Serious Sam: The Second Encounter

10_1Seriously the same as the first.

Croteam wasn’t breaking new ground with Serious Sam: The Second Encounter. All of the monsters are back for more. Your arsenal of previous weapons is augmented with just a couple of new devices. Massive wave assaults that feature hundreds of bug-eyed monsters, sometimes all on the screen at the same time, remain the order of the day. Yes, the sequel to 2001’s Serious Sam: The First Encounter is every bit as unimaginative as its title. And that’s actually a good thing.

In a time where most developers are tarting up their designs with ever-more extravagant scripted events and multiplayer modes, it’s good to know that something as dumb as Serious Sam is still fairly popular. That tenet was the sole focus of the original Serious Sam and it remains the sole focus of its sequel. But even though Croteam stuck to the basics, there are subtle enhancements in many areas.

Son of Sam

The Second Encounter begins with Sam “Serious” Stone on a spaceship leaving the ancient Egyptian setting of the first game. Something funny happens on the way to the planet Sirius, however, and a crash-landing forces the vessel down in South America. Quicker than you can say “plot device,” Sam is blasting the big uglies of chief bad guy Mental in the jungle of the ancient Mayans. From there, you’ll move on to second and third acts in Gilgamesh’s Babylon and medieval Poland.

The dozen or so massive levels spread over three environments are very well realized and help to keep things fresh even when you’re just blasting the same aliens over and over again. The Mayan city of Teotihuacan is filled with giant stone heads, stepped pyramids, and a jungle drum soundtrack. Babylonian Persepolis features ziggurats and colorful walls that boast paintings of rulers with those distinctive staircase beards. And Poland is all horror-movie castles and fog, right down to the organ soundtrack.


From South America to medieval Poland.

Gameplay is identical to its predecessor. Level progression mirrors the original game, to the point where events take place in roughly the same order, in the same general situation. The exception of traps and console-styled jumping puzzles break the monotony, however. Every section is dotted with jumping platforms, spike pits, and weird wind and gravity effects. Croteam also varied the attackers, although the latter stages of each section are still difficult. It seems as if the difficulty isn’t that well calibrated, making the game either too easy or too hard depending on which difficulty level you chose.

You still get ganged by dozens if not seemingly hundreds of foes, though the lineup of villains here remains almost unchanged. The roster has been filled out with some interesting additions, though. Cucurbito the Pumpkin, a redneck in overalls with a jack-o-lantern head and a chainsaw, is easily the most interesting new guy. Others include the Yosemite Sam-like Zumbrian from Ras-ad-Nyk, the big red Fiendian Repitloid Demon, and a series of alien troops that may have teleported in from Unreal. Weaponry has received the same minor touch-ups, though the new sniper rifle, chainsaw, and flamethrower add welcome new dimensions to play.

These refinements come together to make Serious Sam: The Second Encounter an even more entertaining game than its predecessor. Few games offer a more entertaining venue to killing aliens, or brain cells for that matter.

System Requirements: Pentium II 300 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, Windows 95

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