Game Corner: Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! (Xbox Series X)

Released: 25 November 2021
Developer: Mr Nutz Studio
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S

The Background:
Less than ten years after debuting in the pages of Pilote, the first Asterix book was adapted into a feature-length animation and animated and live-action Asterix films have been pretty consistent ever since. Similarly, we’ve seen a number of Asterix videogames, with the first being released for the Atari 2600 in 1983 and a large part of my childhood spent playing Astérix (SEGA, 1991) on the Master System as opposed to its flawed Mega Drive counterpart. Although Asterix dabbled in all sorts of genres, from real-time strategies to action/platformers and mini game collections, perhaps the most suitable format has always been the classic sidescrolling beat-‘em-up. Sadly, while Konami’s 1992 arcade title looked and played really well, it was unnecessarily restrictive, and was never ported to home console ports, a flaw this spiritual sequel somewhat rectified despite physical versions of the game being difficult to come by. Sporting hand-drawn graphics and gameplay specifically designed to evoke the arcade games of old and the original comics, Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! was met with generally positive reviews, which praised the visual style and fidelity to the source material, though the tedious combat and lack of content was criticised despite the short, sharp fun offered by the game’s emphasis on action.

The Plot:
The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans save for one village of indomitable Gauls, who fend off the invaders using their magic potion, which gives them superhuman strength. With the Romans expanding their campaign across the ancient world, Gaul’s greatest warriors, Asterix and Obelix, embark on a globe-trotting adventure to fight them off wherever they may be.

Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! is a 2D, sidescrolling beat-‘em-up that emulates the classic arcade brawlers of yesteryear. Players can choose to go it alone as either Asterix or Obelix, or team up with a friend for some couch co-op action, which sees them bashing Roans and other baddies across the ancient world in six chapters (referred to as “Acts”) Fundamentally, Asterix and Obelix have the same range of motion and attack options available to them, but there are a couple of differences. Both can jump with A and attack enemies with X; successive presses of X will see each of them pull off a combo, building up you “Slap” counter and allowing you to amass greater and greater combo strings, and you can perform a jumping attack by pressing X in mid-air (though this can be a little inaccurate against smaller foes). You can block incoming attacks with the Right Bumper, dash across the screen and clear away enemies by double tapping the direction you’re facing, press B to pick up health items or grab enemies, and Y pulls off a special attack. This is one area where ethe characters differ: if you hold Y as Asterix, he’ll pull off a spinning top-like attack for a bit and pressing Y in mid-air will see him performing a jumping variation of this move. Obelix, however, can pull off a slower, far more powerful combo of punches by pressing Y and stun enemies with a huge butt stomp with A and Y. All of these special attacks, blocking, and even dashing consume energy, represented by lightning bolts under your health meter. Energy automatically refills as you attack and defeat enemies, however, but you still need to be careful about how and when you pull off your special attacks. Pressing up and Y or down and Y will see both characters uppercut their enemies or slam the ground, respectively, and each has different options for grabbing and throwing: pressing A and Y together allows Asterix to swing enemies over his head and tapping B sees him fire them across the screen, while Obelix can tap X to slap them about, tap Y to slam them on the ground, or launch them across the screen with B.

Pummel enemies, race through barricades, and smash everything in this mindless brawler.

