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.

Game Corner [Bite-Size / Asterix Anniversary]: Astérix (Arcade)

Asterix the Gaul (and his best friend Obelix) first debuted on 29 October 1959 as a serial in the French/Belgium magazine Pilote. Since then, the plucky Gauls have gone on to have many adventures in comic books, videogames, and feature-length productions and Asterix himself has become a popular and enduring character in his native France and around the world as Asterix’s stories have been translated into over a hundred languages across the world. I may be a day early in celebrating this anniversary as it coincides with the release of the SEGA Mega Drive but I’ll take any excuse to talk about Asterix’s amusing escapades.

Released: 1992
Developer: Konami

A Brief Background:
It wasn’t long before the French comic book series Asterix made the jump off the panels and into other media; the first Asterix book was adapted into a feature-length animation in 1967 and Asterix cartoons and live-action films have been pretty consistent over the years. Similarly, there have been numerous Asterix videogames; the first was released for the Atari 2600 in 1983 and I had a lot of fun growing up playing Astérix (SEGA, 1991) on the Master System. One of my absolute favourites to play whenever I spotted it in seaside arcades was this cracking, colourful arcade title from Konami, one of the most prominent developers in the industry at the time. Sadly, Astérix was never ported to home console ports, but the game is fondly regarded as one of the most fun-filled, action-packed arcade titles, and it received something of a spiritual sequel in 2021.

First Impressions:
Astérix is a super colourful, super vibrant sidescrolling beat-‘em-up in which players can freely choose to play as either Asterix or Obelix (or team up as both) and journey across seven stages, each one lovingly recreated from some of the tenacious Gaul’s most memorable adventures, ploughing through Romans and collecting their helmets to score points. Controls couldn’t be simpler; you move with the joystick, attack with one button, and jump with another. Both Asterix and Obelix can dash, perform a running and jumping attack, and will slap Roman’s silly, or kick or toss them away, when they get up close and personal.

Journey through some memorable locations bashing Romans all over the ancient world.

The differences between the two characters are largely negligible; Asterix is smaller and slightly more agile, but Obelix doesn’t exactly seem slowed down by his girth. One difference between the two you’ll immediately notice is that Obelix begins with a menhir in hand, as is his trade, which appears to be the one instance in the game where you can wield a weapon (albeit temporarily). Both characters will also receive a brief power-up when loyal puppy Dogmatix wanders onto the screen with either a gourd of magic potion for Asterix or a crispy roast boar for Obelix; collecting either will send them into a brief frenzy that sees them immune to all attacks and taking out every onscreen enemy in short fashion, though this is only for a very short time. Players can restore their health by eating fruit or stealing a kiss from Panacea, who wanders to and fro in each stage, and swing from vines to take out enemies. You get two lives per credit and, while there’s no time limit, Cacophonix’s musical notes will damage you if you linger too long. Perhaps the oddest thing about Astérix, though, is that you do not have unlimited continues; even if you input ninety-nine credits, you’ll eventually run out of chances to spawn back in and be left with nothing else but your high score and beginning the game all over again.

The game is absolutely gorgeous and perfectly captures the look and humour of the comics.

As fulfilling and entertaining as the beat-‘em-up gameplay is in Astérix, however, the game excels in its visual presentation; more so than any other 2D Astérix videogame, this sadly forgotten arcade title pops with bright, cartoony graphics that are ripped straight from the original comic books. Sprites are large, fantastically detailed, and full of fun little animations; Romans can be rapidly slapped across the face, slammed by their ankles, and twirled around in the air just like in the comics, a bunch of cartoony sound effects punctuate the action, and there’s even a little bit of voice acting and onscreen text (in both English and French) to help tell the story. Stages are proceeded by both sprite-based cutscenes and comic book panels to track the pair’s journey to Rome, and you’ll be able to play a chariot race as a bonus stage for extra points. While enemy variety quickly begins to suffer (you’ll see the same Roman infantry and generals in every stage), they’re all exactly as they appear in the comics and can even be seen hiding in tree stumps and riding horses. Each stage also includes additional hazards and enemies, such as rolling rocks, mischievous Egyptians, and disreputable pirates; you’ll also battle a boss at the end of each stage, with a group of Roman’s gathered into the tortoise formation awaiting you at the end of the first stage and the mind-controlling Iris opposing you in Egypt,

