Oddly, this was the last of the Asterix XXL series to get the remaster treament, the first being XXL 2 in 2018, then we had the brand new XXL 3 in 2019, then the “romastered” version of the first game in 2020, the one we’re talking about today, to celebrate the release of a new Asterix & Obelix movie in theathers.
One of the live-action ones, but still, it’s new Asterix & Obelix material!
Originally developed for PS2, Gamecube and PC (with a GBA version that’s basically another game entirely) by defunct french studio Etranges Libellules and published by Atari Europe, this remaster was instead published by Microids (which pretty much took the place Infogrames had back then) and developed by the quite non-defunct (at the time of writing, anyway) french Osome Studios.
The plot sees the titular duo wander off of their little Gaul village to the ol’ boar hunt only to come back and find out Ceasar (yes, Julius Caius Ceasar from Caligula, exactly) has somehow managed to storm the village, capturing most people and sending them off to various distant ends of the Roman empire in order to have locked out sight and mind, hopefully for good.
But with the help of a fired roman spy, you find out that most of the imprisoned gauls most likely managed to get a piece of the map indicating their location, as Ceasar took the extra step – just in case – of ripping the map in pieces and scattering them in various locations.
Good enough as an excuse in terms of videogame logic to have Asterix & Obelix travel to various places like Egypt, Normandy, Greece and Helvetia, freeing their fellow gaul citizens and getting more pieces of the map along the way.
The story isn’t anything special, but the game does capture the spirit of the comics by Goscinny and Uderzo, i love that boars here endlessly give out hams health pick-ups when hit, that you have to slap a random druid just twirling a cauldron to save the game, and most importantly both Asterix and Obelix feels like themselves.
It definitely does a good job in terms of preserving and adapting the source material, there’s no deluge of random ass references to random shit made for the sake of being edgy or take the piss on other videogames, the characters don’t randomly spout bullshit phrases just to be saying something, fearing that the player would read the silence as a lack of character or “zest”.
It’s a very typical action plaftormer from the era, nothing incredible but it’s quite fine, decent to be blunt, and it uses the license quite well, as Asterix and Obelix have to act indipendently in some sections in order to make the other character pass through, sometimes you will need to move as Asterix and then use Obelix to move a pulley to transport Asterix, Obelix can’t fit through narrow passages but on the other hand he can destroy the iron crates without needing a cannon or a sip of magic potion. You’ve seen this all before in some form or another, pretty typical stuff.
In terms of combat they have the same moves, Obelix it’s just a bit stronger but slower, but still, it makes sense since you can’t choose when to play as each of the two, and it also makes sense for balance that Obelix isn’t invincible (which he canonically pretty much is) to rocks, spears, and whatnot.
The switching between the two happens automatically when it’s needed to progress, or where there are the rare “switching icons/points”, which is…fine. I would have prefered being able to swap character on the fly, but i understand why isn’t a thing, as the various platforming challenges and puzzles are built specifically to work in single player, the game never had co-op to begin with, so implementing co-op without changing anything else would have broken the puzzles and the progression, hence requiring a lot of the game to be outright remade and not simply remastered.
A really nice feature is the ability to switch on the fly (even during cutscenes) from the remastered visuals and musics to the original ones, it’s good to have both as you might prefer the original graphics, they are more colorful, while the remastered brings the detail and quality of the textures to a more modern standard, something its lost in terms of vibrant colors and tone being kinda “muted”.
There are still some innocuous glitches, like a friendly NPC that in the remastered visuals seem standing on a pocket of thin air 10 cm above the ground, while he does make contact with the ground perfectly when switching to the “old graphics”, or some stuff like a boar spazzing out by circling while standing still, or some bugs in the “snowboard slides” sections (like the desert one).
You can tell its PS2ness by how there’s there more than one “sliding downwards a snowy slope” and Crash-esque “run from menace coming from the upper side of the camera angle” sequences, and undeniably it’s a PS2 action-platformer through an through, for the best and worst, there are some modern commodities added like autosaves, but in terms of gameplay very little has been touched,
On the flipside, it’s not too easy, the enemies will eventually ramp up the aggression and come in numbers to the point where you’ll take damage even, and combat it’s definitely a pretty aged but still enjoyable element, once you take into consideration this is an action platform from 2003, so it’s pretty mindless combat, mostly button bashing the enemies until they drop the guard and become trapped into your punching (which ends with them flying up into the air, in proper Asterix & Obelix style), throwing them around like rags when stunned, sicking Idefix (the small dog) to bite enemies in the butt making them drop their guard, because there’s no parry or dodgerolling or backstabbing.
You can fill a combo meter by keeping up aggression and quickly attacking the enemies, and when it’s full you can unleash a handful of special moves, like a wrestling style power move, a ground burrowing, which are powerful but aren’t completely broken, as some of them consume more of the combo bar than others; if the game wants you to easily deal with a bunch of enemies it will simply have magic potion pick ups appear, but they’re not overused to the point of feeling mundane.
