Is it just me or is advertising shit? Maybe as I’ve aged the notion of wasting time has grown from petty annoyance to piss-boiling fury. Hang on, we’d like to interrupt what you were doing to show you some shite products that will most certainly not make your life better. I can’t even knock one out in peace without a chatbox popping up claiming “Oh hai you’re from (READ IP ADDRESS TO DETERMINE LOCATION) too? I’m so horny”. Maybe I’m in the minority, maybe I know exactly what I want and don’t need to be told like a good little consumer, with ham-fisted psychological techniques that would make an X Factor producer blush.
There is hope though, the gaming scene has birthed a form of advertising that doesn’t cause me to grab for the remote/close button/hammer, a little reminder that a full game is coming out soon. It is known by many names, the catchiest is Pre-LC. Basically a bite-sized title to generate buzz for the upcoming full title, often very cheap as it is “subsidised” by the promotional aspect. The most notable example to date is Dead Rising 2: Case Zero which sold 300,000 copies in its first week and generated a metacritic rating equal to the full game. The latest in the catalogue of Pre-LC is Serious Sam: The Random Encounter developed by Vlambeer and published by Devolver Digital, just one part of the Serious Sam Indie Series to help promote Serious Sam 3: BFE, out on November 11th. Those expecting a fast-paced FPS experience should pay attention now, SS:TRE is a turn-based RPG, and I don’t mean RPG as in a damn rocket launcher! In the words of the developers themselves:
The approach we took is seeing what Serious Sam is, what it stands for and then taking the genre that is furthest away from that with the intention of turning it into a Serious Sam game.
They weren’t kidding either, SS:TRE essentially distils the Serious Sam experience and infuses it into a different game, it has that oddly familiar quality like an absinthe dream, minus the throwing up in my underwear drawer. Let’s start with the core Sam mechanics, hundreds of enemies: check, absurd weapons: check, running backwards very quickly to shoot enemies without getting eaten: check check check. Now take these concepts and squeeze them into a game not unlike Final Fantasy. Your time is divided between sliding on a world map collecting keys, items and solving “puzzles” before a random attack takes you into the battle sequence and all hell kicks off.
Turn-based combat has never been so simple, with basic commands of fight, swap or item allowing you to direct each of your three characters for the next 5 seconds. The commands don’t get more complicated than fire in a particular direction to best shred the myriad of foes but the difficulty is so viciously savage and the wee beasties so intent on nomming on you that the game over screen surely awaits all who visit, possibly an homage to the 8-bit days of yore or possibly to extend the playtime. Being honest, SS:TRE isn’t the longest game in the world, it took me about 2 hours from start to end on my first playthrough but don’t forget this is a budget title with key objectives.
In the few hours you spend with SS:TRE you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck. It seems as if the very act of distilling what makes a Serious Sam game has bled through to all other aspects of the game. Condensed in this title you’ll find a lot of humour, charm and action that should get you in the right mindset for Serious Sam 3, in those terms SS:TRE has been a complete success.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: PC Release date: 24/10/11
Disclaimer: A digital version of Serious Sam: The Random Encounter was supplied by the promoter and played over the course of 3 days on a high-end gaming PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.