Ever since enhanced versions of older games began appearing en masse for the PS3 and Xbox 360, there’s been a steady debate around the merits of remasters. Quality of these ports tends to vary, ranging from the excellent Metal Gear Solid collection to the dismal Silent Hill offerings, which somehow managed to present versions of Silent Hill 2 and its sequel that were worse than the originals. Remasters have been plentiful ever since, and the freshest of the batch is Asterix & Obelix XXL2 for Switch, PS4 and Xbox One. But will this remaster join the ranks of Metal Gear Solid and the Team Ico ports, or is it another Silent Hill?
For the uninitiated, the Asterix franchise originated with the titular French comic, first published in 1959. Since then – and it’s still ongoing, mind you! – the series has grown to include films, video games and even a theme park. The story follows Asterix and his friend Obelix, residents of a small Gaul village under constant siege from Julius Caesar and the Roman army. This time, Caesar has constructed the massive theme park Las Vegum and lured the Gaul druid, Getafix (get used to questionable puns like this) over to his side, leaving it up to the two heroes to go to his rescue.
You control both characters throughout Asterix & Obelix XXL2, swapping between them instantly with the push of a button. Asterix is lighter on his feet but deals less damage, whereas Obelix is your typical sluggish brute. Curiously, the character you aren’t controlling does nothing but follow you around aimlessly; if you’re fighting a crowd of enemies as Asterix, Obelix will just stand there and watch, presumably only a few seconds away from pulling out of a box of popcorn. It was one of the first issues I noticed, and it continued to irk me for the rest of my time with the game.
For the most part, the game is very reminiscent of most platformers from the PS2 era. Levels are full of items to collect, boxes to smash and enemies to beat up. You’ll traverse deadly traps and solve puzzles, fighting off the Romans as you go. On paper, it has all the right ideas, from its cartoon-like visuals to the standard button-mashing platformer combat.
The execution, however, leaves a lot to be desired. Back in the day, Asterisk & Obelix XXL2 would have fallen short of its peers like Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. The remaster does little to elevate it to a higher standard.
If there’s one thing the game lacks compared to its rivals of the time, it would be polish. Dialogue is clunky and awkward, often relying on silliness rather than trying to be clever. In a way, it is somewhat reminiscent of how characters speak in comics, but I would argue that that is something that doesn’t transition well to a video game.
The voice acting, too, falls short. Voices rarely seem to fit the characters themselves, instead adhering to boring tropes and stereotypes. Obelix, for example, has the voice of an unintelligent, senseless oath, with no charm to it. Asterix, for some reason, tends to fall into a Welsh accent from time to time.
The characters are likeable, if in a sort of quaint, “this is just how things were back then” sort of way. It’s easy to empathise with the Gauls in the same way you’d want Ratchet to beat up whatever alien threat he was facing, but go deeper than surface level comparisons and it’s hard to avoid comparing Asterix & Obelix with platforming giants of the early 2000s. Movement is fluid and responsive, but when you run into an enemy it all falls apart. The Romans tend to come at you in groups, but attacking them is like throwing yourself into a brick wall. They won’t budge an inch until you’ve landed the half-dozen or so hits needed to kill them, and by that time you’ve been surrounded by an entire group.
It’s clear at times that Asterix & Obelix XXL2 is a game that’s inescapably chained to the trappings of a PS2 title. By default, FMV cutscenes are condensed to play at only about two-thirds the screen’s size, with an option to toggle to full-screen if you wish. Either way, they do not look particularly pretty running on modern devices, and when played in full-screen you can see jagged edges and blur in all their glory. You can’t pause them, either, which really should be one of the basic things added to a game at this point.
There is a lot to enjoy in Asterix & Obelix XXL2, if you’re willing to look past the issues. The characters are fun, and the story is your typically comical platforming fare. If you’re a completionist or in any way fond of collectibles, this has you covered in that department: rarely did I enter a new area and not see it full of shiny things to pick up and containers to destroy.
There’s no shortage of cultural parodies either, if that’s your thing. Barely ten minutes into the game, I’d met characters with more than a passing resemblance to Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher and even Mario, sporting his Super Mario Sunshine attire.
It’s a shame, then, that most of the parts holding Asterix & Obelix XXL2 together aren’t quite up to the job. I wouldn’t go so far as to expect a remaster to fully reinvent the game, especially for a more niche franchise, but there are glaring opportunities for improvement here that were either missed or ignored entirely. If you’re a series fan and/or eager for the upcoming sequel, this might be a good use of your time. Overall, though, this is a game that was so blatantly dwarfed by others of its genre, many of which are also available on modern systems, that I can’t even begin to recommend playing it over the likes of them.