Today’s entry was once again written by friend of the site, Lee Spriggs. He once asked me to send him the Billarm from the Action Cast! to use as an actual alarm. Now that he’s written this, it seems he has a deep love for really obnoxious sounds.
What has no head, no hands, two bombs, and yells CONSTANTLY?
I mean, if you’ve played Serious Sam you know what I’m getting at. Kamikaze bombers.
I remember playing Serious Sam back in high school. It’s one of the first shooters that I remember playing after the cerebral Half-Life and I wasn’t prepared for the insanity. There wasn’t a story and the only excuse for pacing in the game was when they stopped spawning things for long enough for you to let your guard down, and then warped in a dozen enemies around you. But while the skeleton horses (called Kleer skeletons, apparently) and crazy one-eyed punchy guys (Gnaars, apparently) were tough and frustrating, nothing compared to those goddamned headless bombers. Nothing was as panic-inducing as hearing one of them behind you while you were in an enclosed space because they could run faster than you could, and you had to be precise to make them blow up far enough away that you wouldn’t take splash damage. The only saving grace was that you would occasionally get them hung up on the geometry and you could line up a shot on one of the bombs at your leisure.
I’ve been playing through Dark Souls again recently, and I just realized why the bombers are so difficult. A lot of games have enemies that rush at you, but there are usually breeds of them: smarter ones that have a melee attack but also will shoot at you at distance; single-minded attackers like head crabs that will just leap at you over and over but don’t really do that much damage; or huge, lumbering beasties that you can sidestep as they charge and then shoot from behind. The bombers don’t fall into any of those categories – they just run, then explode. It’s so very simple.
This here is my favorite moment in the Serious Sam games. I’d conflated it with a moment from the second game, but this is actually from the first level of Serious Sam: The First Encounter, and it’s the first time you run into the Kamikazes:
That right there is comedy in games. This is the FIRST time you ever run into the craziest enemy in the game, and it gives you one, then pauses for a quick one-liner, before throwing a whole mob of them coming over the crest of the hill. And it’s not just one mob, either – you get several waves of running, yelling, exploding maniacs. I think I died here the first time I got to this point in the game because I couldn’t stop laughing while I was trying to circle-strafe.
At this point the Kamikaze bombers have become iconic of the Serious Sam series, and for good reason. They’re visually striking and completely absurd, but incredibly versatile in terms of gameplay. One of them is a nuisance, five requires management, and more than that becomes a challenge. I think there’s a great missing gameplay mode from the series that’s just an open arena that spawns bombers more and more rapidly, to see how long you can endure. Think Devil Daggers, but with lots more yelling. I don’t know if I’d play that more than once, but I’d really love to see it. So here’s to the Kamikaze bomber: a ridiculous idea that’s still one of the best concepts in video games.
For your amusement, here’s someone figuring out how to ride a flock (mob? Fleet? Gaggle? What’s the collective noun for headless yelling bomb men?) of them around the level.
And for the opposite of your amusement, here’s a 15 minute loop of the yell. I’m sure everyone can think of someone they’d like to curse with this on permanent loop:
- Released: March 21st, 2001 (Original release of The First Encounter)
- System: PC, Mac, Linux, et al
- Developer: Croteam
- Publisher: 2K, Devolver