Developer: Mr. Nutz Studio
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PlayStation, PC, Xbox One
As someone from the United States, the characters of Asterix & Obelix are vaguely known to me through online references, old cartoon snapshots and that’s basically it. I’ve never seen any of the cartoons: I don’t even know if any exist. Nevertheless, one thing that’s been doggedly present throughout the years have been the video games. Whenever I least expect it, I’ve seen either North American releases for Playstation 2 or PC games, or, more likely, someone importing a title for extreme markup at the local grey market store. Still, Microids decided that this was the year to really swing for the fences, with an astounding three titles landing in the last eighteen months. The latest entry, Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All!, is an interesting expedition that, while not the greatest game of all time, certainly merits a bit of attention for various aspects.
For those unaware, the world of Asterix & Obelix takes place in 50 B.C., where the Gaulish warriors of a tiny village continue to rage against Julius Caesar and his Roman army, who are deadset on taking over all of the world (or at least all of Europe). While this might not sound like much of a cartoony background, the creators of the series have managed to take what could be a grim prospect and have stretched it out for decades with comedic slapstick, magical elements and some truly goofy moments with a typical duet of small, feisty dude (Asterix) and large, doofy dude (Obelix). This has been going on for an astonishing sixty years, long after the original creator has died, and continues to this day. For Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All!, the idea is to take chapter elements from the main series of comics/graphic novels and import them into the game. Everything I said at the beginning of this paragraph is the plot, and you get snippets of how the battle is evolving between chapters, so don’t worry about feeling lost. Just know that these guys (who are Gaulish and NOT Vikings) are going to fight a bunch of Roman soldiers and, eventually, some mini bosses.
On the plus side of Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All!, the art direction is simply fantastic. I cannot stress how good this game looks, particularly if you enjoy the comics and other media. The hand drawn world positively explodes off the screen, looking amazing on larger and smaller devices (I played this on Switch in both docked and handheld mode). The color palette is fully saturated and alive with the feeling of playing a cartoon. The environments are lush and detailed, and the character models, though repetitive, are each distinct in what they want to bring to the game. Besides how they look, the way they perform is equally impressive. Each step, dash and jump from both Asterix & Obelix is smooth as butter, showing both good optimization for the device and great thought for how many frames are put into even making simple gestures and movement look good.
Having said that, the rest of Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All! Is a tad generic. It’s a 2.5D brawler with a focus on co-op that isn’t really needed. Asterix & Obelix have a unique set of attacks that involve punches, dashing, some grappling and throws and a bit of tag-team style attacking at times. You fight back waves of guards until they’re all rendered unconscious, then you move onto the next area, fight more guards, and repeat. At the end of a chapter you fight a larger set of mobs, who may or may not be boss-like depending on if you get some exposition interjected before the fight. Defeat them, get a ranking for how well you did in the level, and then you move on. As you fight the mobs, they’ll drop coins which only matter if you care about your score, and, occasionally, specialty food that will heal health, activate an invincibility mode, or recharge your special attack bar. The special attack, by the way, isn’t particularly special, though it can help clear the room when things get too hectic.
While there isn’t anything inherently bad about Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All!, it can be tedious after you understand the formula. In terms of the characters and playback, there isn’t any variety or improvement: the moveset you have at the beginning is everything, and it never changes from there. There’s no incentive to get the drops unless you are chasing that high score, which I suppose would be enough for the younger audiences who enjoy these games. While it is a competent beat-em-up, it isn’t as difficult as something like Streets of Rage, and it also doesn’t have as much excitement. A single player can toggle between Asterix & Obelix if they want to play solo, so there isn’t even much incentive to have a second player unless you want to play with a friend. Additionally, the game is shockingly long for something so formulaic. While a traditional game that handles like this might be a couple hours long, Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All! clocks in at an astonishing 5-6 hours, which is a massive ask for a game like this. I feel like the game is designed for children and long term fans, but a quarter of your day spent just on this game is, well, a lot.
If you enjoy the characters and the world of Asterix & Obelix: Slap them All! is a decent little journey that looks wonderful, has some fun (if repetitive) voice acting and a good summation of the plot as things move forward. It’s a good time sink game, and a good rental title if you have a weekend and nothing else to do. It is, however, very bland in terms of longevity, and I’m hard pressed to recommend picking it up for anyone except the most avid of Gaulish collectors.