Of all the remasters we’ve been hoping for and expecting to see, Asterix & Obelix XXL 2 isn’t likely to top many lists.
And yet, here it is in 2018, openly referencing classic games, smugly smiling at its own in-jokes in the face of its own faults.
It’s cheeky and hypocritical, of course, but there’s also something a little bit refreshing and endearing about it all. Asterix & Obelix XXL 2 does feel like a throwback to the Shadow Warriors and Conkers Bad Fur Days of old. You could say the National Lampoons of gaming, created in spite of cult classics to pay a weird sort of homage to them.
Walking around, you’ll see doors made out of Tetris blocks, bombs shaped like Bomberman’s head, springs reminiscent of Sonic’s casino zone shenanigans and even a boss dressed up as Mario. It’s audacious, but also a mold really befitting the French duo who are no strangers to leading roles themselves. Most notably, a Konami Arcade Beat-Em-Up from the early 90s in the vein of the X-Men and Turtles side-scrollers which was actually really good.
XXL 2 did draw a smile from me at times, though that’s partly because of the Welsh man voicing Asterix. He quickly touched the soft spot in my heart with his spirited line delivery.
The problem is, Asterix and Obelix XXL 2 has aged a lot worse than the games its pointing fingers at. For starters, the camera is extremely heavy. To the point where it feels like you’re trying to shove a boulder out of the way while panning with the right stick. There’s also the problem old 3D games had with the environment regularly conflicting with your view. More often than not, tree leaves randomly take up the whole screen, completely obstructing my line of sight.
It also has this obsession of putting waves and waves (and waves) of enemies in front of you before you can progress to the next section. When I play most things, I have this engrained tally I keep – more of a gut feeling – which tells me when I feel I’ve beaten enough enemies to justify moving on in the game. In Asterix and Obelix XXL 2, that tally was bypassed almost every single time, even on the easiest difficulty.
And if we’re being really picky, the music loops don’t blend together at all and the cut scenes are really gritty and grainy. It’s hard not to play the game with raised eyebrows sometimes. But there’s something about this colorful fighter that’s quite refreshing after the 50-60 hour epics we’ve been treated to these past few months. It’s a small miracle this game is being remade in the first place – likely to prepare us for XXL 3 in 2019 – yet it actually feels like it deserves a place in the varied world of modern gaming.
As remasters go, this has clearly been a labor of love. It has the usual things like the palette doesn’t appear quite so dull. The frame rate isn’t as tetchy, and the music oozes crisp, joyful symphonies. But OSome Studio has added a full collectibles system in here, a new store, as well as a wealth of challenges. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a brand new game, quite honestly.
Basically, if you owned the original many moons ago there’s plenty of reason to dip back in, and if you’ve never even heard of Mission: Las Vegum before, there’s loads more content on offer than ever before. Though probably not enough to justify the slightly premium price tag.
It’s rough, of course it is. This is a 13-year-old PS2 game with a new lick of paint, and it’s absolutely terrifying how far the industry has come since 2005. But XXL 2 also has a charm that so many major AAA experiences feel utterly devoid of these days.
Could this be the beginning of a fightback for the ‘tongue-in-cheek’ genre? With XXL 3 also on the horizon, it would be a welcome change. Today’s industry is often accused of taking itself too seriously and while we get occasional gems like Guacamelee 2 that do a bit of everything, we’re mostly in a cycle of one epic experience after another. A bit of light relief never really hurt anyone.
Well, Pyst did. Let’s not remake Pyst.
Code kindly provided by the publisher. Played on Nintendo Switch