The names Asterix and Obelix should evoke childhood memories for many players – including me. I played the side scroller for the SNES from 1995 over and over, so it quickly became clear to me that Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir would find its way into my Switch. Even though the title will also be released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, I’m sticking with Nintendo for this test and have decided on the mobile version. You can find out in the following test whether the two Gauls can also convince during a train journey.
Old familiar in a new guise
You’re right back in, the characters, the setting, the jokes. Even if you have had little or nothing to do with the two Gauls in the past few years (or almost decades), every memory of the comic series is present again. Anyone who has not heard of Asterix and Obelix will certainly not click on this test, but I would like to give a brief look back at the comic world created by French author René Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo. This takes place in the year 50 BC. in small Gaul, which opposes the invasion of the Roman Empire, in particular with the help of the protagonists Asterix and Obelix just mentioned. The mysterious magic potion that the druid Miraculix brews should certainly be of further help. This grants superhuman powers to those who drink it, making it easier to fight against the Roman army. Asterix takes a small sip in various situations, whereas Obelix is denied this. Because Obelix fell into the magic potion as a young Gaul and therefore brings with him a certain basic strength, the begging after a sip of the magic potion of the big sensitive little one has developed into a running gag, of which there are numerous in Asterix and Obelix. But now, let’s get back to the latest gaming spin-off and see what adventure Asterix and Obelix are embarking on this time.
The Crystal Menhir
Edda, a friend of the druid Miraculix, has disappeared! She is the guardian of the crystal menhir, which has special properties. Since nobody knows where Edda was taken by her kidnappers, we learn from Miraculix that her location can be determined using the crystal menhir. Luckily, this is owned by Miraculix, so the search for Edda could be over here. Could if the necessary menhir crystals hadn’t previously been hidden throughout the game world by Edda in order to curb the unbridled power of the crystal menhir. So Asterix and Obelix set out to find all the necessary fragments in order to reunite them with the menhir.
This is easier said than done. Asterix and Obelix proves to be a pretty tough nut to crack as the game progresses. On the one hand because of the playful elements, on the other hand because of annoying jumping units, which sometimes got on my last nerve. But more on that later.
We use the crystal menhir next to our fists as a weapon against the Romans. At first it only serves as a hitting weapon, later new abilities follow through the individual fragments. With “Ice” we freeze the opponents, with “Fire” we burn them and do continuous damage and with “Magnet” we steal their shields or pull them towards us. At the same time, we also use the crystal menhir to influence the game world. With the magnet, for example, objects can be moved and with the fire stone we burn obstacles that block a passage. This is the only way to solve the numerous puzzles that the game awaits us with. Since I initially thought of the game as a simple hack & slay, this playful element surprised me in a positive way.
Checkpoints take the fun out of the game
Asterix & Obelix XXL 3 has three levels of difficulty, which can be changed while playing. The fights with the Romans are not that challenging once you have internalized the button combinations and can assess the individual enemy classes accordingly. Unfortunately, the button assignment for the switch turns out to be a small obstacle, at least in the mobile version. Since we can play with either Asterix or Obelix in Asterix & Obelix XXL 3, and because of the different abilities we often have to switch during battle, we do this with the “L” button. We call up the special abilities with “ZL” and consequently have to select the corresponding “Skill” with the directional pad. So it happens (unfortunately not infrequently) that instead of executing the necessary special ability, you change your character. While we’re on the controls, I might as well write something about the absolute fun killer. At the push of a button we “dodge” or jump over chasms and thus reach new platforms. What happens at the beginning of the game in the forest, where a fall ends in a soft meadow, sobering comes at the latest in the Minotaur labyrinth. Every fall leads to a new beginning in the respective cave section. The checkpoints are so impossible that after two, if it comes up, four tries, you put the switch into sleep mode or change the game completely. The co-op mode can help here! If we play with a friend (or alone with a second controller – how sad is that please?!), we spawn on them and don’t necessarily have to play the entire level again. Solo, the frustration factor here is so high that I have a hard time imagining how the game dubbed “kids game” could really be something for kids.
Lovingly designed with technical weaknesses
Now let’s add the absolute best in the game here. The attention to detail. The developers give us a complete German soundtrack, add the well-known running gags at the right places and bring the typical humor of the Asterix and Obelix comics into play. Simply nostalgic and in love with detail. Unfortunately, the joy of the first impressions does not last long, so that the technical weaknesses gain the upper hand as the game progresses. Of course, the technical comparison with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One should not be the focus of the Nintendo Switch, but if you look at the test landscape, the “stronger” consoles with Asterix & Obelix XXL 3 also have frame collapses and Fight pop-ups. This should certainly not be due to the graphical requirements. Although the game looks quite nice for the comic style, you shouldn’t expect outstanding graphics and light games. The fact that you can hear the fan of the switch running up again and again (even when you’re on the go) bothers me a little. In addition, the AI acts absolutely stupid, regardless of the difficulty level. Unfortunately, so does the listless buddy AI (Obelix when playing with Asterix and vice versa). This can only be saved by the nice drop-in co-op, which unfortunately only exists offline.
Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir is not a full price title and that’s a good thing. As a typical hack & slay with some puzzles, the game offers exactly what you could expect. The developers capture the atmosphere of the Asterix comics perfectly and after a few minutes the game had me under its spell. When the German dubbing came along in the dialogues, it was all over for me and the next few hours belonged to this title alone. The technical weaknesses are annoying, but can be coped with. Rather, I’m bothered by the pointless checkpoints, which can be an absolute game-fun killer. Luckily for the developers, you can save this fact with a co-op partner. Unfortunately, the title also has little variety to offer in terms of gameplay. Since the characters don’t undergo any real development, the battles recur fairly early in the game. This makes Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir a solid game that you can play, but you don’t have to.
Asterix & Obelix XXL 3: The Crystal Menhir
Allusions and running gags from the comics
Hack & slash elements are fun
Technical weaknesses (frame rate)
Too high frustration level