My Progression:
I’ve played Astérix before, both in the wild as a child and thanks to the gift of emulation, and have always been thoroughly impressed with its graphics, gameplay, and fidelity to the quirky humour and adventures of the source material. The attention to detail here is astounding, even compared to other licensed videogames from the time, and it pleases me no end to see these fun-filled and colourful characters brought to life so well. While I’ve always enjoyed the platforming and puzzle-based mechanics of many Astérix videogames, the concept lends itself incredibly well to the simplicity of a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up and the game’s stages are packed full of gorgeous sprite work, things to see and interact with, and short enough to play through in action-packed bursts.

While there’s loads of locations, I wasn’t able to actually finish the game due to the credit system.

Having said that, though, Astérix is stunted somewhat by the fact that you cannot simply feed coins into it until you plough through to the ending. I can’t recall ever playing an arcade title that restricts you in such a way, meaning that even when you emulate the game you can’t just blindly charge ahead and just press a button to jump back into the action. Instead, your continues are strangely limited, which unfortunately limits your progress in a way that I have never encountered in an arcade title before, and that means that I rarely manage to get past (or even to) the pirate ship stage. On this particularly playthrough, I struggled to make it through Egypt before losing all my chances, which was a shame as I was hoping that the different ROM files I had available would allow me to just carry on like normal. However, if you are able to best the ever-increasing waves of cartoony and bombastic enemies thrown your way, you’ll eventually battle across the high seas in boats, zip through the air on a magic carpet, race along in a mine cart, and finally find yourself battling the game’s toughest enemies in Julius Caesar’s Colosseum.

Astérix is a quality sidescrolling beat-‘em-up that you may never have played, or even heard of. Sadly, this is one of a number of arcade-exclusive titles that never saw the jump to home consoles, and that’s a crying shame as this would’ve been a blast to play in the 16-bit era. While the game doesn’t really offer anything beyond the stand two-button combat you’d expect from an arcade title and is seemingly lacking in a few areas (a life-draining special attack and weapons amongst them), it excels in its absolutely gorgeous visual presentation to perfectly capture the look, feel, and humour of the source material. It’s just a shame that I can’t just keep pumping in credits to charge on through to the ending, but I always enjoy loading this one up when I have some time to kill. Have you ever played Astérix’s arcade adventure? If so, how do you think it compares to other Asterix videogames and beat-‘em-ups of the time? How far have you been able to make it in the game, and which of the stages was your favourite to play through? Which character, book, or movie is your favourite? How are you celebrating Asterix and Obelix’s birthday this year? Whatever your memories or opinions of Asterix, feel free to sign up and drop them below or leave a comment on my social media.

Talking Movies [Asterix Anniversary]: Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion

Asterix the Gaul (and his best friend Obelix) first debuted on 29 October 1959 as a serial in the French/Belgium magazine Pilote. Since then, the plucky Gauls have gone on to have many adventures in comic books, videogames, and feature-length productions and Asterix himself has become a popular and enduring character in his native France and around the world as Asterix’s stories have been translated into over a hundred languages across the world. I may be a day early in celebrating this anniversary as it coincides with the release of the SEGA Mega Drive but I’ll take any excuse to talk about Asterix’s amusing escapades.

Talking Movies

Released: 5 December 2018
Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier
Société Nouvelle de Distribution/Altitude
Ken Kramer, C. Ernst Harth, John Innes, Fleur Delahunty, and Michael Shepherd

The Plot:
In 50 B.C. ancient France (then known as Gaul), has been entirely conquered by Julius Caesar (Mark Oliver) and his army of Romans…except for one small village of indomitable Gauls given superhuman strength by the druid Getafix’s (Innes). However, when Getafix starts to worry about his mortality, he embarks on a quest across Gaul, accompanied by the village’s most powerful warriors, Asterix (Kramer) and Obelix (Harth), in search of an heir.

