Serious Sam Spin-Offs (Part 1)

Serious Sam Spin-Offs Before Serious Sam 3

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series Serious Sam

Serious Sam: Next Encounter – PS2, Gamecube (2004)

Developer: Climax Solent
Publisher: Global Star Software
Director: Mark Davies
Genre: Action: 1st Person
Themes: Alien Invasion, Co-op, Parody / Satire, Run-‘n-gun, So Hard it Hurts, Spelunking / Graverobbing, Time Travel, Wacky / Over the Top

Climax’s console take on Serious Sam was much more successful than their portable one. Next Encounter is mainly a filler game, with a story about an evil dorky clone that’s barely fleshed out, as usual for these games. A lot of what would later be found in Serious Sam 2 is present here, like the dual uzis replacing the tommy gun, making the game a sort of missing link between the original style and wacky style Croteam experimented with. It also does have a few notable stand out qualities that make it notably different than the rest of the series.

The series scoring system is made important for a change, as high scores in levels would unlock medals that would further unlock more content, including levels. A combo system with a score multiplyer was also added to encourage more aggressive play, and a lives system was also in play (taken from the TFE and TSE console ports). Many enemies included were made exclusively for this entry and never returned to the series (with a few exceptions, like the dum-dums), and the team tried experimenting with special ammo types to give weapons new properties, like homing ammo. The writing is also notably funnier, like an on-going joke with Sam’s ex-wives and the strange and unspecified ways that they died. All this gives Next Encounter an interesting energy the other games don’t have, something worth checking out if you find the time.

Note that the Gamecube version is the one to get, the PS2 version has a lot of pixelation in its graphics not present on the Gamecube that ruins the look of its areas.

Serious Sam: Double D & Serious Sam: Double D: XXL – PC, X360 (2011, 2013)

Developer: Mommy’s Best Games
Publisher: Croteam, Devolver Digital
Director: Nathan Fouts
Genre: Action: Side-Scrolling, Shoot-em-up: Horizontal
Themes: Alien Invasion, Co-op, Parody / Satire, Run-‘n-gun, So Hard it Hurts, Spelunking / Graverobbing, Time Travel, Wacky / Over the Top

When the Serious Sam series was preparing to make a comeback in 2011 in Serious Sam 3: BFE, Croteam worked with Devolver Digital to start commissioning indie games using their signature character, with three releasing the three months before BFE. The first of the line-up is what you’d most expect from such a deal, as Double D acts mainly as a side-scrolling action shooter with some light puzzle solving and a lot of monster shooting.

What makes Double D special and one of the better known indie spin-offs is gunstacking, allowing you to stack guns on top of each other, as long as you have enough gunstack connectors. The end result is nonsensical firepower and combinations that can open up new ways to play. The 2013 XXL version, which has replaced Double D on store fronts (though the classic game should still be in the game’s files), adds an arcade like local co-op where a second player can press a button to join at any time, ammo carrying upgrades, and gun upgrades that can radically change what a gun even is. Levels were re-balanced for this new mechanic, and some small vehicle bits were added as well for variety’s sake. Despite the game’s often janky animations, it’s the one closest to the classic formula among the original indie trio.

Note that screenshots shown here were taken from the game’s steam store page. Technical issues prevented screenshot collecting, and note that some modern versions of Windows 10, depending on your hardware, may not properly run the game.

Serious Sam: Kamikaze Attack! – Android, iOS, PC (2011)

Developer: Be-Rad Entertainment
Publisher: Croteam, Devolver Digital
Director: Bradley Johnson, Steve Royer
Genre: Action: Side-Scrolling
Themes: Alien Invasion, Parody / Satire, Player: Villain, Wacky / Over the Top

The black sheep of the indie trio, and possibly the whole franchise, Kamikaze Attack is a mobile developed auto-runner where you take control of the series most infamous enemy. Your goal is to dodge obstacles and kill Sam, though this is complicated by a rage meter you have to keep in check. If it fills, you blow up, which is bad if you’re not at your goal yet. However, it’s also a good idea to build it enough so you can blow up Sam when you reach him, letting it lower as you run and building it with a scream to keep it maintained at safe but ready levels. Each level randomized as well for replay value sake, so some RNG will decide on your success more than skill at points.

The most simple of the bunch, but also real good fun in its own right. Secondary objectives give the game some added meat to make it just engaging enough as a fun time waster, and it captures the feel of the classic Sam games. If you want to get a copy, though, you’ll either have to look around scummy sites for the APK file due to the game now being pulled from stores, or look out for the PC version. It was sold on the now defunct Desura, but copies sold were without DRM, so finding a copy is still possible. Special thanks to the regular reader who supplied a copy for this article.

Serious Sam: The Random Encounter – PC (2011)

Developer: Vlambeer
Publisher: Croteam, Devolver Digital
Director: Rami Ismail, Jan Willem Nijman
Genre: RPG: Western
Themes: Alien Invasion, Parody / Satire, So Hard it Hurts, Spelunking / Graverobbing, Time Travel, Wacky / Over the Top

Random Encounter is easily the most inventive of the indie trilogy, and of the franchise as a whole. It puts the series in a sort of active time turn-based RPG, where you get into random encounters while exploring 2D areas in a top down JRPG style. The overworld is used mainly for very light puzzle solving (as in grab a key and use it light) and interacting with characters and entering major fights at the end of an area. Once in battle, Sam and any party members he has are running backwards as a horde of monsters chase. The goal is to use the weapons at your disposal to efficiently deal with the beasts before they get close, or before stronger enemies with projectiles can deal high damage. You can also move up and down once firing starts, allowing you some control to dodge shots, enemies, and re-adjust your fire towards another target.

The interesting part is that all of your weapons, which you find on the overworld and through drops after fights, have different firing properties, like the shotgun sticking to close range spread, or the rocket launcher firing a wide spread of rockets good for large numbers, but not so much high health enemies who stick to one spot. Battles have an element of strategy as a result, and you have a lives system so you can keep retrying and learn a bit more each time on planning your way to win a fight. While the game had a rushed development, the ideas it plays with are fresh and innovative, making it one of the most intriguing takes on the franchise. You can safely say that there’s no other game out there that’s quite done what Random Encounter did, unless you really wanted to dig into the obscure pints of gaming history. And yes, Devolver fans, Fork Parker is in this game. He has cameos in most of these indie spin-offs, but he’s a proper character here who even gets exposition at game’s start.

A month after Random Encounter, Croteam finally released the third proper Sam game (if you count TFE and TSE as one game, which they seem to do). It released just a few months after Duke Nukem Forever, the game they ragged on for the entire franchise history. The bright side is that Serious Sam 3: BFE was a better game than Duke Nukem Forever. The downside was that is wasn’t particularly good, and the story of Croteam’s most confused entry in the series is a strange one, complete with a never finished military shooter, a want to experiment, and grand designs that their tech wasn’t ready to accomplish. They sure tried, though.

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