Images used for First and Second Encounter come from the HD remasters.
A year after The First Encounter came the creatively titled The Second Encounter, a sequel even more serious than the first. The new weapons were more serious, the new enemies far more serious, and the bosses were the most serious of them all. If you find these serious puns annoying, please never play a Serious Sam game, you will pop a blood vessel. In all seriousness (ba dum tis), Sam’s second outing of alien killing is a massive step up from the previous game, feeling less like an episode two style release and more a bigger and better full sequel, with all sorts of new features and a real show of growth from a game design perspective. It’s Serious Sam, but even more, building on that foundation with gusto.
After Sam managed to steal an alien ship and left ancient Egypt, Croteam themselves crashed into said ship with their stupid crate bus that Sam hates (he says as much in a first level secret) and he ended up crash landing back on Earth, this time in Mayan era Central America. The goal now is to find a second ship left by the same race who had that first one hanging around, then go to Mental’s house and kick his alien butt. However, this will require some more time warps, sending Sam to Mesoamerica, Mesopotamia, and finally medieval Europe. All of these time periods are populated by monsters and aliens, as you would expect.
There’s little changes to the writing and tone that give Second Encounter a flavor of its own. Sam’s intel giver computer friend Nettie has a bit more personality here, making dorky jokes in text updates and some forth wall breaking humor, going from a dry and dull exposition dump to a proper character. Sam also has more quips, and a lot of them are pretty amusing, helped by John J. Dick’s seriously good delivery. You can really see how this game would bridge from the simple First Encounter to the wacky era that reached its peak with Serious Sam 2.
You get three of the four new weapons within the first level. The chainsaw is the first weapon given to you, a new melee attack that works on a hold and slices through plenty of enemies and creates very fun gibbing in the HD version. The longer its on an enemy, the more damage gets done. The flamethrower is an interesting mid-range alternative to the minigun and tommy gun, causing after burning damage on hit enemies, hitting multiple enemies in a stream, and the flames can’t hurt Sam by accident. Great for mobs, but not as much against kleers, who take a few seconds to burn up.
The sniper rifle is also a brilliant addition, giving a massive damage boost when shooting scoped, making short work of a lot of large enemies who like hanging back to pelt you with projectiles. It’s particularly great against those damn hitscan arachnoids, and overall improvement to your long range options so you don’t have to rely on the rocket launcher or energy gun so much. There’s also the premier of the series’ now iconic serious bomb, a weapon almost as signature to Serious Sam as the cannon. It’s a screen clearing explosion that can really help in the more hectic gauntlets, though don’t expect to find too many of these.
A few new enemy types have also been thrown into the mix. Cucurbito the Pumpkin is a new charger alongside the kleer, rushing in with a chainsaw and taking at least two rockets to take down. He also has that same chainsaw continuous attack, differentiating him from the kleers and their one melee hit and pause. The zorg mercenaries and commander are new firearm using grunts that can easily be handled with the flamethrower to stun lock them until dead, basically slightly more resilient versions of projectile using beheaded.
Zumb’ul are a bit more substantial, taking a few more licks and firing quick rockets at you, two at a time. Not huge threats, but ignoring them in more chaotic moments is generally not a great idea. The most significant addition is the demon variant of the reptiloid, a nasty beast that can take a lot more rockets and sniper shots than the rest of his kind, and uses a much faster homing fireball that can’t be destroyed in the classic version without a cannon ball or some laser fire (this has been changed in the HD version, though its still pretty durable). These new enemy types give some much needed variety to fire fights, and also don’t rely on hit scanning cheapness, so it feels fun to dodge their assault and take them down. Arachnoids still feel mostly like a chore, but the new weapons do make them less obnoxious to wipe up.
The game is just filled with quality of life improvements, including proper power-ups and even wackier secrets than before, but pacing and map design shows the most steps forward. While The Second Encounter is still a linear affair, there’s now some light puzzle solving at points, including some platforming. Mobs are also spiced up with gimmick rooms, like one with wind blowing you and a bunch of kamikaze around, or a dark room you have to keep lighting up by shooting a switch so you can see your enemies. Touches like this keep the simple yet serious formula of moving backwards and shooting from getting too stale, making Serious Sam and seriously more fun game to play. Of course, there are still some serious dick moves here and there, especially now with spike pits (you will want to quick save even in the HD version with autosave on), but it wouldn’t be a Serious Sam game without at least one hallway flooded with charging enemies and the door you came through locked closed.
There’s also proper bosses now. Instead of a room full of marsh hoppers and a fire golem but Big followed by an actual final boss, the bosses on display here are all unique creatures with their own attacks, strategies, and gimmicks. The Wind God is especially memorable, making the most of the speed power up and wind effects. They’re still damage sponges, but now with some extra variety.
The HD version adds a few bits, like new secrets, and has an all-new DLC campaign that, for some reason, uses the Khnum from Serious Sam 3 as the DLC boss, which itself is pretty much the Hell Knight from Doom II. Apparently Croteam had a short working relationship with id Software, and this enemy type was the end result. The HD version’s one major weakness is they removed the intro cutscene with the crate bus crashing into Sam’s ship, and nobody knows why they did this. Otherwise, The Second Encounter has pretty much the same ports and versions as The First Encounter, usually paired with it, though minus a Palm OS port.
It would be awhile before Croteam would release the next part of the Serious Sam story, so the years from 2002 to 2005 would be focused on porting the games to consoles, releasing the gold collection, and working with the Palm OS port publisher Global Star Software to release some console focused spin-offs. However, Croteam wouldn’t be making those. Instead, those were made by the British company Climax Studios, who you may remember for Silent Hill Origins. On the bright side, they made the solid if derivative PS2 and Gamecube shooter Next Encounter, which will be getting a mention in the spin-off wrap up later. The other thing they made that gets the next focused piece, on the other hand, is arguably the worst game in the Serious Sam series, an ambitious failure that fell into the same trap as many others from that era. No one told Serious Sam Advance that having a good FPS on the Game Boy Advance was near impossible, and history repeated itself.