The Background:
Asterix was created by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo in 1959 and first appeared in Pilote before being collected into a single volume. Since then, the duo produced volumes on an annual basis until 1997, when Goscinny tragically died; after continuing solo for a while, Uderzo eventually signed the rights over to a new generation of creators so that Asterix’s stories could continue. Since then, Asterix has been an incredibly popular character the world over, selling nearly 400 million books and has been adapted into a series of animated, and live-action, features. The first, Astérix the Gaul (Goossens, 1967), was produced with Goscinny and Uderzo’s input and the two were heavily involved in subsequent productions. Nine animated features were produced between 1967 and 2014, where the animation made the jump from 2D to 3D with Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods (Clichy and Astier, 2014), which was France’s highest-grossing animated film of that year. Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion followed about four years later; based on an original story by Astier, the film made over $2 million on its opening night and eventually grossed over $46 million.

The Review:
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion begins with Getafix out in the forest cutting ingredients for his magic potion with a golden sickle; he’s a sprightly, lively old man, hopping and jumping all over the place and handling his sickle with an effortless pizazz. Unfortunately, his luck runs out and he takes a particularly nasty fall from a treetop. Having seriously injured his ankle, Getafix is despondent and angry at his stumble and decides to search out a young successor in order to pass down his greatest secret; since the secret can only be passed from one druid to another, this means Getafix must leave the village to seek out his heir. Getafix’s decision to seek out an heir worries both Asterix and the village chief, Vitalstatistix (Don Brown), as they’re concerned that Getafix is giving up too easily and that a new druid will misuse the magic potion. To allay their fears, Getafix suggests that Asterix and Obelix accompany him to ensure that his chosen successor uses the magic potion as wisely as he and that their village can continue to resist the Roman invasion.

Getafix’s injury causes him to a crisis of confidence, much to Asterix’s chagrin.

Getafix’s mission is opposed by the malevolent druid Demonix (Shephard), a practitioner of forbidden magic who greatly resembles Prolix from Asterix and the Soothsayer (Goscinny and Uderzo, 1972) and is capable of conjuring will-o’-the-wisps to hypnotise and manipulate others. His power is so frightful that he’s even able to freeze the mighty Obelix in his tracks like a statue Demonix is disgusted that Getafix has wasted his magic potion on his village and wishes to take the secret from himself to satisfy his desires for power and glory. To facilitate this, he strikes a deal with Caesar that will see him manipulate the promising young druid Cholerix (Michael Adamthwaite) in order to learn the secret of the magic potion. After forcing Cholerix to mage the potion, Demonix augments it further and consumes it, becoming a super-powered sorcerer and threatening not only the Gauls but the Romans as well with his vast powers.

Demonix’s plot to learn Getafix’s secret sees him manipulate the young druid Cholerix.

Getafix is dismayed to find that all the young druids he meets are either charlatans or incompetents and, as a result, he’s excited at the potential Cholerix. Although Cholerix initially rejects Demonix’s advice, he falters when standing before his peers and potential mentor and decides to conjure Demonix’s useless spell and, in the process, impresses Getafix. However, Cholerix is almost immediately dismayed at Getafix’s choice as he knows he basically deceived the druid and is forced to brew up the magic potion before Demonix’s eyes in order to save the village from being destroyed by the Romans.

Pectin impresses with her curiosity, gumption, and inventiveness.

Asterix is enraged to discover that a young girl from the village, Pectin (Delahunty), has stowed away in Getafix’s cauldron; despite women being forbidden from the Forest of the Carnutes, Getafix is impressed with Pectin’s ingenuity and craftsmanship and allows her to accompany him to the druids’ gathering in disguise as a boy. Her presence and curiosity is the perfect way to coax exposition out of the druids (in the form of a traditional, hand-drawn animation) regarding Getafix’s past with Demonix and she proves instrumental in thwarting Deominx after he consumes his augmented magic potion, proving herself to, potentially, be worthy of taking Getafix’s place someday.

