The Asskickers is an old school beat-’em-up, arcade-style game with modern graphics. It can be played in both single-player and local 2-player co-op. The game offers three modes: story, survival, and time attack (time attack is single-player only), letting players choose between three characters: Alex (balanced), Diane (fast but weak hitter), and Markus (slow, heavy-hitter). As far as beat-’em-ups go, Asskickers has an attractive visual style. Though the characters are 2D, the art has a hand-drawn style with an edgy comic-book look. The story of the campaign mode is pretty straight-forward: the Asskickers have found themselves in an unfair situation where they’re being framed. To clear their name, they must fight their way to justice, dishing out pain and punishment to authoritative and powerful members of society. Political commentary? I’m down with that. But how does the story mode actually play?
Unfortunately, rather poorly. The first frustration I ran into was the “depth” of the screen, meaning the different planes that enemies can approach you on. Unless your character is on the exact same plane as the enemy you want to hit, you can’t hit them. While this is nothing new in beat em ups, the problem in the Asskickers seemed exacerbated. Enemies, of course, have no problem telling exactly which plane you’re on. This led to numerous life losses and game overs on my part. Game overs mean you have to start all the way from the beginning of the level. The controls are also often very unresponsive. I’d be mashing my “attack” key, but my button presses would not be lining up at all with my character’s attacks.
Another major sticking point was that a couple times I had to completely start the game over due to some sort of glitch. As is the case with many beat-’em-ups, the levels are divided into stages. Once you defeat all the enemies within a few screens or so, a little “GO!” arrow appears which allows you to move onto the next area. Sometimes, however, all enemies appeared to be vanquished, but I didn’t get the license to move on. I assume that enemies were stuck off the screen (they frequently leave the screen and return) to a place where I couldn’t hit them, and since the level was not able to be cleared, I couldn’t progress.
In the spirit of retro arcade games, Asskickers does not have any character progression. Some players may enjoy that aspect of the game for nostalgia’s sake, but I felt that it made the game feel exceedingly repetitive. Some enemies drop weapons which your character can pick up and strike other enemies with, but once you get hit, you immediately drop the weapon. Boxes and vending machines can also be smashed up to reveal food and drink or collectibles. To its credit, Asskickers does have a wide variety of enemies (e.g. jocks, cops with riot shields, and what are perhaps some kind of mix between ninjas and prostitutes) and your character often offers you tips via chat or thought bubbles about his/her head when you reach a new kind of enemy. As you can see, Asskickers does have a lot of the elements of a good beat-’em-up, but for some reason it just isn’t very much fun in practice. Moving around and mashing one button can only be entertaining for so long, even if you have someone doing the same thing right next to you.
The Asskickers also has boss battles. They’re nothing very exciting (e.g. a guy with a bigger health bar than all the other guys you’ve been fighting that goes invincible and calls in normal enemies at every third or so of his health), but they end in what’s probably the most bizarre way you’ve ever seen a beat-’em-up boss battle end: by spanking them. Yes, after defeating the boss, he gets down on his hands and knees, drops his pants, and your character spanks him (yup, spam that attack button again).
Survival mode is very straight-forward: you see how long you can survive waves of enemies. You only get one life and there are limited food and drink items available. Other than that, the gameplay is identical to the story mode.
The Asskickers certainly tries with its edgy graphics, four difficulty levels, and even 30+ achievements. Sadly, however, the game is not very fun to play due to its repetitiveness, lack of exciting features, a couple game-breaking bugs, and a lack of polish. A die-hard beat-’em-up fan looking for something to play on a PC or Mac with local co-op may get a little enjoyment out of it, but it’s difficult to recommend the Asskickers over most other beat-’em-ups out there (unless you really like spanking people in video games - and hey, I don't judge).