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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (381)

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Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3.5/5
King's Quest: The Compl... 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Metro Exodus 3.5/5
Evoland Legendary Editi... 4.5/5
Evoland 2 4.5/5
Burokku Girls 2/5
Finding Paradise 4.5/5
To the Moon 4/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 2.5/5
Valley 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
The Fall of Gods 3.5/5
Even the Ocean 3.5/5
Asterix & Obelix XXL 2:... 3/5
Valkyria Chronicles 4 5/5
Ninja Gaiden ( Shadow W... 1/5
Super Mario Land 2.5/5
The Messenger 3.5/5
Super Mario Land 2: 6 G... 2/5
Super Mario Maker 2 3/5
Pillars of Eternity II:... 4/5
Sundered 3/5
Iconoclasts 3/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5

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Asterix & Obelix XXL 2: Roman Rumble in Las Vegum   PC (Steam) 

Small, Big, and Medi… ocre.    3/5 stars

The ‘Asterix’ series is a venerable line of graphic novels/comic books that started way back in 1959, written by two fake Frenchmen – Rene Goscinny (a Polish/Ukrainian immigrant to France) and Albert Uderzo (an Italian immigrant to France) – and is still running to this day, only under the ownership of a multi-national corporate publisher. It has since become something of a French national treasure, proving that America is not alone in owing a great deal to the contributions of foreign immigrants.

‘Asterix’ videogames have been in existence since 1986, with the Atari 2600 release of “Obelix,” named for the titular Asterix’s portly friend. Since that initial release, there have been numerous licensed ‘Asterix’ titles released for a variety of platforms, often the less-popular platforms of the day, such as the Commodore 64, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, and Sega Genesis/MegaDrive. Another common thread running through the lineage of ‘Asterix’ videogames is the fact that the vast, overwhelming majority of them have been released solely in Europe.

Thus comes the tragedy of the ‘Asterix’ IP: Early on, there was no strong desire to localize it and sell it around the world, but instead to focus on Europe only. I have a somewhat beguiling sense of false nostalgia revolving around ‘Asterix,’ as I seem to recall seeing snatches of the comic strip on old newsprint – probably foreign editions – and wondering why the local paper didn’t have such a well-drawn comic in their own ‘funnies’ section. Furthermore, the setting and themes of the ‘Asterix’ comics are the type of thing I – in hindsight – would have loved as a kid, and would have been far better for me than the steady diet of ‘Transformers’ and ‘G.I. Joe’ I actually consumed.

In this modern era with its lack of colorful, cartoony games, the remaster of “Asterix and Obelix XXL2” – a PlayStation 2 sequel to a PlayStation 2 title originally released in 2006 – caught my eye, so I grabbed “XXL2” during a GOG sale (the preferred place to buy OLD games). Sadly, in my excitement, I neglected to remember one of the cardinal rules of videogaming: Licensed games almost always suck.

Presentation
“XXL2” is a very nice looking game in most respects. The character designs seem very faithful to the comics, with crazy, over-the-top animations for everything from character movement to enemy Romans being knocked clean out of their sandals. As a 3D polygonal game from the PS2 era, the remastered graphical assets all look incredibly good, with clean, jaggie-free edges and sharp, clear textures. However, one graphical asset did not survive the test of time well, and that is the pre-rendered cutscenes that narrate the story. These are all the same exact videos created in 2006, and their age shows: They run in a significant letterbox frame and are quite pixilated. It makes me wonder why the developer, Microids, didn’t just use the in-game engine for cutscenes, since, not only did the in-game polygon engine take to remastering quite well, but pre-rendered video takes up a LOT more space than in-engine cutscenes.

Audiowise, “XXL2” is a bit of a mixed bag. The sound mixing tends to be quite awful, with blasting sound effects and music that drowns out the action and dialog (this can be adjusted in the settings, but it only affects the game, not the cutscenes). The game is fully voiced by a cast that fits their characters quite nicely, though I have no idea if these are any of the same actors used in the various ‘Asterix’ animated movies. The soundtrack is perhaps the biggest boo-boo, though, as there are only a few tunes that play throughout the game, and only one of them really ‘clicks’ with the themes of ‘Asterix’ in general, while others feel completely out of place.

Technically, “XXL2” is mostly adequate. It supports Xinput out of the box, however it won’t automatically hide the mouse cursor, so it’s necessary to quickly move it out of the way between clicking the “Play” button in GOG Galaxy and the game actually starting up. In general, “XXL2” gives the inapprehensible feeling of having a bit of ‘jank’ to it, with long-ish loading screens, vaguely uncomfortable scene transitions, and the occasional crash.

