Serious Sam DD XXL review for XBLA

Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Publisher: Mastertronic Group Ltd
Developer: Mommy?s Best Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2 (Local)
Online: No

At first glance, what looks like a “Serious” departure from the normal world of Sam Stone, is actually a new and challenging experience that doesn’t come along too often these days. Developer, Mommy’s Best Games, has taken all of the quirky elements found in previous Serious Sam games, added some never before seen play mechanics and bundled it up in a crazy, yet completely playable 2D shooter/platformer. Seeing Sam jump from 3D first person to 2D side scroller might seem odd at first, but once you play Serious Sam DD XXL, you will see how well it works.

Originally released on the PC as Serious Sam Double D, New missions, Co-Op play and a few control alterations later and we have DD XXL. Your campaign beings in Egypt, where Sam is instructed by Netricsa (a sort of Cortana A.I.) to reach the end of the area. After a few brief tutorial of how to aim and shoot, it’s time for a wild ride of blasting until everything in your path is dead or broken. In between some of the levels, are some hilarious cut scenes that move the story along.

serious sam dd xxl-1

As with other Serious Sam games, the story isn’t why you are holding that controller, but unlike some other storylines I’ve witnessed, this one actually holds your attention. I found myself toughing it through a level just for the promise of another cutscene that would make me laugh, and thus made it hard to put down the controller.

The basic gameplay is simple, it’s run, jump, shoot and stay alive, and the latter won’t be easy. You may get past the first few enemy waves, but in later levels the baddies get harder and even more ridiculous. From hunchback cyclops monsters to flying monkeys with machine guns, you will always have targets to satisfy your guns. Some Boss battles are scattered throughout the areas, ranging from huge and unfair, to pushovers that seem to topple easy, and while it may seem unbalanced, there’s nothing that is unbeatable. Exploring the areas can uncover hidden areas and new weapons to try out, so there is always a reason to explore off the main path. Once the Jumppad becomes available, you’ll spend much more time trying to reach areas that were previously unreachable, just to get more hidden items! Another mode offered are the Head to Head Arenas, where you can blast a friend in a sort of death match. I didn’t spend much time here but what I experienced was playable. This is a mode that begs to go online, perhaps in an update we will see it, but for mow it’s local offline.

serious sam dd xxl-7

The greatest feature in this game is something extremely unique and is easily the greatest single power up system since the power up was invented. I’m talking about GunStacking. Once you find some connectors and gather enough weapons, you can create an arsenal of stacked guns and knives that can make Sam an unstoppable killing machine. You can make a total of eight stacks of weapons and switch between them at will. Some of the crazy combos you can create mixed with the ability to upgrade every single weapon (with in game funds) make this feature a definite winner! Something about stacking 3 Shotguns onto 2 chainsaws and tying it all together with a Gatling gun just satisfies.

The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. They are nice and clear, but occasionally the screen can zoom out a bit too far, making it hard to see what keeps killing you. While this may seem like a small gripe, I noticed it was the main reason I was dying or missing platforms. Also, some of the action does tend to slow down the frame rate just a bit that it can take you out of the action for a second or two. For the most part though, everything is presented in high detail. Sound effects come through clean, making each boom, crash and splatter sound great. Music fits in for each area you progress through and really goes great with all the carnage!

serious sam dd xxl-9

While it is a huge departure from the other Serious Sam games available, it certainly is a refreshing take on the series. At first, I was skeptical even while playing the first couple of levels, but after a while I found myself having a great time and wanting more. Since this isn’t your usual Sam Stone outing and not even your usual platform shooter, it may seem like a risk at first, but once you play it, you’ll be hooked on Serious Sam DD XXL. At 800MSP… this is one of those games that just, feels right.

Grade: A-