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Serious Sam Double D XXL

Fifteen months ago I reviewed the original version of this Serious Sam and I can’t believe where the time has gone.

It only felt like yesterday I was blasting through Mommy’s Best Games’ (MBG) superb 2D representation of the Serious Sam universe, but a lot has happened since. Serious Sam 3: BFE wasn’t out then and my anticipation for that was reaching an all-time high with these smaller scale Serious Sam games coming out seemingly every other week. This time around however, I get to experience an improved version of Serious Sam Double D after the fact. Serious Sam 3: BFE, whilst good, didn’t surpass the love I have for this game.

Dropping back into the world that MBG created felt more in line with what I remember Serious Sam being about. Hopping into crazily designed Egyptian temples with nonsensical hidden secrets and bizarre enemies, such as pancakes with vuvuzelas attached exploding maple syrup all over me.

It didn’t take very long for me to witness the changes implemented into this XBLA update of the PC original. Gun stacking still plays a major part but what if I told you that the grenade launcher you just placed on top of four chainsaws could actually shoot deadly beetles? Ah, now I have your attention.

There’s a new system in SSDDXXL (phew) which involves a type of currency which is dropped from the hundreds of enemies in each level. This currency is then used to modify each of your weapons in surprising and hilarious ways of which I won’t spoil any more for you. Yes you, with the drool slowly oozing from your jaws.

The inclusion of this mechanic changes the game somewhat drastically leaving you with an overwhelming desire to kill anything that moves onscreen, yet it also leaves you desperately seeking out places you wouldn’t normally visit for even more baddies to destroy – just so you can soak up their delicious money. These ill-gotten gains in turn boosts your ability to kill them faster and with more prejudice.

Not only have MBG added a huge amount of mods for the guns, but further changes have been made including a nice new ability to slow down time by shooting a clock. Making sense doesn’t seem to happen a lot in Serious Sam and this feature fits right in. Just imagine slowing down time, shooting a gaggle of monkeys with jet-packs as you dodge between giant missiles. It really does happen in Serious Sam DD XXL. You can play through the whole thing with a friend in couch co-op if you don’t believe your own eyes.

Serious Sam Double D XXL
Serious Sam Double D XXL

Naturally player one plays as Sam but at anytime player two can drop in and out of the game as a new character called Huff. Adding what is effectively a carbon copy of you in essence really helps bring the game to life especially when you realise that the voiced in-game cut-scenes have been completely reworked with brand new dialogue to incorporate your newly acquired buddy. This game really does benefit when you have someone to laugh at the madness on screen with.

Taking queues from New Super Mario Bros.’ brilliant co-operative mode, SSDDXXL allows players to be ‘bubblized’ if the other runs too far ahead off the screen. The game offers something slightly new in the revival of your buddy when they die by collecting all the health icons which are dotted around the soon-to-be-deceased co-op partner. This in turn brings them back to the foray with just as much ammo and health as before. A clever touch which rarely ruins the pace of the game but can become confusing during the newly introduced vehicle sections.

Thankfully these sections, in which you control some predictably insane vehicles, move by at such a pace that when playing them in co-op it doesn’t really affect the gameplay at all. If one player was to zoom ahead on the dynamite powered unicycle you might feel a little left out as you get bubblized, but these sections are concise and do not outstay their welcome.

Serious Sam Double D XXL
Serious Sam Double D XXL

Being a fully-fledged Xbox Live Arcade release inherently brings a level of expectations when it comes to the overall polish of a product. Sadly Serious Sam DD XXL doesn’t deliver in this respect. The menus are not intuitive in the slightest, leaving you often somewhat bewildered. It took me a little while to realise which gun mods I had already bought and was fearful of wasting my hard-earned coin on buying it again by mistake. Obtaining all the upgrades ends up being a massive grind and accidentally purchasing two of the same would be pretty disastrous for those Achievement-hunters out there. The frame rate takes a drop in places but luckily not when it matters, during combat. The console struggles to load each new section before and after the massive fights happen and while this is a slight disappointment it doesn’t impede upon the enjoyment of the overall experience of the ‘story’ mode.

Serious Sam Double D XXL
Serious Sam Double D XXL

Speaking of modes, there are two others to get involved with both on your own and in co-op/competitive multiplayer.  Challenge mode is simply that, a set goal to be achieved before you die. It might sound simple but when you see literally fifty Gnaar coming charging at you with their slimy, one eyed face-heads and all you have is a stack of four chainsaws, you’ll be praying to the gods that look down on Sam and his idiotic enemies. Getting a friend involved in the challenges modes completely changes the game in that you can use the aforementioned revive mechanic. If you’re looking to do some serious damage and climb the leaderboard, I suggest you play them cooperatively.

Complementing the challenge mode is a competitive head-to-head mode but if I were you, I’d treat this mode like a kamikaze headless soldier and steer clear. It’s a pretty horrid experience which I found hilarious for the wrong reasons. Placing both you and a friend in a small room with the gun-stacks you’ve acquired in the game made for some absolutely insane and confusing multiplayer deathmatches.

Serious Sam DD XXL is out now from Mastertronic on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points (£6.80), and is most definitely a game that has to be seen to be believed. Despite the lack of polish on the overall product, there definitely remains a highly entertaining, surreal experience here. Serious Sam DD XXL has plenty to offer brand new players and veterans alike.

By the way. When you get the Serious Bomb, slow down time in co-op and witness sheer blinding madness.  It’s a laugh out loud moment.

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