You can switch between Asterix and Obelix at any time with the Left Bumper, however there is a short delay as each character performs an intro animation, which can leave you vulnerable to attack, and there’s distinct differences between the two: Asterix is smaller, more agile, and a little weaker whereas Obelix is stronger but slower and a far bigger target. Those playing with a friend will be disappointed to learn that there are no team moves in this game, though there’s no friendly fire option either; the game also lacks a timer, but the life system is a little wonky. The mission ends if either Asterix or Obelix’s health is drained, meaning you’ll need to restart from the beginning of the stage; there are no checkpoints, no revive system, and you can’t simply continue on as the other character, meaning it’s best to play through the majority of the stage as one and switch to the other when it’s safe, making sure to swap to whoever needs any health pick-ups you find. Pretty much the whole game is a simple beat-‘em-up; you start on the left side of the screen and travel to the right, bashing any enemies that cross your path. It quickly becomes very tedious, especially as the game’s Acts are proceeded by brief interludes where you’re in the forest, storming a Roman camp, or battling pirates on their ship in environments that change very little as the game progresses. Occasionally, you can explore other paths for goodies and barricades, rocks, or catapults to smash for extra points; you’re also tasked with climbing ladders, cliff faces, and vines as well as smashing down doors on a handful of missions. Gameplay is broken up a little bit by a couple of different racing sections; one has you rapidly tapping A to beat your friend or Roman gladiator Gluteus Maximus in a foot race, and the other sees you holding X as you automatically race through the forest hunting boar and smashing through barricades, barrels, and Romans. One mission gives you sixty seconds to destroy all the barrels in the pirates’ cargo hold; you get another timed mission in Act VI, where you’re given one minute and forty seconds to destroy all the catapults and barrels across the Roman landscape. Finally, you’ll be tasked with fighting your way to, into, and through various Roman camps between Acts; these mostly all amount to the same thing, however, though there are a couple of occasions where you’re placed on a static screen and asked to fend off waves of enemies as they try to storm the village or other allied settlement.

Graphics and Sound:  
If there’s one thing Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! has going for it, it’s the game’s graphics; sporting a beautiful hand drawn style that perfectly captures the spirit of the comic books and apes the look of the feature-length animations, the game is lovely to look at. Asterix and Obelix are full of life; each has idle animations, different walk cycles, and a range of reactions and animations when attacking or being hurt. They’ll both drop a few quips and lines here and there as you plough through enemies (oddly, they seem to have British accents, which is strangely common in Asterix adaptations), though voice acting is restricted to a few clips and a very brief bit of narration between Acts. The game’s music is equally forgettable; there’s some jaunty, fitting tunes but nothing massively spectacular, which is a shame as it would’ve been nice to have some memorable music to hum along to as you’re bashing through countless enemies. Comic book sound effects punctuate the action, which absolutely nails the slapstick violence of the source material; you can uppercut Romans out of their sandals with a loud PAF!, charge through them at superhuman speeds and send their shields flying, and some enemies have fun defeat animations where their weapons break over their heads or their pants fall down. Just about the only complaint I have about the sprites is that they get very repetitive very quickly; there are a few different types of enemies, but you’ll have encountered the majority of them within the first few missions and the game doesn’t always take advantage of its globe-trotting narrative to deliver new enemy types (there are no unique enemies in Corisa or Egypt, for example).

As beautiful as the game is, environments and enemies repeat far too often, offering little visual variety.

This is true of the environments as well; while they’re equally beautifully and are also ripped straight from the source material, there’s only so many times you can fight through the same forest, ship, and beach before things start to get a little tedious. In this regard, the original arcade title does a far better job of keeping things visually interesting because it simply dropped you in a new area that altered as you fought through it; here, the Acts are broken down into missions, so you have to traverse a forest, then cross a stone pathway or bridge, then fight on a ship, then across a beach, then maybe up some cliffs (which may or may not have some mist effects), and into a Roman camp in practically every single mission. It smacks of padding, unfortunately, and it takes too long for the game to mix things up by spiriting you away to Egypt, where you’ll fight through pyramid construction sites and dark tombs. To be fair, some of these areas do get a bit of a visual change up; you’ll battle on different ships and different times of day, forests and rural landscapes are eventually interspersed with Roman trappings like roads, villas, and columns, and you’ll find yourself fighting through jails and in the sands of the arena in due time…it just takes a while to get there. The game’s cutscenes are a mixture of static images and written dialogue, animated sequences with a bit of voice acting, and motion comic-like sequences; they’re okay and they tell truncated versions of some classic Asterix stories, but I think I would’ve preferred more sprite-based cutscenes just so we could’ve had a little more visual variety in the onscreen characters.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you might expect from an Asterix videogame, your primary enemies will be the Roman forces that have swept across ancient Europe. Romans came in all shapes and sizes, from smaller legionnaires to plumper ones with swords and gaunt variants who annoyingly toss spears at you from a distance or perform a melee attack up close. Eventually, the Romans try and get a little clever and hide in bushes and tree stumps, jabbing at you with swords and spears from each, and bring in a bigger brute who can block your attacks and cannot be thrown but their greatest asset is their sheer numbers. Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! certainly doesn’t shy away from filling the screen with enemies for you to plough through and, if you’re not quick enough, it’s easy for your enemies to whittle your health down and force a restart. I was surprised, and disappointed, that the game didn’t include the chunkier gold-armoured Roman commander, any Roman formations, or enemies on horseback (though you do have to dodge speeding chariots and bulls on a couple of occasions). Other enemies include a persistent gang of pirates and brigands; the former sport more elaborate weapons, such as axes and nunchakus, while the latter are capable of charging across the screen with their fists thrashing in an unblockable attack that also damages other enemies. Much later into the game, you’ll also encounter armoured and armed gladiators in the game’s fighting arenas who also race across the screen and attack you with tridents, and even lions, though you’ll only encounter the hulking Normans in Act II and they all unfortunately look the same.

