Originally coming from the mouse and keyboard a good year ago, exactly like its main series big brother, Serious Sam Double D XXL pulls its bullet whirling chaos onto Xbox Live Arcade. Serious Sam Double D XXL brings the same flavor of the franchise with a 2D twist and innovative gameplay elements pumping new life to bullet hells for years to come.
If you’re at least familiar with the franchise and realize Sam’s just a meatheaded vessel to explode monsters with, the plot wears thin in the Serious series. Mystically teleported to ancient Egypt, Sam Stone and AI implanted Netrisca drop into the area wondering if the series’ villain is behind another world destroying plan. And that’s it. No introductory cutscene of Sam’s struggle or humble beginnings, go time travel to the Jurassic period and Pompeii to slaughter the whole lot of General Maxilla’s. Gnarls, headless kamikazes, and other trappings of the Serious Sam franchise return in glorious 2D graphics and it is swell.
Silly one liners and banter with the “Serious” character of Netrisca go hand and hand with the series, only, not limited to the bonehead comedy and mush mind wit of Sam, but of the puppeteer General Maxilla’s wrangling of troops. Near the end, the general admits his rash urgency all because to catch up on a “Charles in Charge” marathon with a follow up response by Sam agreeing and declaring Scott Baio is a magical and beautiful man.
Gameplay’s as simple as it gets for twin stick shooters. Fire, retreat, fire with another weapon, and back step again with bullets in the other direction, Sam’s unflinching run and gun ascetics makes for a hell of a time in a 2D side-scroller. Targeting reticule notifying enemy’s health and zany enemy designs transition over Serious Sam Double D XXL and descends deeper the tread of “weaponizing” insects and animals. No jokes here, legless, flying chimps with banana bombs, monolithic militant caterpillars donning a combat helmet with parachuting projectiles and freaking cybernetic dinosaurs.
The ingenuity of the 2D Sam comes in the form of “Gun Stacking,” where weapons vertically connect to each other for a seamless fluidity of gun fire. Unrealistic and unnecessary to simply build on the “Why not have both?” mentality when paralleled by singular choice. That’s the real enthralling aspect to Serious Sam Double D XXL, take six of the eight muzzle flashers and go to town. Sounds tawdry and gimmicky, but it really livens things with the concept. As the stacking builds, the more outward the weapons become, allowing some depth of strategy where a chainsaw vacates the top for additional reach.
You’re only limited by the number of guns and connecters found within the campaign, replacing the shameless achievement hunt of collectibles for something of worth. That said, there’s a litany of secrets in the 21 levels Serious Sam Double D XXL has to offer. Spots merely occupying the neglected space covered by walls and hidden surfaces. Secrets aren’t all obtainable by a light, floating jump, here’s where the porta pad comes in. A sticky and targetable trampoline capable of dealing higher elevation to Sam and smaller enemies on every surface, the porta pad becomes more than a stationary double jump.
Enemies may be a far cry from reality, but take a real, tangible effect on the world. Corpses play a role in the form of puzzle solving and enemy barriers, spiked floors are instant death unless a solid foundation of one-eyed goons covers the pointy, unavoidable tips. Nothing too much to fret about, the fiends spawning in the death traps soon form a critical path to tread across. Moments like this release a much needed brake from the straight-forward gunplay. Another facet, time decelerating machines, breaches platformer elements with instances of enemy hopping and tip-sensitive rocket riding.
Double D may have the preceding elements locked down, but the new addition in XXL of gun abilities further evolves the “Gun Stacking” mechanic. Implementing a currency system to buy and develop an individual weapon with four abilities, which immensely changes the experience for the better. We’re not talking helpful but identical changes with damage or ammo boosters. No siree, homing, health siphoning, slowing bullets diversifies the combat to a much greater length.
Chainsaw attachments are able to lure loose, nearby cash by a rev of the engine, in addition to the machine gun ability of bouncing bullets, suitable for indoor areas. You’ve also got a flamethrower that squirts out slowing syrup, a grenade launcher spewing carnivorous bugs toward ground troops, and shotguns firing bees to raise larger enemies out of commission for a spell. Needless to say, you’ll be overwhelmed by the vast quantity and quality of upgrades at hand. And once again, you’ll only satisfied by the amount of connecters and each eight weapons. Doing so leads to a better run at the “Serious” mode, made for the masochistic.
Onto to the biggest draw to Serious Sam Double D XXL, is the addition of local and online Cooperation. Neither tacked-on nor forced, Dan “Huff” Huffington comes into the equation with ease. He doesn’t hide in the background, dialogue forms around his spattering nonsense as the other three characters lengthen talking points to accommodate. When a player’s health is low, health icons appear for the other to collect and restore more of their health back after resuscitation. Gun Stacking combinations become universal in co-op with the exception of ammunition being a separate entity for both men, meaning only a mutual agreement can be made to satisfy both gun-combo desires.
Campaign’s the way to go for two player mayhem. Challenges often completed easily with another and the one v one player battles inside enclosed areas release a resounding “meh” feeling. The Head-to-Head matches feel obligatory and out of place, yet, fun could be had at adjusting game mechanics like speed and guns available. The mess of action for one-screen Co-op leads to a confusing affair of unknown identity. Thankfully, Serious Sam Double D XXL chips away at that natural tradeoff with both characters emitting a specific colored aura signifying their person, viewing an airy purple or blue splotch within the land.
Unlike the port we’ve seen and reviewed of Serious Sam 3 on console, Serious Sam Double D XXL takes the modest lightweight and adds significant bulk for a deeper, yet, still frantically mindless experience. Owners of the PC version may be tempted to hop over the platform fence to grab a bud for a weekend’s worth of fun. For the seemingly nonexistent $9.99 price tag on Xbox Live theses days, it sure is great to have a showstopper like Serious Sam Double D XXL offer such great value.