This duo is no stranger to video game adaptations, but my favourite takes on them are whenever the combat is at the focus. Despite that the XXL series went downhill by each instalment, there were intriguing ideas in all of them that I would have loved to see fleshed out. However, Microids let the new studio, Mr. Nutz, make the next project into a traditional side-scrolling beat’em up in the form of Slap Them All!. With how amazing the original arcade version by Konami was, could this newest entry live up to that classic?
Comfortable strolls with no clear destinations
Without any overarching plot, all you need to know is that the setting is 50 B.C. in Gaul where Asterix and Obelix are going on multiple journeys that are taken from the comics. This might sound like a fun trip down memory lane, but everything is done in a shallow manner. Every recreation is bland in terms of presentation, with characters being placed awkwardly into each cutscene, offering no good storytelling. Even if the borders were a nice inclusion to simulate the source material, the lack of variety in locations and set pieces make these parts completely underwhelming.
It does not help that the stiff cast members do not physically interact with each other or the world around them, making only their dialogues worth paying attention to. Luckily, what they say is genuinely humorous thanks to cute wordplays and the heroes having adorable banters between them, even during gameplay. Hearing them mock each other over the smallest things or reading the bizarre names of the people you meet such as Justforkix, are always worth a chuckle. While I did forget that we travelled to Egypt, Spain, and Britain to name a few, I did enjoy the company I had with me.
Story Score: 5/10
Simple beatdown for hours
For two Gauls known for pummeling Romans, it is fitting that Slap Them All! takes on the beat’em up genre with multiple lanes to walk on and a hefty amount of moves to use. As either Asterix or Obelix, you can do normal hit combos, dash, jump, block, and do special attacks in three different directions; up for flinging an opponent into the air, forward to push them back, and down for a stunning punch. It is all solid, with them even having a dedicated button to grab and throw enemies with.
Onwards, the duo has unique abilities from one another as well. Asterix has a spin attack that he can perform on the ground or in the air, and is able to swing a foe around while walking in order to hit other ones. Meanwhile, Obelix has a ground pound to stun enemies near him, a hard punch combo that links up to three, and can slap an opponent he is holding or smash him down to the ground for some decent area control. This gives each of the characters some distinct capabilities for taking care of the villains, and all of the special attacks require varied amounts of lightning bolts to be used. You only have a maximum of five of these, but can gain them back by pummeling fiends or simply waiting.
This vast set of moves is really great for dealing with the hordes of enemies that will attack you. While there is some diversity in their designs, such as Romans throwing spears, bandits leaping at you or big pirates being impossible to grab, their quirks are minimal and forgettable. Instead, this game focuses more on the number of villains to fight, which can be tense and engaging! Having to be careful of who will attack you first and be certain to always have the upper hand, is not easy when plenty of foes wish to take you down!
Because of the number of fiends to face and how all of your abilities will be important to consider for coming out triumphant and safe, the combat is satisfying to begin with. Unfortunately, the lack of varied opponents and them having arbitrarily amount of health, make this journey become repetitive early on as well. This would not have been so bad, if this title was not stretched out to be almost six hours long. With stages lasting a good while and nothing evolving the battles to make them more challenging or interesting, Slap Them All is a slog to play after the first hour.
Damaging this adventure even further are the reuse of levels and bosses! None of the stages is intriguingly structured, and the alternate pathways are only worth it if they lead to finding food for refilling health. Discovering coins or getting points is completely useless and it makes the added bonus levels dull. Yes, there is an attempt to break up the fights through some distractions, with some examples being mashing one button to run, auto scroller where you try to hit fleeing Romans, and one where you just smash barrels. These are bland and quickly passes by, making me wonder why they were even included.
Sadly, the bosses are just as much of a pointless addition by having simple patterns to learn and being too easy to stun lock, prolonging the tedium. In fact, a lot of this game feels stretched out only to make it unnecessarily long. The stages can take forever, enemies are repeated constantly, and the bonus levels are forgettable. All of this is incredibly unfortunate, as the actual base here could make for a fun time due to the great number of moves, pummeling foes being entertaining, and the option for co-op! For the singleplayer, you can even switch between the duo on the fly, with them having their own health bar each. However, there is no reason to drag out a concept further than what it can offer, which is what Mr. Nutz did here.
Gameplay Score: 4/10
Art should be diverse
It is hard to deny how gorgeous the hand-drawn art is, with beautiful character designs perfectly replicating the comic books. Every animation is satisfying with clear frames for attacks, all being creatively cartoony and coming with sound bubbles to make the beatdown impactful. Be it throwing a Roman at their own army, smacking a bandit in the face or launching a Viking up in the air, it never gets old visually. Even details like enemies losing teeth, Asterix drinking his magical potion before a battle or Dogmatix running around are adorable ones that add to the charm.
The same amount of praise goes for the stages, with lush sceneries, parallax scrolling backgrounds to simulate depth, and multiple set pieces implemented to make them seem huge! Unfortunately, the variety is what is lacking. While you will be travelling through beaches, forests, and cities to name a few, many areas are eerily similar or copied for reuse! They are wonderful to witness at first, but fighting on the same pirate ship for the fourth time makes it difficult to be engaged in any journey. Not to mention, you will see plenty of recurring bandits and Romans on your adventure countless times, with even some enemies sharing the exact same animations, breaking the immersion.
What also needs to be reiterated, is how shallow the presentation for telling the stories is. Only some still frames of characters are being placed onto drawings of landscapes, which is simply lazy. Everything is gorgeous to look at, but the diversity is bare and can hinder the overall experience. Although, the audio is impressive! Every single attack comes with a different and strong effect, there is a ton of ambient ones to hear such as birds or the wind, and even running has unique sounds depending on who you are controlling!
Beyond this, the voice actors are great! The Narrator does not talk much, but has a nice and comfortable tone that enhances the setting, and the duo is even better. Both of them come with voices that replicates their personalities well, which adds to their banters. As for the music, it is average. All of the tracks fit their respective locations and provide appropriate tunes that represent their cultures in familiar ways. Flutes are the most common instruments used, but there are others included such as bagpipes. It is just a shame that the melodies are repetitive and do not have any solid buildup. I would also have loved to tinker with the audio to make the mix better, but there are no options for this, which is just bizarre.
Presentation Score: 6.5/10
The 80s want their numbers back
Having co-op and four difficulty levels are commendable additions, but they do not change up the combat enough to make it more interesting. Also, gaining points is useless as you cannot use them for anything, not even leaderboards. Sure, you can compete with your friend in who gets the best score, but due to how long the stages can last, it is hard to be engaged in anything, let alone replaying them.
Extra Score: 2/10
Slap Them All! was definitely made by people who were fans of the comics and wanted to make something everyone could enjoy, but because of how this title is stretched out thin with repeated structures, the excitement of bashing enemies fades away quickly. If you just want a simple beat’em up and do not care about evolving gameplay, there is something here for you due to the neat moveset and tons of opponents to deal with. As a huge fan of Asterix and Obelix myself, I sadly cannot say it was worth seeing this adventure through to the end. Even if it is always satisfying to pummel Romans into a new tomorrow.