This budget platformer's few interesting ideas are submerged under its litany of half measures and conventionalities.
Asterix and Obelix, the beloved Gaulish duo created by French comic book artists René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, are hardly a new or unfamiliar phenomenon throughout most of Europe. In fact, the two intrepid Celtic tribesmen from the year 50 BC have been bolting down shanks of boar, whomping Roman occupiers, and generally causing trouble throughout the classical world since 1959, when they first appeared in animated form. They've been rendered in a variety of media over the years, including a canonical set of 31 brightly colored print adventures, a number of fairly obscure cartoons, and even several video games. None of these products have attracted much notice in the US, where the Asterix series has been, at best, one hip pop-culture reference below a cult phenomenon. Sadly, Atari's new PS2 Asterix game, Asterix & Obelix: Kick Buttix, isn't likely to raise the franchise's profile here. This budget platformer's few interesting ideas are submerged under its litany of half measures and conventionalities, which include an outdated graphics engine, relentlessly boring level design, and heaps of sterilized button mashing.
At the beginning of the game, the petite but quick-witted Asterix and his oafish, immensely strong buddy Obelix are in a major fix. It seems that nasty old Julius Caesar has finally scored a major coup. After fulminating for years over the "indomitable village" of magic-potion-fueled Gauls who refused to yield to Rome, Caesar set his legions upon the pair's hamlet while they were out hunting, putting their huts to the torch and scattering the villagers all over the Roman Empire. Now you must guide Asterix and Obelix through one province after the other, seeking out their friends from the comic book series and turning Caesar's orderly plans and vast armies into historical footnotes.
By and large, this process involves running and jumping through enormous landscapes, temples, cave networks, and palaces, switching occasionally between Asterix and Obelix as you go along. Each character has different strengths: Asterix can fit through small holes, carry torches, and become invincible for a short time by drinking magic potions. Obelix is quite a bit stronger, so he can beat up enemies faster, as well as break iron crates and move enormous blocks of stone. You can control only one character at a time, and the majority of character switches come in scripted situations--such as when Asterix hops on a platform suspended from a zip line, and you switch to Obelix to lead him along by a rope from the ground. The rest of the time, the game will control the other warrior for you, and it'll occasionally give you some aid in combat, but it won't fight intelligently or use special moves. Obelix's microscopic mutt Dogmatix also makes an appearance, although his presence is almost entirely cosmetic. He comes in handy in a select few gameplay situations, as you can command him to disarm particularly pesky enemies, but otherwise he's just along for the ride.
Touring the Roman ruins several millennia ahead of schedule seems like it would be a lot of fun. In this instance, it isn't. The game's six provinces--Gaul, Normandy, Greece, Helvetia, Egypt, and finally Rome--are staffed by what seems like tens of thousands of Roman legionnaires and their collaborators, who all fall into a few basic categories: little guys who you can kill with three punches, big guys that block your punches for two seconds and then succumb after about 10 blows, anachronisms like jetpack legionaries, lions, Roman formations, and catapults, and the occasional boss. You'll spend the larger part of Asterix & Obelix's quest repeatedly pressing the bash button to puree these stooges and collect their helmets, which serve as the game's currency and can also number in the tens of thousands.
There are a few other basic combat actions you can perform--including grabbing a stunned soldier and whirling him around your head like a bullroarer, having your CPU partner do the same, or using Dogmatix in the aforementioned manner--but these tactics are all worthless. The bash is the name of the game here, backed up occasionally by the combo that you can purchase using your stock of helmets. Combos are special moves that you can unleash by executing a particular button combination--provided that you've bashed enough baddies to fill up a combo meter on the side of the screen. If that's all taken care of, you can use such classic Asterix maneuvers as "the mole," "the power hammer," and "the twister" to dispense with enemies even faster. However, the combat is so simple that you won't really need to use combos to progress until midway through Egypt, when enemies start to overwhelm you through sheer force of numbers.