by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PC
By My Bushy Beard
Croteam have committed an admirable deed by letting smaller developers create a game based around their Serious Sam franchise, even if it does double up as a clever marketing ploy. There have been some wacky and adorable creations as a result, and considering they are all based on the same source material, there is a fair bit of variation as well. Random Encounter looked to be another exciting and creative spin on the Serious Sam franchise. It takes the cult FPS and weaves it into an RPG of some sort. Sceptical? Believe us, so were we.
Shoving its plug into an 80's inspired turn-based RPG socket sees Random Encounter immediately chime with a retro-infused nostalgia for us older gamers. Like with what must now be a vast majority of indie developed games, Random Encounter comes with a pixellated art style and rather addictive, head-bopping musical accompaniment to boot. These features were all very visible within the game's launch trailer; which was what made us dig our fingernails in to the edge of our desks to brace ourselves for a jolly good round of screaming "YES" at our screens. This pumped-for-action feeling stayed with us through downloading the game, furiously clicking through the main menu and even in the first couple minutes of the game. Then something dawned on us and made us feel slightly stupid. Of course it was all our own fault. The subtitle Random Encounter actually refers to our most hated aspect of the RPG genre, which the game takes as its main component. Duh.
Was this so much of a problem? Well, yes actually. Random Encounter (saying that now makes us facepalm) is probably great fun if you don't mind being thrust through repetitive fights every couple of seconds. But we do not like that, unfortunately. So if we adopt our stiffest upper lip, we come to the conclusion that Random Encounter is undoubtedly going to be a divisive game. We cannot be the only ones who really dislike this style of gameplay, surely?
Doing The Dishes
As you move Sam around a very small level, you are tasked with finding keys to open doors and battling big bosses before exiting to the next level. The one thing that kept us trudging through the epileptic flickering through battles and the level exploration screen was the game's manly-exchange of banter that has clearly been modelled in a post-Chuck-Norris obsessed world. Most jokes boil down to showing a doubt about the upcoming battles and then answering with a typically overtly masculine answer. It's funny, mostly. Unlike the monotony of the random encounters - luckily the game does not last too long.
Once you are in battle, every 5 seconds the great stopwatch in the sky stops the flow of time to allow for the adherence of the turn-based rules. The player can then choose which actions they want their manly party of masculine men to do. The three-part choice is quite basic; blast the weapon in hand at a certain direction, swap to another weapon or use an item to perhaps change the tide of favour. Once all decisions are made, the next 5 seconds carries out in real time as the huge tide of enemies runs at our back-pedalling heroes. All the player can do at this point is move the party up and down the screen, as if it was a Serious Sam version of table-top football, with the ball replaced by an army of the franchise's best known enemies. Inevitably, the gameplay can be very overwhelming with the only plausible way to win some of the encounters being to wield one of the rarely-found Serious Bombs over head to a ridiculously effective screen-clearing blast. In fairness, it is true to the over-the-top Serious Sam style, and we love Vlambeer's own hyperactive influence brought over from the fabulous Super Crate Box. This still doesn't help wash that horrible taste out of our mouths though.
If you still need the obvious pointed out to you, then you will be as dumbstruck as us when we found out the true nature of a game called Random Encounter. That is to say that Random Encounter can be slung into the same file as Marmite; you either love it or hate it. We sit in the latter category for the most part, but for those who find themselves on the other side, there is plenty of reason to pick up Random Encounter. For one, it is very cheap to buy. We do admire its ability to take turn-based battle scenarios and make them distinctly Serious Sam and consequently over-the-top. There is a short-lived amount of fun to be had here, but if you find yourself doubting whether you will like a game based around random encounters, and repetitive ones at that, it might be worth considering giving this a miss.
Turn-based combat is twisted to be crazy and over-the-top, funny banter between characters, short-lived
Divisive gameplay, repetitive, becomes a chore to play