Story
The titular Asterix and the titular Obelix are a dynamic duo of Gauls living in the time of Julius Caesar, in around 50 B.C.E. Because Gaul was where France is today – and in spite of the fact that the French are descended from the Franks (a Germanic tribe), not the Gauls (a Celtic tribe) – the original French audience was meant to identify with the plucky Gauls in their resistance to Caesar’s attempts to conquer them, which he continually did and was continually thwarted by the titular duo.

In his most recent attempt at conquering Gaul, Caesar has recruited an elite Roman centurion named Larry Craft – who dresses remarkably like Lara Croft, in spite of his morbid obesity – and, seemingly, the Gaul’s own village druid, named Getafix. In the lore of ‘Asterix,’ the reason Gaul has been able to stave off Rome’s advances for so long is that Getafix and his circle of druids is able to brew a magic potion that grants temporary super-strength, which Asterix uses as an instant win button. But with Getafix having defected to Caesar’s side and with the remaining druids all held captive in Caesar’s monument to his conquests – a massive theme park called Las Vegum – the duo have no choice but to infiltrate the park, track down the missing druids, and confront Getafix, whilst avoiding the traps and hordes of Roman soldiers thrown at them by Larry Craft. Fortunately they have assistance, in the form of traitorous Roman, Sam Sheiffer, who dresses remarkably like Sam Fisher from the ‘Tom Clancy’ series of Steals Shooters.

‘Asterix’ is a very punny and goofy IP, and when transformed from a comic book to a videogame, it retains this quality throughout, alongside visual gags and anachronistic referential humor. Throughout the game, Asterix and Obelix will encounter Romans cosplaying as various iconic videogame characters, from Mario – known as Pablo, and who, thanks to the original release of “XXL2” corresponding to the Gamecube era, wears a FLUDD waterpack – to Sonic the Hedgehog to Ryu from ‘Street Fighter.’ If you dig this kind of humor, “XXL2” is jam-packed with it. If you don’t enjoy this kind of humor… well… “XXL2” is still jam-packed with it.

Overall, “XXL2” is not a particularly long game, clocking in at less than 10 hours for a playthrough, bringing it up to around the 10 hour mark for a completionist run.

Gameplay
“XXL2” combines some light 3D platforming with 3D Beat ‘em Up combat, but ultimately doesn’t rise above ‘average’ in either style of play. The platforming is merely mediocre due to the fact that Asterix doesn’t reliably cast a shadow, which is essential for judging jumps in 3D platformers. Likewise, the camera is – not to mince words – atrocious, as it moves slowly, doesn’t seem to realize that it can pass through surfaces if it wants to, and generally makes gameplay feel like a chore. The Beat ‘em Up fighting system is merely mediocre due to the fact that enemies take way too much punishment before going down and the fact that the combo system isn’t particularly useful. The player can freely swap between Asterix and Obelix at any time (with the AI-controlled buddy being invincible and largely ineffectual in combat), but they share a health meter and Obelix is so much slower that there’s hardly ever a reason to do so.

That said, “XXL2” does have some depth to it. Seemingly inspired by ‘Ratchet & Clank,’ the entire game is riddled with boxes to break, which contain Roman helmets. Defeated Romans also drop these helmets in quantities far greater than they could actually wear, which act as the game’s currency. By spending helmets at various shops that appear in the game’s 6 worlds, the player can unlock a variety of upgrades for Asterix and Obelix, ranging from extra health to more potent versions of their basic attacks to situational potion combos, which allow them to use different forms of temporary-invincibility-and-enemy-slaughtering while under the effect of a magic potion (which is very situational, because magic potions only appear at a few specific spots throughout the game).

No 3D platformer would be complete without some junk to collect, and “XXL2” does indeed provide that obligatory chestnut. There are 5 Diamond Helmets hidden in each world, as well as 4 postcards, and 2 combat challenges (which are typically impossible until endgame with all upgrades, but offer bronze, silver, and gold ranks). Furthermore, each world’s shop sells a handful of unique miniatures representing the game’s various enemies and allies.

Navigating through each world is a fairly linear process of activating switches to open doors. There are a number of mildly interesting mechanics involved throughout the process, ranging from cauldron-sized bombs (which look like Bomberman’s head) that must be pushed into position without touching a wall to Roman zipline swings that lead to inaccessible areas. Some of these mechanics are more interesting than others, but none of them are what I’d call compelling. Punctuating each world is a boss battle. Sadly, each of these battles – even the final battle! – is largely identical, only with a small modification to the required player actions to make the boss vulnerable.

Overall
For a licensed game based on a French comic book from the last half of the 20th Century, “Asterix & Obelix XXL2” isn’t terrible. But between the short length, uninspired gameplay, and inescapable feeling of jankiness, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone but an ardent fan of the comics who also happens to get a kick out of videogame references.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 3.5/5
Gameplay: 2.5/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5

 

 


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