Serious Sam is venturing into new yet old-school territory in this latest outing, Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour. Sam “Serious” Stone is a man whose twin-pistol talents have taken him across a wide array of genres, ranging from his FPS main series to a turn-based RPG. Despite his diverse background, the parodic icon has yet to add “twin-stick shooter” to his resume. Hammerwatch developer Crackshell is remedying that by placing this gun-toting alien slayer into the retro genre.
The indie studio took on the challenge of jamming the personality of the first-person shooter franchise into a top-down twin-stick shooter. And by most accounts, they have succeeded. Very little seems to be lost in the transition. The staple characteristics of this IP remain intact to a surprising degree, even though the design vastly differs from the main entries. We can definitely thank the recognizable voice of John J. Dick for making it feel authentic.
Serious Sam is still all about blowing away baddies with an impressive arsenal at the player’s disposal. The dual pistols, double-barrel shotgun, and Thompson submachine gun all make a return to obliterate the forces of series’ villain, Mental. Expanding on the usual loadout, a few additions work their way into Sam’s hands, allowing for more efficient violence. I won’t spoil too much, but there is a gun called The Shaft that shoots lightning. Yes, you can literally give these alien hordes the shaft.
The variety of weaponry serves a higher purpose than spraying the pixelated world with chunky, red gibs. There’s actually a level of strategy here. Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour likes to throw crowds of enemies Sam’s way, utilizing the large open environments with great success. These mobs of foes are rarely ever comprised of just one enemy type, ensuring that the player keeps their wits about them and swaps between firearms regularly.
To give a better idea of the mayhem on offer here, I will detail a scenario from the opening moments of the game. Sam initially finds himself in Egypt, a location all-too-familiar to long-time fans, and has to traverse the sandy plains. As the level progressed, and weapons were found, the enemy density began to increase. Suddenly, the Gnaar were attacking in tandem with leaping Kleer. The shotgun seemed like a sufficient tool to get the job done, but the reload time made it so that constant movement was a necessity. That is, until the adrenaline-inducing “AHHHHH” came through the speakers. Now Sam had a pack of explosive enemies closing in fast and the shotgun wasn’t going to eliminate the threat outside of the detonation zone. A gun swap in the midst of the current battle was necessary as targets were reassessed and prioritized.
It’s a simple example, one that is commonplace in the franchise, but that’s one of the many ways that Bogus Detour manages to retain the frantic onslaught of previous titles. Whether the next obstacle is a relentless set of turrets surrounded by melee-centric combatants or a laser-spewing commander with a crucial keycard in their possession, every encounter demands quick thinking and on-the-fly adjustments. And dodging. Dodging becomes an integral part of the routine in the attempt to pull Sam out of a corner or the middle of the hostile masses. Although, the mechanic may be used mostly to pull away from fights to refresh a weapon’s magazine. It is worth noting that the slightly lengthy reloads, at times, manage to break up the otherwise rapid pacing and hinder the momentum.
In general, everything moves along at a steady speed and the campaign soon leaves Egypt behind. The game opens up into more interesting locations, including Mediterranean settings and bio labs , as the game progresses. Each expansive level has something new on offer, both visually and in its gameplay design. While the varied areas are vast in scale, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely open. Steel corridors in sprawling bases provide hectic moments of enemies funneling toward the player in a different way than the open, outside areas. It definitely manages to keep things fresh in this regard.
Whatever environment Sam Stone find himself in, you can bet he’s going to be facing a sizable challenge. In order to better equip him for his encounters outside of adding to his mobile armory, Crackshell implemented basic RPG mechanics. XP is earned as enemies are slain and levels are completed. This ties into a leveling system that powers up the player, multiplying their destructive force. Damage buffs and bullet augmentations are a couple abilities to be found in the skill list. The addition of the system doesn’t revolutionize the experience, but it adds a little extra depth for those interested in it. Those looking for that edge in a difficult boss fight may be thankful that the system exists.
All of the previously mentioned sprite-rendered madness can be experienced in cooperative play. Players can jump in and exponentially increase the on-screen carnage, both in the campaign and a survival mode. The former allows up to four players, whereas the latter increases that number to twelve. For those that prefer fighting against their friends rather than alongside them, a deathmatch mode is where you and eleven others can go to settle some scores.
Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour manages to pack a fair amount into this retro-looking package. The level design of days past combined with the signature flair of the series come together nicely. The top-down shooter applies the staple characteristics of the IP well, with only a couple additions that don’t bring noticeable substance. Overall, Bogus Detour is an enjoyable spin-off that gets a lot right, showing off the notable talent over at Crackshell.
Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour is a nostalgia-filled romp with familiar characters tossed into a new genre. The game loses little in its move over to the twin-stick shooter category, maintaining the components that we have all come to know and love over the past decade and a half. While not every new ingredient to Sam’s formula adds significant value, the end result is a lovingly-crafted shooter that retains the soul of Serious Sam.
8.0 Screaming Kamikazes Out Of 10
Release Date: June 20th, 2017
Available Platforms: PC
Publisher: Crackshell, Croteam
Developer: Devolver Digital
Disclosure: Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour Was Provided By The Publisher For Coverage Purposes