There’s a long development journey between the start of a game and Early Access. Sure, the initial Early Access release is usually the first time a player may see the game but there’s a lot of work to get there. Serious Sam: Tormental made its debut as a prototype at Reboot Develop, a European gaming conference, and like most of the games on display at places like this week’s GDC or the coming PAX East that was as far as it was meant to go. Tormental’s Early Access period is starting in a little under two weeks, though, so developer Gungrounds has decided to release the prototype as a teaser for the twin-stick roguelike action to come. While most of what’s in here is being updated, enhanced, expanded, changed, adjusted, torn out and completely revamped, or otherwise reworked since the prototype came out back in April of 2018, what’s in there is actually a lot of fun to play. In standard arena twin-stick shooter style Sam runs from room to room blasting every freak, mutant, and monster before it can do the same to him, and the random drops give each new run its own unique path to powering up. Different gun mods, secondary weapons, and random abilities all play off each other, and there’s even an advanced move with the dash that pays off nicely with the right timing. Most enemies go down in a single bullet but some have health bars, and when the bar gets low a glowing outline appears around them. Dash through an enemy in this state and they drop a pile of gems, racking up the score while simultaneously letting you know you just did something awesome.
In the full game those gems will act as currency, letting you buy upgrades when you run across a shopkeeper. Other adjustments to the prototype will include proper randomization, a huge pile of new weapons and other power-ups, different playable characters, traps and hazards, new environments, and all the other perks that come with a year’s worth of development. That’s still a couple weeks off with the pending April 4 release, though, so for now you can try to survive to the end of the free Serious Sam: Tormental prototype just by giving it a download off itch.io.