When I was a much younger person, growing up on the mean streets of Oldham, my one escape from grim reality was a weekly trip to the public library. It was there where I first came across the joys of French cartoons, or graphic novels as we’d call them today, with the Adventures of Tintin and the Asterix books being particular favourites. What this trip down memory lane is leading to is the release of the latest game featuring Asterix and Obelix, coming from developers Mr. Nutz Studio. But does the promise of Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! live up to my early, impressionable days, or should the two Gauls have stayed in the long lost memory?
The story of Slap Them All! seems to be promising at least. Asterix and Obelix, chief warriors of a small village in Gaul that is the only place not captured by the Romans, need to go on a wacky adventure. Well, a series of wacky adventures actually, as the Acts in this game are based on the books that I remember reading when younger. In fact, apart from one chapter, the rest all seem very familiar, with episodes in Spain, England and so on. Each Act is made up of a number of stages, and there is usually a boss fight at the end; the actual format is very much as you would expect.
The game also looks great, there’s no two ways about it. The art style of the original books has been captured very well indeed, and with good animation throughout, it is as if Asterix et al have stepped off the pages of the physical world and straight into the game. The Romans and the rest of the adversaries are also captured well, and while the sound work as a whole isn’t up to the same high standard (never, as an example, did I imagine Asterix and Obelix would sound quite so British), the presentation of the game is pretty good.
Now, what kind of game did Mr. Nutz Studio make of our childhood memories? Well, in a nutshell, they made a side-scrolling beat-em-up. Yes, imagine Final Fight or Streets of Rage 4 with the main characters scribbled out and the world’s favourite Gauls shoehorned in, and you’ll be about there. As you would expect, the two characters you can control are Asterix and Obelix, and in a single player game you can switch between them when one starts to become a little jaded due to getting prodded by Roman spears.
There is also local co-op present and correct, where each player takes control of one of the protagonists, and this works very well as a mode. Each of the characters has a basic slapping move, a special move (that needs to be used in conjunction with a directional input to achieve the desired results) and a grab move. The special attacks are interesting, if only because they require you take your thumb off the left stick (you know, the stick that controls your character’s movement) and apply it to the D-Pad in order to input, say, up+Y to perform an uppercut. It’s a bit disjointed, if I’m honest, and doesn’t flow very well.
So, with graphics and controls examined, let’s take a look at the meat of any fighting game, the combat. The news is not good here, sadly, as there are a number of issues getting in the way of enjoyment. First up is the range of the character moves. Playing as Asterix, a small fellow with the best will in the world, his basic attacks seem to cover pretty much the whole screen. Let me explain. There is a certain amount of movement allowed in the game, into and out of the screen, if you get me, in addition to left and right.
Now, as long as your enemies are all to the right of you, it doesn’t matter where they are – if Asterix is facing right, his basic attack will hit everyone. Conversely, if the enemies close the distance until they are standing on his toes, the same attacks will now miss the enemies entirely. This just makes no sense. Add to this a block move that works perfectly when there is a Z in the month, charging attacks from various enemies, and the same foes appearing again and again no matter where you are in the story, and the wheels have become decidedly loose. I mean, bandits in Gaul and Britain not only wearing the same clothes, but apparently being identical twins too? It’s all a bit too much of a suspension of disbelief if I am honest.
The upshot of those issues is that by the end of the third act, Slap Them All! is becoming dull, and by the end of the fourth act, all willingness to play is fleeing rapidly into the distance. Even the odd mini games, such as when Obelix goes hunting boars in the forest or decides to have a foot race on the beach soon become tiresome.
Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! feels like a missed opportunity to give the world the Asterix game that we have been waiting for. There is no progression, no making the heroes stronger, and at the end, no real desire to see the game through to a conclusion. It’s the same characters and the same action, for level after level, with a different backdrop. Sadly this makes for a dull game. If you are a massive fan of Asterix et al this may be worth a look, but as a game in its own right, it is ultimately disappointing.
You’ll find Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! on the Xbox Store