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Serious Sam: The Random Encounter

Fantastic Arcade: Serious Sam + JRPG = Random Encounter

10:30 AM on 09.27.2011 // Allistair Pinsof

[All this week, I'll be bringing game coverage from indie game festival Fantastic Arcade in Austin, TX. Be sure to check Flixist for my coverage of film festival companion Fantastic Fest.]

No, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter isn’t a joke. Well, it actually is a joke but that’s a secret just between us and developer Vlambeer (the lovable, goofy Dutch duo behind Radical Fishing and the excellent Super Crate Box).

After Serious Sam creators Croteam emailed Vlambeer about making a game together, Vlambeer drew (via MS Paint) a rough design document for Dinosaur Zookeeper. Since that wasn't quite serious or Sam enough, they decided to turn the world of Serious Sam into 16-bit Japanese-style RPG.  Except Vlambeer think JRPGs are really, really boring so they made a game about shooting 500 guys in the face within a JRPG. 

The closest thing I’ve played that compares to The Random Encounter would have to be Half-Minute Hero or Final Fantasy XIII but even those feel like a stretch. The idea behind Vlambeer’s bizarre crossover is to cut all the fat in a JRPG, leaving nothing but combat and very minimal exploration. Dialogue between characters are nothing more than cheesy one-liners, gaining weapons and equipment takes the place of leveling, and there are no towns or cutscenes to get in the way of combat.

After watching a presentation of the game, I thought to myself, “Gee, that looks boring.” Thankfully I sat down and played The Random Encounter, finding myself becoming addicted to the game’s silly, simple, yet completely ingenious combat. Much like the FPS games, The Random Encounter is all about running backwards while emptying your entire arsenal on a massive horde of enemies. In an effort to avoid the 'ole “attack, wait, attack”-routine, Vlambeer have implemented some unique mechanics into the game.

Every five seconds the player has the ability to attack, use an item or swap weapons. Weapons are equipped mid-combat and are thrown away once used or swapped for another. In other words, you always have a wide arsenal of weapons you are blowing through, but the shotgun will always be the same shotgun. Each weapon has its own unique spread and features: revolvers automatically aim but have weak firepower, shotguns are powerful but only hit enemies surrounding the player, and sniper rifles form a deadly line that can be directed with ‘up’ and ‘down’.

Along with constantly swapping weapons for certain enemy types, you’ll also need to dodge incoming enemies and projectiles with the directional buttons. You’ll often find yourself shaving bullets like a shmup, which is awesome. The game has some serious tweaking to be done, between items that kill bosses in nearly one-hit and the frustration of losing items after death. For such a slapdash concept, The Random Encounter is a unique, no-nonsense RPG from two guys that really don’t know shit about RPGs. Who knew such a combination could make for such a unique, addicting game?

You can get your puzzle-free absurd D(utch)RPG action on mid-October for the very reasonable price of $5 via Steam. Here's hoping Vlambeer put out an iOS release in due time.

Allistair Pinsof,
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