Created in 1959, Asterix is a beloved French comic book character who has seen numerous movie and video game adaptations. While most of the recent games have been 3D affairs, Microids’ newly released Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! is a side-scrolling 2D beat ‘em up. Even if you’ve never read an Asterix comic or seen one of the movies, this game is worth a look for its lovely cartoon-style visuals, humorous story, and, of course, 2-player local co-op.
Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! features a lengthy multi-act campaign, with each act adapting one of the volumes of the comic. The game is set within the time of the Roman Empire. The first act adapts the book Asterix in Britain. As the partially voiced cinematics reveal, the Romans have invaded Great Britain. One Gaulish village dares to fight for independence, so the warriors Asterix and Obelix journey to help the village out.
Considering that the game’s first act is based on the 8th book in the series, introducing the characters to newcomers like me wouldn’t have hurt. Still, the writing is inviting and silly enough that even players who haven’t experienced Asterix before will soon get into the swing of things. I especially like humorous names bestowed on most of the characters: Vitalstatistix, Getafix, Fulliautomatix, and Unhygienix are a few of the goofy Gauls who live in Asterix’s village.
Slap Them All stars a pair of heroes, so gamers have the choice of single-player or co-op. When playing solo, the player can switch between the two characters at any time. Each character has their own life meter, so swapping out a character when he is defeated is a strategic option in single-player. At the start of co-op games, the primary player gets to select who plays whom. Dropping in or out of co-op only requires a quick visit to the pause menu, which should come in handy should a co-op partner experience trouble with a tougher level – more on that later. There is one Achievement/Trophy for starting a co-op game. Sadly, the second player can’t earn Achievements.
The beat ‘em up gameplay doesn’t take long to learn, but it has a bit of depth. Both characters have one regular attack button, a special attack button, a grab, a jump, and a block. Beyond those basics, however, the two heroes play a bit differently. Tapping Asterix’s special move initiates a spin attack, whereas holding it will lengthen the spin. Obelix, meanwhile, has three special moves that depend on the direction held. The actual directional moves are too finicky – the game usually defaults to the basic one instead of an uppercut or ground pound. As for grabs, Asterix can only throw enemies, but Obelix can also choose to punch or slam them into the ground, not unlike Haggar’s grab set in Final Fight. Both characters can dash by double-tapping left or right. Dash attacks are extremely effective, but they consume stamina, as do special moves. Stamina, represented by lightning icons at the top of the screen, refills over time.
Slap Them All comes from French developer Mr. Nutz Studio, who also worked on the similarly gorgeous Toki remake and the upcoming New Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja, both for Microids. As such, this is a beautiful game – much prettier than the last 3D title, Asterix & Obelix XXL 3. The characters all look like they’ve been brought directly to life from a comic or cartoon, and the backgrounds feature plenty of detail and parallax scrolling. When playing with HDR enabled, the colors look especially brilliant – the non-HDR color scheme is surprisingly dull on Xbox. The only real downside, artistically, is a general lack of enemy variety. Our heroes will thwart a lot of Roman soldiers, barbarians, and thieves in this adventure - the age-old strategy of palette-swapping foes would have spiced things up.
The campaign consists of six acts, each containing multiple levels. Most levels are traditional beat ‘em up fare, but every now and then, Asterix and Obelix will engage in an auto-scrolling level instead. The variety is appreciated, but difficulty spikes are not. Certain levels get way harder than others. 1-4, for instance, introduces unkillable chariot enemies that deal copious damage and can be difficult to dodge. If either player dies, the level ends. There are no mid-level checkpoints, so you’ll have to replay levels from the beginning even when the thing that killed you is found at the end. Somebody needs to tell the developers about either mid-level checkpoints or co-op revival mechanics because getting stuck in co-op quickly becomes frustrating. When it happens, players have two choices. You can play through the level in single-player and then sign the co-op partner back in. Otherwise, you can permanently drop the difficulty of the save file down a notch, potentially losing access to a difficulty-based Achievement.
Despite the difficulty balancing issues, Asterix & Obelix: Slap Them All! is a very solid beat ‘em up. The campaign is surprisingly long, and I really enjoyed the abridged versions of the comic book stories that make up each act. The game’s charming art style and historical setting further set it apart. While greater enemy variety and smoother difficulty would have been nice, many beat ‘em up fans will love this bright, cartoony, and whimsical take on the genre.
An Xbox code was provided by the publisher for this review.
The Co-Op Experience: Play as Asterix and Obelix in cooperation (local multiplayer mode) with family or friends!
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.