I am a ginormous Asterix & Obelix fan. The comic series telling about a village in Gaul that Caesar could for the life of him not occupy, is a fascinating insight to a historical epoch and comes with wonderful humour and charm to it. In fact, me, my sister, and even my mother quote the cartoons to this day and still enjoy watching them. When it came to the video games, I mainly remember the different ports of Asterix & Obelix from 1995 , the arcade game Asterix from 1992, and the original version of today’s review.
Asterix & Obelix XXL was always a childhood favourite of mine that I played at a friend’s place. I never borrowed it personally, but I still have fond memories of it, despite that I found myself rather playing Asterix & Obelix: Bash Them All! for the GBA instead. I never got to the sequels either, and I always felt bad about it due to them being clearly made with effort. When the third game came out in 2019 and the two other titles following subtly with enhanced remakes, I decided to look at the entire series. Starting with the first game in its Romastered version.
Like slapping villains: simple entertainment
It is a normal and sunny day near the Gaulish village where Asterix and Obelix live. Our heroes just went out to the forest for a walk with their tiny puppy Dogmatix, but a storm brews up out of nowhere, causing a lightning bolt to strike a tree and scaring the little dog away. While the duo split up in order to find Dogmatix, Asterix sees his village in burning flames and being infiltrated by Romans. After taking care of them, he ends up meeting a Roman secret agent who has turned against Caesar and wants to help him find the captured villagers. With this in mind, Asterix eventually locates Obelix and Dogmatix, and the three set out to save their friends and bash any Romans in their way.
The story is rather there to set up a reason for why you are taking upon this journey, and nothing else. Certainly not much of a plot, but it still contains familiar characters and locations from the comics, making it clearly a product made by those who are well versed with the source material. This secret agent helping out our heroes with information on what has happened and how to proceed onward, is nice for giving us insights to the upcoming events, but that is about it. A simple and straightforward setup, that has its charm. In fact, this could also be said for the gameplay.
This title is in a sense a 3D beat’em up with some variety added in to mix it up. You will mainly be playing as Asterix, with the game itself deciding when you can change to Obelix beside the context-sensitive moments. Asterix is smaller and lighter, making him ideal for entering small gaps and using contraptions that can take his weight, while Obelix can bounce off trampolines, move heavy objects, and smash tin boxes. There are no real differences between the two when it comes to the combat though, as these abilities are rather reserved for elements outside of this aspect of the game, which we will come back to later in this review.
As either of the duo, you can punch and extend them into simple combos by mashing one button, normal- and double jump, dash to move enemies alongside with you, send out Dogmatix to make one enemy lose their weapons, and swing stunned foes before you throw them into the air. There is not really much of a moveset here, and the variety in fiends is even smaller. While there are some that will easier shield themselves from your attacks or be harder to stun, they basically become stat increased opponents. However, it seems like the developers tried to use this limited setup for their own unique take on the combat.
Even if there will not be a diverse amount of enemies to deal with, they will come in a huge chunk and are all aggressive. An interesting feature, is that every fiend has a wind-up animation for attacking, forcing you to plan out whom to deal with first, especially when some can charge their attacks quicker or even resist stunning. This is where detailed mechanics come into play, such as dashing away from enemies with others to take them out easier, using your grab move to swing an opponent in order to easily stun others, and so on. Through these subtle elements, they turn this rather simple beat’em up into an exciting and fun one thanks to the sheer amount of foes you will be facing up against.
By beating up enemies in a quick fashion, you can build up a combo meter that decreases the moment you are not throwing enough punches. When it is full, it will put you in combo mode where you can perform devastating moves that will cost a portion of the mentioned meter. It will go down slowly on itself as well when full, so you will have to decide how to utilise it the best. Keeping it up by throwing more punches will make you able to perform smaller combos on the side, but you can also exchange it all for one of your strongest attacks in the game, which is a neat way to add some more strategy to this simple brawler.
