
[This review of the Indie Royale bundle we co-run with Desura was originally written by Colin Brown on Backlog Journey.]
Serious Sam is kind of a polarizing figure. Is he awesome, or just a Duke Nukem rip-off? Are the enemies creative or just insane products of a bad acid trip? Is the shooting mindless and fun or repetitive and dull? Is the story ridiculous and insane, or completely ridiculous and insane? The answers to this vary from person to person but if you're a fan of the old school style of shooters like Doom, Duke Nukem and Painkiller then you should definitely give Sam a chance. Plus, you'll never get a better opportunity than this great deal of a pack.
The Serious Sam Indie series was a promotional device planned up by Devolver Digital to promote the release of Serious Sam 3: BFE. The idea was that since Serious Sam is technically one of the older indie series out there, they would commission various indie developers to create their own re-imaginings of the Serious Sam formula. The first release was Double D, developed by Mommy's Best Games as a 2D side scrolling shooter take on the Serious Sam games.
The main hook (oh ho!) is the various connectors found around the world. Sam can use these hooks to attach guns together, creating ludicrous stacks of weaponry. A rocket launcher with two shotguns attached to it? Four tommy guns strapped to a grenade launcher? Chainsaw on chainsaw on chainsaw on chainsaw? You can do all of this and more through the very intuitive stacking inventory system.
These guns come in handy when you encounter the usual insane assortment of enemies, plus a few new ones. The developers almost parody the wacky enemies with their additions to Mental's hordes, with half monkey half jetpack beasts and menacing fusions of vuvuzelas and stacks of pancakes. 2D perspective and gun stacking aside, the game still feels like a Serious Sam title with all of the usual tropes in play. You still have secrets, hordes of monsters, giant bosses and vague puzzle moments. To sweeten the deal, there are several bonus challenge modes and a host of achievements to unlock. In the end, Double D feels like a full featured release, and worth the bundle price alone in my humble opinion.
Just a bit of a warning: the expectations I had for this game were impossibly sky high. Vlambeer is the developer of Super Crate Box, otherwise known as my favourite game of all time ever. So I was just a tiny bit disappointed this game didn't capture my whimsy the way Super Crate Box does. That being said, it's still a decent title.
Random Encounter takes Serious Sam and moves it to the least likely genre: turn based RPG. Fortunately, the whole running backwards and shooting experience is totally intact. Each battle consists of Sam and his party furiously backpedalling as a huge horde of traditional Serious Sam enemies charge at you. You select your gun, aim your attack and then end your turn; for the next five seconds you can move Sam's party vertically as your attack plays out, dodging enemies all the while. It's a fairly ingenious combat system and it works very well, particularly for bosses. My other favourite element is the graphics; they look really excellent, bright and crisp, particularly the highly detailed boss sprites.
The rest of the game isn't stellar, but it is functional. The overworld contains some parodyesque "puzzles" but also features one of the worst elements of the genre: random encounters. I understand that's the whole title of the game, but in this day and age I'm far less tolerant of them. I'd much rather have had groups of enemies visible on the world map like the majority of JRPGS do these days. But I suppose my only real complaint towards the game is that it doesn't feel like a full featured release. When you compare the amount of extras and polish in Double D, Random Encounter winds up feeling more like a proof of concept for the battle system. I mean, the battle system is great, but the game surrounding it doesn't have the same amount of polish. But hey, it's cute to see in action.