Game Over Online ~ Serious Sam

GameOver Game Reviews - Serious Sam (c) Global Star Software, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Serious Sam (c) Global Star Software
System Requirements Palm OS
Overall Rating 71%
Date Published Monday, December 10th, 2001 at 07:56 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

By now, I'm sure just about every gamer who has laid hands on a first-person shooter will have heard of Serious Sam. It is such a successful value title that many people doubted whether it truly is value-oriented. Certainly, it had the professional polish and capabilities of a commercialized game. Nothing seemed value-oriented, except say the cheesy storyline (but then I can think up about a dozen other titles that have woefully inadequate stories) and the price. Croteam really set the standard early on this year and from my correspondence with various value title creators, they certainly find the bar has been raised permanently. The independent developers cite that Croteam had years of funding to perfect their game engine and hone their skills. So it becomes unfair competition, when the development cycle for most value first-person shooters is little less than a year.

Serious Sam's graphical prowess was so good that certain technical publications used their technology demos as a benchmark programs for 3D performance. Serious Sam for Palm, however, tries to aim for that level, but ultimately falls short of the mark; even for a PDA title. It is true that the developers here have aimed to translate Serious Sam faithfully on to the PDA screen. Arguably, with only 160x160 pixels to render, things should be speedy. But do recall, we are dealing with Palm here and this rendition of Serious Sam runs on a wide variety of Palm units, from the now antiquated Palm IIIe to the new M505. While Serious Sam by Croteam was known for its great textures, 32-bit colour, there seems to be a pervading want of finish on the Palm version. Even in colour mode, there is heavy dithering on the indoor textures as well as the characters themselves. It certainly hides this better in dark or dim settings but as we all know, Serious Sam takes place mostly in bright desert landscapes. It works in some settings and it does not work so well in others (particularly the beginning levels). I kept asking, is this to reduce graphic sizes for a smaller package? Or is this a concession to the slow Palm CPUs so as to keep the framerates high? Or is this ultimately due to the low resolution of the Palm platform? Thus, the final product is not a direct translation of the original. True, level names and their settings are directly transferred, including the greenish menu interface, yet many of the level designs have been changed and this has wide-ranging implications on the game itself. However, the excellent pacing that was found in the PC version, fails to materialize here. In the original Serious Sam, there are no prolonged periods of inaction so players do not spend too much time retracing their steps, looking for missed switches or doors. A PDA screen, on the other hand, is more restrictive and peripheral vision is not as sharp as it would be on a full-sized monitor. Coupled with the fact that the Palm version deviates from the excellent level layouts of the original, we have results that require a lot of mindless wandering. You'll often ask the question, "Where do I go next?"

With that said, credit must be given to the developers for including fifteen levels of a variety of environs and most of the original Serious Sam monster cast. The levels themselves vary greatly from one another and they have been chopped down, literally, so that most of the game will be in front of you, instead of up and down. A good decision since, like consoles, most PDA gamers will have trouble aiming without a mouse. You have six weapons to choose from which represent a good selection from the original game, but hardly the entire arsenal. The controls are pretty standard for Palm action games. You have the usual up/down buttons for forward and backward. You use two side buttons for turning left/right. There is one extra button to engage strafe and one button to shoot. It's a pity these buttons cannot be mapped but at least they are intuitive.

It is impressive that Serious Sam for Palm can support so many Palm units. But you'll find this claim to be a bit false, considering units like the Palm III, Palm IIIe or Palm V only have two megabytes of memory. The data file (PAK) for Serious Sam is a little over two megabytes itself and that does not include the actual program. Those with devices behind the curve should heed this caveat emptor. With that said, I didn't expect anything less for a game with so much content but it certainly will weigh down even the most modern Palm PDAs.

If you are a diehard shooter fan, you will be able to overlook some of these faults. Its license is definitely a novelty. But for those who had fun with Serious Sam but consider the lot of first-person shooters these days to be just a shadow of Half-Life, you might want to look elsewhere. I should probably proclaim once again that this is not an exact port of Serious Sam for the PC to Palm. In many ways, it seems directly inspired by it but never approaches the fun factor that critics and gamers found in the original. For one thing, the original was filled with sarcastic speech and excellent audio effects. These cannot be translated to the Palm version simply due to the technical restrictions. Another thing that made Serious Sam so famous was the abundant amount of multiplayer options (including split-screen). This is also missing in the Palm version. Furthermore, there is a lack of customizable controls and the heavy dithering is disconcerting, to say the least. As I write now, work for the next edition of Serious Sam is at full speed and undoubtedly, there will be a translation of it to PDAs as well. Hopefully by that time, the Palm platform will have advanced a bit and developers will have incorporated some of the magic that made Serious Sam on PC work so well.

[06/10] Addictiveness
[15/20] Gameplay
[12/15] Graphics
[08/10] Interface/controls
[06/10] Program Size
[02/05] Sound
[02/05] Discreetness
[13/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer


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