Sadly, you’ll be facing these same bosses over and over, with little to differentiate them.

Bosses are few and far between and easily one of the game’s biggest let downs as the game reuses and recycles five of the bosses over and over, with little variation between them. The first boss you’ll fight is a Roman Centurion who pretty much sets the standard for all of the game’s bosses; they’re too big to grab or throw, often block your attacks, sport a health bar, and are accompanied by endless reinforcements, the remainder of which you must take out to complete the mission. The Centurion is fought five times throughout the game, usually inside of or outside of the Roman camps, with Act III and Act IV forcing you to battle two at once, but again I would’ve liked to see them be more visually distinct. Additionally, they’re not too difficult to defeat; they attack with a sword combo and can defend against your attacks, but they’re a pretty big target and easy to just spam a combo on over and over until they’re bested. You’ll also fight the pirate captain, Redbeard, a bunch of times; he’s a little bit more formidable as he performs a wake-up attack every time you knock him down, so you need to remember to jump out of the way after you’ve sent him flying. This fight is changed up a little on two occasions; one where there isn’t any health pick-ups on the ship and another where you fight him on a beach instead of that same damn ship. Another boss you’ll encounter a couple of times is Gluteus Maximus; this proud gladiator challenges you to a race on two occasions and then engages you in hand-to-hand combat alongside other bosses on two others. In a fist fight, Gluteus is actually pretty tough; he has a good block and a fast punching combo, so it’s better to use jump attacks, your special attacks, and stay on the move when fighting him.

Unique bosses are in short supply as the game prefers to just throw more of the same at you.

Thankfully, there are some visually unique bosses to fight, though you can pretty much use the same tactics you use against all of the others to best them. Olaf Timandahaf might look intimidating but he’s no different from the Centurion except he uses a sword (which can get stuck in the ground) and performs a rhino-like charge. Similarly, the Auroch you fight in Act III is probably the easiest boss battle as there aren’t any other enemies to distract you and you simply jump over it when it charges and pummel it at every opportunity. Pugnatius, a man mountain of a Roman enforcer, pops ups in Act V; though he sports a clubbing punch and a double-handed clap attack, he’s very slow and a massive target so he only really becomes a threat when he teams up with Gluteus as the final bosses of the game. Before you reach that point, though, you need to fight through a whole bunch of gladiators, lions, brutish Romans, and the sadly underutilised Insalubrius, a whip-wielding gladiator who pummels you with punches if you get too close. Pugnatius and Gluteus form quite the formidable duo for the finale, especially as they’re backed up by other large enemies, but it’s not a massive stretch of your skill to isolate one or even attack both with a combo and I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a more visually distinct enemy to face in the end. The lack of a chariot race and other recognisable Asterix baddies bad the game’s bosses needlessly repetitive; I don’t expect to go one-on-one with Julius Caesar, but I was a little disappointed that the game didn’t crib more enemy types from the various Asterix comic books.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you battle through the game’s environments, you’ll come across a number of barrels that can be smashed apart to yield coins; coins and bags of sestertii also drop from enemies and all add to your score, though there’s very little incentive to collect these beyond earning an Achievement. Smashing barrels also uncovers apples, legs of meat, and roast boar to refill your health but there are no other power-ups to find here. There’s no invincibility, no allies to call in, no temporary buffs to your strength or defence, and no weapons to pick up; Obelix doesn’t even use his trademark menhir and the only way you’ll drink magic potion is by switching to Asterix, who automatically swigs from a gourd before a fight.

