Serious Sam: The Random Encounter Review
By Simon Graves |
The latest in a series of indie titles inspired by the Serious Sam intellectual property – and conspicuously leading up to the launch of Serious Sam 3 – Serious Sam: The Random Encounter is perhaps the most unique take on a shooter since the magic bullet theory. Essentially, TRE is a conversion of Serious Sam's usual FPS format into something like an 8-bit Japanese RPG.
If that sounds like an odd fit, you might be surprised to find just how clever some of the indie developers are these days. You take the role of Serious Sam himself, who gets transported forward in time to deal with the evil hordes of Mental (the series' primary antagonist). Sam will quickly pick up a couple of allies, including an Afro-sporting 70's kung-fu guy and a mustachioed cowboy dude to help him fight off wave after wave of undead, alien, robotic scum.
Instead of shooting with WASD and the mouse, though, all combat takes place in a side-scrolling, 2D plane. On the right-hand side are your heroes, who backpedal constantly through the fight, and on the left, coming toward them at breakneck speed, are the bad guys. Every few seconds, the action stops and you can issue orders to Sam and his compatriots via a simple menu at the bottom of the screen – orders they will then carry out in real time. These basically amount to telling them to shoot whatever weapon they've got equipped at the time (you'll use the keyboard to actually aim the weapon somewhere in the horde), swap to a different weapon, or use a special item of some sort. You can also run the hell away, but let's be honest, like these colors, Serious Sam don't run.
The enemy hordes and bosses you'll be faced with are numerous; so much of the game's strategy comes down to choosing the right weapon combos to kill as many of them as fast as possible before they wreck your heroes. Most of the weapons from the FPS series make an appearance here, and each has its own characteristics and strengths. Sam's famous dual pistols are here, but they're only marginally useful, the real meat of the game comes with hardware like the minigun (which takes a little while to spin up, but then unleashes terror in a straight line), the sniper rifle (instant kills any one thing it hits), and, of course, the famed cannon (takes a turn to charge up, but then crushes everything it hits). Items, too, come into play: they can heal your guys, damage or destroy enemies, and get you out of trouble in a pinch, too.
Keep in mind that all the action takes place using graphics straight from the 1980's. This is not a Mass Effect competitor. It does have its share of snarky commentary from Sam and his buddies, as well as a plot that – typical for the series – makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. When you're playing TRE, it's important to remember that the game, and the series, is – and this is the height of irony, mes amis – not meant to be taken seriously. That said, TRE can be extremely difficult, especially at the later stages, and you will have to rely heavily on luck to get past some of the larger battles. Some people – especially Dark Souls fans – will find the degree of difficulty quite satisfying, others will find it frustrating. But if you dig the Serious Sam universe, you'll at least find the ethos of the game entertaining.