The Nitty-Gritty:
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion is full of little gags and slapstick comedy, mainly revolving around fights and the physical pratfalls the many characters get into; the routine of village life and the Roman garrisons is amusingly introduced to the tunes of Dead or Alive’s ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’, with characters performing their everyday actions in tune to the beat of the song. As is the case with many Asterix stories, there’s an ongoing rivalry and animosity between Unhygienix (Jason Simpson) and Fulliautomatix (Scott McNeil), a gang of pirates continuously run afoul of the Gauls even when they’re safely out at sea, the Romans are generally portrayed as being reluctant warriors who are in fear of the Gauls’ strength, and the Gauls using chickens to fly in and attack the Romans. There’s also a running gag in the film that the druids can speak and understand the snorts and grunts of boars; indeed, boars themselves play quite a large role in this animated and are far more prominent than they usually are, getting into all kinds of scrapes and hijinks similar to Scrat from the Ice Age films (Various, 2002 to present).

As there are a lot of characters in the film, some inevitably get reduced to mere comic relief.

There’s a great number of characters in the film, more so than usual since Gettafix’s search takes him all over Gaul. However, all the village men (except for Cacofonix (Cownden)), decide to follow along with the quest to add some additional comic relief to the film through their tendency to argue and brawl with each other at the slightest provocation. Although the village is left only in the care of the women and Getafix’s limited magic potion reserves, the Gaulish women are, as always, more than capable of holding their own against the Roman forces, who are ordered to attack again and again to exhaust their reserves. The druids also get a lot of play in the film; their gathering is little more than a piss-up and the druids misunderstand the boar’s message and think Getafix has just brought them all together for a big party and Getafix is stunned to discover that the druids’ age-old traditions of passing information only through word of mouth has given way to “crib notes”.

Rather than focus on Asterix and Obelix, the film is much more about Getafix and a group effort.

When Getafix’s search initially proves fruitless, Asterix loses his temper; he’s annoyed that Getafix has let such a simple stumble throw him so completely and, in an amusing outburst, hands his helmet, dagger, magic potion, and status as the village’s top warrior over to Geriatrix (Ron Halder) in order to make his point and storms away. This does, however, allow him to stumble upon Demonix’s plot to collaborate with the Romans but he basically disappears from a big chunk of the film after he’s helplessly bound and gagged. Even when he’s rescued, he’s just one part of an unsuccessful team effort between the Romans and the Gauls to take down the gigantic, invincible, and super-strong Demonix and, in the end, it is Getafix’s resourcefulness and magic that saves the day. It’s a bit unusual to watch an Asterix film where Asterix ends up having such a small role but the bulk of the story revolves around Getafix and his shaken self-confidence so I guess it makes sense but Asterix and the Big Fight (Grimond/Weiss, 1989) was a very Getafix-heavy film and that still placed Asterix in a prominent role in its narrative.

The Summary:
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion is a very fun and entertaining little romp. While I preferred the traditional, 2D animation of the previous films, the computer-generated characters are gorgeous to look at, full of life and little details and character quirks that really make them lively and amusing. It’s not one of the more action-packed Asterix stories, and it’s a little disappointing how small a role Asterix and, especially, Obelix play in the plot but it’s got a lot of funny little moments and gags peppered throughout it and really captures the quirky spirit of the comic books. As a lifelong Asterix fan, it’s heart-warming to see the character is still so popular and beloved that he continues to be relevant in a crowded genre and there’s clearly been a lot of care and attention put into bringing these unique and memorable characters to life. The story is pure Asterix and feels reminiscent of many of the books but also manages to stand out on its own merits through its distinctive visual and narrative flair and I’d say it’s definitely worth a watch for fans of the source material and should keep both kids and parents sufficiently amused with its wackier moments.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Have you seen Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion? If so, what did you think to it? Are you a fan of the CGI Asterix films or do you prefer the traditional, 2D animated features? Which character, book, or movie is your favourite? How are you celebrating Asterix and Obelix’s birthday this year? Whatever your thoughts on Asterix, feel free to leave a comment below.