These combos are purchased from a vendor you can find multiple times throughout the game, using the helmets gathered from fallen foes or discovered around the world as currency. They are severely valuable, with there even being temporarily multipliers and golden ones that are worth 10 of a normal one to seek out. It also helps that the power-ups in the form of health regenerative meat from boars and shields for extra health during the current level, keeps you on the lookout as well. You can have a maximum of six shields and always start out with three, making them very supportive. Even the strength potion can be found within the stages, making Asterix run fast and become incredibly strong to the point where he can destroy iron crates for a limited amount of time.
The combat in itself is repetitive due to never evolving, but the amount of enemies to deal with still makes the fights engaging and entertaining. However, the one big issue this part of the game has, are the boss fights. There are only two included, with the first one being a fight against a contraption smashing the ground and having clear weak spots. This one is decent and only repeated once, but the other boss is revisited five times. I have no idea of why, because it barely changes between the fights and has uninteresting patterns that you have to deal with, making me hate this boss overall due to how mundane it becomes. It really should have been either reserved for as the final boss or just scrapped from this title completely.
On a more positive note, I am surprised by how solidly Asterix & Obelix XXL does variety outside of its main focus. While these aspects are not very complicated or unique, they are always presented in fun and short bursts, creating nice breathers between the combat segments. For example, the heroes’ platforming capabilities are limited, but well utilised for looking out for secrets and hidden objects, making it intriguing to explore the levels. There are even some light puzzles added in and none of them overstay their welcome. They can be as simple as figuring out a button combination or have more creativity to them.
A favourite of mine was one where I had to make Asterix jump on a block standing above the water, in order to keep a torch lit. From this block, Obelix had to push it while fighting off Romans nearby, getting Asterix quickly to his destination. This form of creativity by mixing diverse elements the game has to offer, provides some good variety that actually fits. None of the puzzles or platforming challenges become difficult or complicated, but are always fun and have you do enough varied tasks to keep you engaged. Even parts where you slide down hills or are sailing on boats (with Obelix functioning as either the sled or the motor), are exciting obstacle courses with high speed that tests your reflexes. These are truly exhilarating and I easily find myself revisiting them.
Unfortunately, there are some minor problems here that makes this title not reach the height it could within its simpler approach. Whenever there is the option for a turret section, they are just a way to make you overpowered against the opponents or used for opening doors effortlessly. There was an idea to use ricochet walls for bouncing off the canon balls, but only utilised once in the entire game. I am also perplexed by the uneven amount of levels in each region, but with 27 in total, this linear adventure still packs in about six hours of entertainment.
The Romastered version also adds in auto saving alongside the original’s save stations, but that is about it for upgrades. While it is hard to say more could not have been done with this instalment, it is still a solid and fun title. It is definitely flawed in some aspects, such as the turret sections and the boss fights, but the combat is simple and entertaining, and the variety outside are always presented in short and creative formats. Asterix & Obelix XXL provides a good time overall, and that is what pummelling Romans in order to save your villagers should do. In this context, of course!
Gameplay Score: 7/10
The best of two worlds separated
It is quite difficult to talk about the presentation for this game, seeing as you can switch between the classic and remastered look. Although, in terms of its overall style, Asterix & Obelix XXL is wonderfully colourful and takes you across the world to different locations, be it a fisherman’s village in Normandy, the library within Greece or to a huge farm in Helvetia. All areas are not just different from one another in terms of containing clear cultural and environmental specifics, but also change within themselves with different set pieces in order to truly make the lands feel diverse. The cartoony aesthetic to it all simply enhances this attention to detail and makes every world memorable.
The characters are just as lovely recreated, with everyone looking exactly like they do in the comics, despite some repetitive animations implemented. Even the enemies are diverse and how you punch them away like they are made out of rubber, is always satisfying and enthralling. You will be up against vikings, lion tamers, pirates, and different Romans to name a few, giving you a solid variety of fiends to deal with. The designers even took their time to add in subtle details, like animals roaming around or the small sword Asterix always carry.
