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Serious Sam: The Random Encounter Review (PC-Steam)

Posted by Jim Cook, Oct 24, 2011 16:50

If you were to rank various genres by how much intelligence they require to play, some people might put non-stop action first person shooters at the extreme low end of the scale and RPGs at the extreme high end. After all, the former supposedly only requires shooting whatever gets in your way (even though mental multi-tasking is required to dodge dozens of simultaneous attacks) while an RPG requires reading, plot comprehension, tracking mathematical statistics, and so on. Serious Sam games normally fall on the extreme end of action shooters with an ’excuse plot’ and non-stop combat, but what would happen if you made the franchise into an RPG? Serious Sam: The Random Encounter runs with that idea and delivers an amusing indie game.

Serious Sam: the Random Encounter (PC)Played in a manner similar to 1990s Super Nintendo RPGs, Random Encounter has Sam pursuing his nemesis, Mental. Yet Sam has only a vague idea where Mental is and gets into tons of fights along the way; mostly against random enemies with the occasional boss battle. Like in the regular Serious Sam games, he starts off with only a few weak weapons and acquires better ones as he wins fights or explores the stage. What makes this interesting is how the fights are played out since Sam will encounter a horde of enemies charging him and begin frantically backpedalling while firing at them. You’re able to give him new orders every five seconds, and he’ll comply with things like switching weapons or being more (or less) aggressive with his shotgun as soon as he can. Though most of his attacks are a hands-off affair, you do directly control his dodging and it’s up to you to avoid enemies that will shoot at or bodily crash into him. Thus it’s mostly a turn-based RPG, but there are some action elements.

RPGs usually call for in-depth plots, but Random Encounter simply gives you the bare minimum ("I want to go shoot Mental in the face, along with whoever gets in my way") and instead uses the rest of its ’story time’ as a vessel for Serious Sam’s trademark humor. This becomes even more prominent when you recruit companions who share Sam’s interests in violence; they initially complain when they come across a locked door and discover they’ll have to search for a key, stating "I hate puzzles." When the ’puzzle’ turns out to be walking into an adjacent room and shooting everything in there while grabbing the key, they point out how reasonable the puzzle was and how they immensely enjoyed it. Other traditional Serious Sam style humor is in effect as well, such as giving the player an intentionally easy fight to make them and their characters wonder if that’s all there really was? Of course not; enjoy your much harder fight that immediately follows it! I would normally call those details spoilers and avoid them in a review, but they’re typical for a Serious Sam game at this point and pretty much expected though still funny.

There is a big emphasis on keeping the player occupied. You don’t have to heal your party between fights, since Random Encounter automatically does it for you. Likewise, you’ll rarely have to wander around to find a fight since you get into one every few steps! Normally that’s a flaw in a RPG, but when the whole point of Random Encounter is frantically paced random encounters broken up by moments of witty writing, then you actually want as many as possible. It’s strange to see a game in this genre be about getting into tons of fights for very thin of reasons, but it works.

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Our Rating for Serious Sam: The Random Encounter Review (PC-Steam)
4.0 Replay
A pretty linear game for obvious reasons, the major form of replay value would be the unlockable Endless Mode. While the premise wears out its welcome quickly, the time you do spend with it will be very fun and provide plenty of laughs.
5.5 Graphics
Intentionally retro and simplistic, it may go a little too far in that direction; most of the games it’s paying homage to had somewhat better visuals than this. They nonetheless work decently and aren’t actually bad, just simple.
6.5 Sound
Surprisingly good ’epic RPG’ music is joined by an understandable but still disappointing lack of voice acting (part of Sam’s charm is his voice) and bland sound effects.
7.5 Gameplay
Successfully mixing the ’growing arsenal of weapons against waves of enemies’ formula of normal Serious Sam games with amusing writing and decent RPG mechanics works better than you might think. There are a few minor bugs and occasionally you might run into an encounter that seems impossible to win, but you’ll enjoy yourself more often than not.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a singleplayer game only.
7.5 Overall
It’s definitely a novelty game aimed at a specific audience of people who enjoy both Serious Sam and classic RPGs, but that group should enjoy it enough to get their money’s worth (a mere five bucks) out of this clever idea.

Rating: 4.3, votes: 3


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