Known for its over-the-top humor, offbeat characters and frantic gameplay, the Serious Sam indie series is once again at the hands of Mommy’s Best Games. Double D originally released
in 2011, but XXL is marking its return with cooperative play, new missions, a game-altering relic and Xbox leaderboards.
Double D XXL places the eponymous gunslinger in a 2D platforming environment, complete with hidden upgrades and cannon fodder to use them on. The campaign begins in ancient Egypt, following Sam on his search to find his objective, an enemy beacon. After brief dialogue between Sam and Netricsa – essentially the Cortana, or Navi, if you will, of DD XXL – controls are placed into my hands.
An obligatory tutorial sequence teaches me the basics. Shooting is mapped, naturally, to the right trigger, jumping is relegated to the left and the analog sticks are in charge of movement and aiming. These are customizable, but the default configuration allows shooting and jumping without forsaking the ability to aim for a few valuable moments.
The first enemy I encounter is an odd, deformed human that serves only to teach me how to point and shoot. A few seconds later though, I’m firing my machine pistol (the fallback weapon with infinite ammo) into the eyes of hunchbacked Cyclops monsters. As odd as this may seem, these are some of the more tame creatures you’ll encounter; and I only played the first six missions.
The tutorial mission continues for a few more minutes until my crosshairs fall on – you guessed it – flying monkeys with gattling guns and battle-axes for hands. After dispatching these aggressive primates, the level opens up; it’s here that DD XXL starts to pull its weight.
While gameplay consists of side scrolling, you won’t always be going right. Armor, health and ammo lie in high places, and under inconspicuous slabs of limestone, and these are the least of your concern. What you’ll really want to find are Gunstacker upgrades.
Eschewing the weapon upgrade system of other shooters, DD XXL allows you to place upgraded weapons on top of each other. Finding the aforementioned upgrades increases the number of weapons per stack, topping out at six. You can make eight of these stacks.
Over the course of the missions I played, my stack transformed from one machine pistol, to three shotguns, to three shotguns and two Tommy guns, to two shotguns, two Tommy guns, a chainsaw and one devouring-beetle launcher. Combining separate weapons was enticement enough for exploration, but throw in money that allows you to upgrade each individual weapon and I was scouring every inch of each level.
Encouraging exploration is the JumpPad, a device easily explained by its name. With the press of a button I can throw down unlimited – one at a time, though – pads that let me bounce to the hard-to-reach areas. None of the missions I played were too extensive to begin with, but countless minutes are lost searching for that next invaluable upgrade.
Brief cut scenes play out between missions, mainly aimed at levity, with humorous exchanges between a general and his beheaded kamikaze squad leaders; they also have bombs for hands. As you might guess, the story isn’t exactly the focus of the game – or the first six missions at least – but rather the fast-paced action following. Several bosses and mini-bosses permeated the missions I played, all of which grew easier as I adapted my inventory.
The actual gameplay consists merely of jumping, aiming and shooting, something we’ve all done countless times before. But switching between multiple stacks is where DD XXL excels. Swapping from my Napoleonic-artillery-battery stack to my triple chainsaw stack is what propelled me forward, searching for the next Gunstacker upgrade and enough money for the bouncing Tommy gun bullets. The loop between exploration and the firepower possibilities it yields are what excite me for Serious Sam DD XXL’s release.