Additional Features:
There are thirty Achievements up for grabs here, with six automatically being awarded after clearing each Act and four given for besting the game on the different difficulty settings. There are four difficulty settings (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Hardest), but you’ll be swamped by enemies on even the “Medium” difficulty mode, which makes for a very chaotic an action-packed experience. If you’re struggling, the game allows you to lower the difficulty whenever you like, but the majority of its Achievements are earned by playing on at least “Medium”. You’ll get an Achievement for clearing a mission with each character, performing all of the duo’s attacks in a single mission, and for starting a mission in co-op (but, oddly, not for clearing the game in co-op). If you get the combo counter over six-hundred you’ll snag some G too; other Achievements pop from landing forty hits with Asterix’s spinning attack, destroying objects within a time limit, knocking over or uppercutting a certain number of enemies, and clearing a mission without being hit. Mostly, they’re all pretty do-able but, again, it feels like there could’ve been more done here, such as scattering pick-ups throughout the game or allowing you to spend your coins on concept art or alternate costumes or something. Instead, the only think you unlock by beating the game’s story is a freeplay mode that lets you replay any mission; there’s no gallery, no concept art, and no other unlockables on offer. This is a shame as a boss rush, some kind of endless arena mode, or even a versus mode where you replay the races or fight with a friend would’ve been nice but the only incentive to replay the game is to beat your high score or clear the game on the harder difficulty settings.

The Summary:
I was really excited, and surprised, when I learned of Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All!, which just kind of came out of nowhere as I hadn’t heard anything about it or seen any advertising or anything. As a massive fan of the franchise, the arcade game, and classic arcade beat-‘em-ups, I was equally taken by the game’s artistic style and direction. Certainly, this is probably the most faithful Asterix game I’ve ever played; the format really lends itself to a brawler like this and it’s definitely fun ploughing through endless waves of Romans and pulling off the duo’s iconic moves. I liked how the game adapted a bunch of classic Asterix stories, but I question the inclusion of some; there’s very little to distinguish Corsica from Spain, for example, so it would’ve been nice to journey to America or India to mix things up a bit. Equally, I was surprised by the length of the game; I expected it to be a short beat-‘em-up but the game is unnecessarily padded with its rural jaunts, pirate ships, and the storing of Roman camps. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were changed up a little, with other Gauls aiding you or a stronger visual identity to each camp, but they’re basically the same environments with the same enemies and bosses. By the time this game came out, there were thirty-nine Asterix stories to pull from, with numerous visually interesting and distinct enemies to use as inspiration, but Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! plays things way too safe in this regard. It plays well, for the most part, but combat and gameplay quickly becomes very repetitive as there’s nothing to collect or unlock, little incentive to explore, and you’re just bashing up the same enemies over and over again. It’s a shame as the game really does look beautiful and perfectly captures the slapstick violence and humour of the source material, but the original arcade game, for all its faults, offered a lot more variety and was way less monotonous. Similarly, there are other arcade-style beat-‘em-ups out there for modern consoles that offer more incentive to play through additional characters, modes, and unlocks, meaning Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! comes across like an ambitious, but limited, budget title (and it’s not even that, as they’re charging over £30 for this as a digital title and nearly £40 for a physical copy!)

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you played Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All!? If so, what did you think to it and which of the two characters was your favourite to play was? Did you enjoy the game’s visual presentation and combat? What did you think to the more repetitive aspects, such as the recycled enemies, locations, and bosses? Were there and character or stories you would’ve liked to see included in the game? What is your favourite Asterix videogame, story, or adaptation? Whatever your thoughts on Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All!, or Asterix in general, feel free to leave a comment below or on my social media.

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