Though in the latter parts of the game you’ll absolutely need the more powerful combo moves, as the game will make you defeat dozens, then hundred, then thousands of enemies, and still some parts aren’t easy even with all the moves bought/unlocked from the wandering merchant NPC.
Makes one wish the game was made a little later or on a bigger budget, because it could have used a proper hack n slash combat system, but it was 2003 and back then you “had” to choose if you wanted an action adventure or platformer or a hack n slash, the timing was right to make “DMC clones”, but the budget clearly wasn’t, as this was put out by “ex-Infogrames Atari” originally.
Honestly i think the IP would make for a great Dynasty Warriors style game, but i digress, big time too.
In terms of stuff that does show its age it’s the level design, or more accurately, the lenght of each location/stage, most stages have 6 levels each, but i would have prefered 1 more location with less levels each, even more since the locations have distinct looks but don’t have unique gimmicks each or introduce any proper new obstacle or stuff like that for each of their sub-areas.
I mean, even in the Egypt stage they feel the need to cram in another “snowboarding slide” sequence, as in they clearly recycled the same assets used in the mountain sequences, and just overlaid a different graphics, changed that goat into a camel munching on flowers, etc.
It’s not a huge problem given the era and stuff this game hails from, but it doesn’t help that this issue extends to bosses, so boss fights are the same roman war machine, with some new obstacles or made harder more each time, but still the same war machine, or other…. different war machines.
On a surprising note, it’s worth noting that despite being a PS2 platformer…..it’s not a collecthathon; sure, there are some collectables to find by exploring the level through, the levels are connected and you can travel back and forth by using catapults, but it’s a linear affair. Which is good, actually.
In terms of stuff that could have modernized or removed without having to redo the game from scratch, there’s definitely the falling in pits meaning instadeath, which isn’t too annoying since there’s no lives system and you just try again from the last checkpoints, but some are quite far apart so you’ll have to redo sections that also including punching to the moon hundreds of Romans.
They could have the character respawn at the cost of some health instead, but didn’t.
The other thing is one that honestly confused me, as in the overworld map.
Is not that the overworld itself it’s hard to use or anything, but when you load a save you’re taken to the first proper stage on the map (Normandy, as Gaul is basically the opening act with tutorial stuff and not much more), and will have to scroll through the map to find what last area you actually reached, you don’t start back at the last cauldron/save point used, leading you to believe the saving fucked up, but NOPE, the game it’s just like that, i guess it always was even in its original release.
Again, a minor niggle, but just seems like an odd oversight, especially for a remastered.
In terms of content and playtime, the game will take 10/11 hours to finish on the Normal setting, which also unlockes the Extreme difficulty setting, and to help replayability there are extra costumes to unlock by finding all the “allorum” collectables hidden in each area, with new challenges added for this remaster, alongside a gallery where to unlock concept art, illustrations and so on by using the overabudant amount of romans helms/money you’ll have by the end of the game.
Overall, Asterix & Obelix: Romastered it’s a solid mid-tier remaster-port of an early PS2 action platformer, a decent one, preserved quite faithfully with its strenght and the by now old-school style of design, and with a nice option to switch between the original visuals & soundtracks or the remastered look and sound at the touch of a button, and some mild streamlined refiments.
It’s a bit rough and one wishes it was made just a little later in the early 2000s so it could feature a proper hack n slash style combat, but remains an entertaining action-platformer that does manage to feature the quirks of the Asterix & Obelix comics into the gameplay and perfectly capture the style of the beloved gaul duo and their little world of cooked boars, magic potions, wise druids, roman soldiers sent flying into the stratosphere, and gagging the village bard before he gets a note in.
Fan of the PS2-era platformers will definitely enjoy it, it’s a decent-almost-good one from that era, one that also makes good use of the license it uses, so if you’re hankering for some vintage action-platformer fun, Asterix & Obelix XXL Romastered it’s worth a look, especially if you’re fans of the Asterix & Obelix original comics adventures, and/or the many animated and live action films.
The game was fairly successful at the time of its PS2/CG release, enough to spawn a direct sequel, Asterix & Obelix XXL 2, which was also the first of the series to see the remaster-port treatment, later followed with a new game in the series, The Crystal Menhir.
All 3 Asterix & Obelix XXL games now are also available bundled in a collection, and the series it’s clearly far from over, as – after the sidescroller beat em up that was Asterix & Obelix: Slap Em All! – Asterix & Obelix XXL: The Ram From Hibernia recently released.
Sadly i really don’t have the time to play and review them in a timely fashion, so for the near future look forward to the EXPRESSO review of Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom that’s playing in theathers right now.
Un pensiero riguardo “Asterix & Obelix XXL: Romastered PS4 [REVIEW] | For Toutatis!”