Asterix & Obelix XXL always felt like a strange choice for OSome Studio to remaster. The original from way back in 2003 didn’t exactly set the world on fire and its market isn’t entirely clear. There are some nice touches to this 2020 update but I find it hard to think of a reason to play it if you didn’t adore it almost two decades ago.
Taking place in 50 B.C., the region of Gaul has been occupied by Roman soldiers. Asterix and Obelisk take up residence in a small village, making them in one of the only villages not taken. After hunting animals and chasing your dog (Dogmatix) you spot your village on fire. You must come back, fight off Romans, and figure out puzzles to make your way through each level.
This is fundamentally the same game from 2003: the levels, combat, platforming and everything else feel the same. This is both a blessing and a curse for general enjoyability. It’s nice to play something that feels a little old but it also pales in comparison to practically every platformer on the market. And this means that its controls aren’t nearly as stable or smooth as I would like from a game in 2020. Jumping just feels a bit clumsy and areas feel far too easy to manipulate. There are these small issues like floating platforms that can’t be jumped on, or boxes that are the right height but have invisible barriers. It is far too fond of just making things undoable than removing them; leftover from its archaic level design. Levels also have a certain openness to them that is never really explored – lots of areas have parts to them that don’t really serve a purpose, and are just a stretch of land containing nothing to do.
I did say this is also a blessing and that is true. Having the same basic design gives you the ability to swap between the remaster and original. With a tap of the right trigger, the art style changes back to the 2003 style. This is a really cool feature that serves to show how far gaming has come. Unfortunately though, the visuals in the “Romaster” aren’t great. It really doesn’t feel that different artistically; almost like a strange world from Project Spark (now that’s a throwback). This is the case as textures aren’t very detailed and it makes up for this lack of attention with simplistic cartoony visuals. It does follow the original style but much more could have been done here whilst still retaining its aesthetic. What makes this lack of visual fidelity even worse is its performance. Asterix & Obelix XXL: Romastered is littered with small bugs and the camera is often infuriating. When moving into more claustrophobic areas, you are lucky if it doesn’t plant itself directly into a wall. You constantly fall off platforms with a strange glide and movement feels very stilted and awkward, often having you go through enemies or objects.
Speaking of enemies – combat is mediocre at best. Most of your time will be spent simply bashing the attack button until you win. There is little sense of skill to it and you are, often, better off standing in one spot tapping the attack command until you win. Enemies like the crowd of shield-bearers become easy by jumping in the middle, but then punish you hard with a combo-lock insta-kill later on. Once you jump in the middle at this point, you just have to accept your death. What does make combat a little more interesting however is the choice to swap between the titular characters, Asterix & Obelix. Asterix is quicker and smaller, favouring short swings, and Obelix is bigger with a nice grapple attack that grabs Romans and swings them wildly around their head.
The levels in Asterix & Obelix take you from Gaul to Normandy, and all the way to Rome. Each have their own sound design and puzzle types; the latter varying in quality. Some require figuring out how to light torches in an efficient manner whilst others demand you interact with something that isn’t pointed out or obvious to see. It seems it is far too comfortable with letting old players remember the puzzles, rather than making new players comfortable figuring them out. Many puzzles are easier to solve when you change the visuals to the old style, which is a shame. This is the case as the new style focuses on some items that aren’t part of the puzzles like certain textures and even animals, whereas the old style only gives you what it needs to. The old ways of only putting in what’s important are long gone and Asterix & Obelix hasn’t caught up yet.
This all being said, Asterix & Obelix is not totally without merit. Some of its puzzles can be rather intriguing and the whole package offers an okay classic action platformer experience. Whilst its combat and platforming feel rather lazy, there are still things to enjoy here. Despite this – fundamentally – Asterix & Obelix XXL: Romastered on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S plays it far too safe and ends up offering an experience a little bit worse than the original. Its new visuals don’t compensate for some of the puzzles and this only really works to express how mediocre the original truly was. Its long playtime and dated gameplay make Asterix & Obelix feel one of the only things a game shouldn’t – tedious.