This remaster comes with the option to switch between the old and the new presentation at any time, which is quite an impressive feature! You can even toggle if you want the original to have widescreen or not, whether to include new or old animations, and even what sound effects and music to be played. I do truly love this feature, as it gives a lot of customisation for finding your preferred style. Sadly, it is a shame that there is no perfect middle ground to this. The lighting is better in the new one, with some noticeable upgrades like the better animated grass in Gaul.
However, the original had much better textures and stronger colours to its world, which is actually because of the lack of good lighting. This even makes the characters look better, despite that the models have been updated in the remastered version to look more rounded and smoother. I also will say that some areas can be very dark in the remastered version, making it hard to know what is going on in certain locations. Even the animations for when the soldiers are attacking are better in the old one, but there is an actual timer for the strength potion and torch fire in the new one that are nice touches. This made me actively change between both styles and never truly go for one throughout, for better and worse.
Both versions come with graphical glitches, like cutscenes being obscured by environmental objects in the original and the new version lacking the fog to mask the visuals’ shortcomings. I do find it also strange that I cannot change between old and new presentation on the map screen. However, both adaptations look good in their own ways, but a better mix could have gone a long way. I can actually somewhat say the same about the sound effects, as the echo and variety is better in the new take, but the original has much stronger punches to the audio overall. At least the voice acting is solid throughout, with great performances that add charm to these characters.
However, while the music in the original has its charm, the new take with actual instruments makes it all sound much better. Every area has a clear tone fitting to each landscape, such as the light flute in the icy and snowy landscape up north or the rhythmic drums echoing in Egypt. It is all quite neat, and while there are tracks that I also enjoy in the old version, the remastered version is generally better composed and even has more tracks to enjoy, making the awkwardly silent moments in the original gone.
The only strange inclusion in this soundtrack, are the electronic heavy metal music during battles. These are insane with crunchy voices and dark notes, that goes so over the top that they are honestly hilarious to listen to. They fit the tension of the fights, but not the game’s cartoony and lighthearted vibe. Overall though, this is a great recreation of the comics’ world and would have made Albert Uderzo proud. It is just a shame that I find myself constantly switching between the visual takes.
Presentation Score: 7/10
Running around in different ways
The gold laurels scattered throughout the world returns from the original, with there being 63 in total to find. You are only told what region they are hiding in and not in which levels specifically, which can make it quite difficult to search them out. I do wish this was updated with a more lenient setup, as while the exploration can be fun, doing so for hours through all the stages can be a daunting task for finding one last gold laurel. If you manage to gather every single one in one region, you do unlock a costume for either Asterix or Obelix, giving some nice flavour to replaying the levels.
However, this game has probably one of the best art galleries ever, as these are hilarious pictures of “the making” of this game with clearly creative freedom being implemented. They cost a bunch of helmets to unlock, but give a nice reason to replay the stages, which is even better with the mentioned costumes. I do wish more of these elements were included or that the exploration was made more manageable, but that is unfortunately not the case. Instead, we get something much more dull in the form of challenge runs.
Throughout the varied locations, you can unlock challenges in the form of speedruns by running in specific patterns or fighting Romans to pause a timer and get more points, just to give some examples. These are quite tedious as Asterix & Obelix XXL is not a fast-paced game, making this feel like a forced inclusion. There is a decent idea of switching between the remastered and classic mode in order to get collectables, but it is all for nothing. A case of more being less. You only get trophies for finishing them as well, and who cares about that?
Extra Score: 4/10
This is the perfect game for any fans of the series, and while not as recommendable to the general audience, you will no matter what find a fun and charming beat’em up that is deeper than what you might expect. Combine this with nice variety being implemented and the ability to switch between old and new presentation, and you got a project clearly made with a lot of effort to it. Just take it with a grain of salt due to its unremarkable attempt at creating lasting appeal and some strange design-choices, and you might even become a fan yourself.
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