In recent years Asterix and Obelix have returned to be a constant presence in the gaming landscape: whether through remastered old titles or through unreleased projects (as our review of Asterix & Obelix Slap Them All tells you), Microids has bet with conviction on the famous characters born from the imagination of René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, although none of the games seen in recent years have really managed to shine for quality and winning ideas. But the French publisher does not give up and offers fans yet another return of the Gallic warriors, this time by OSome Studio.
Asterix & Obelix XXXL The Ram from Hibernia is announced in July, placing itself in direct continuity with what was seen in 2019 in Asterix & Obelix XXL3 The Crystal Menhir. We return to an action with an isometric view, closing the beat ’em up bracket of Slap Them All and focusing on cooperative multiplayer that involves up to 4 players at the same time. The premises therefore for a cheerful and carefree product seem to be all there, yet, once the game has started, it takes little to realize how The Ram From Hibernia is perhaps the weakest adventure of the Microids series, plagued by problems of a playful nature, technical and conceptual.
The ram with golden horns
The plot of The Ram from Hibernia is completely original and not based on the numerous comics and films dedicated to the cute heroes. Responding to the request for help from Keratina, Whiskitonix’s daughter, this time Asterix and Obelix leave for Hibernia (present-day Ireland) to help the local population repel the Roman invasion.
Julius Caesar’s legions are one step away from conquering the village of Whiskitonix, deprived of its precious golden-horned ram from which all the strength of its people derives. The Gallic warriors then set out in search of the missing creature and in the meantime slap with any soldier who tries to hinder their path. If you’ve played any previous episode of the XXL series, you already know what to expect: non-stop action, dozens of Roman legionaries to slap and special rain moves. It is no coincidence that the pace of play is confirmed as sustained from the first moments of the game: there are practically no dead times and you fight continuously, without hitches. The only exception is represented by occasional environmental puzzles that require the collaboration between the two main protagonists (interchangeable at any time), between levers to pull, buttons to press and platforms to reach to be solved.
Do not expect to jump in any case, since in the title of OSome there is no such possibility: to reach the surfaces it is necessary to load the forward dodge sufficiently, thus allowing the two roosters to cover large distances with a powerful leap, perfect both to arrive on the platforms, and to avoid the enemy offensive with dexterity. The Ram from Hibernia therefore seems to rest on a rather classic basis, but it takes very little to see the encouraging premises melt like snow in the sun, especially when playing in single player.
It is useless to ignore it: the Microids title is really incomplete on a playful level. If the high pace of the clashes provides at least an iota of spice to the gameplay, the rampant repetitiveness of the action completely nullifies those few good ideas present. The range of moves available to Asterix and Obelix is limited to a simple combo of punches, a loaded blow and the special attacks to be unleashed once the appropriate indicator is filled.
There is not much else at our disposal, although there is no lack of the possibility of using different weapons scattered along the scenarios: although they tend to wear out in a short time, they prove to be precious not only for clearing more quickly the passages blocked by obstacles such as crates and barrels. , but also to more easily break the armor of the larger Romans (as well as allowing you to perform a different special move depending on the object used).
The weapons, however, do not change the approach to fighting that much, while the types of enemies to be faced are decidedly scarce: the player will therefore always find himself facing the same types of opponents with the limited offensive techniques provided by the combat system. Even the structure of the game itself appears devoid of creativity: to continue along the levels it is generally necessary to clear an area of the Romans and then unlock the relative door, with this pattern that will be repeated continuously in the following minutes; there are also some areas that try to change the cards on the table a little, leaving the user more freedom of movement or putting him in front of new traps, but the situational variety within the experience is all here. The ability to learn new techniques or receive upgrades would have given an ounce of personality to the all too generic combat system but unfortunately the game does not provide any kind of advancement for the characters.
In short, the gameplay lacks depth and the degree of challenge is almost non-existent, with the overabundance of weapons and healing items, combined with the remarkable effectiveness of dodging, which makes defeat extremely rare (the situation does not change for boss fights). It is true that the Asterix games are designed primarily for an audience of very young people, but even they would probably have liked having to commit a minimum in the continuation of this journey of about 4 hours. In addition to being trivial, even the puzzles in the long run become all the same, with players always resorting to the same tricks to complete them.
Of multiplayer and personality
On balance the only way to be able to find something actually good in Asterix & Obelix XXXL is to play it with friends. The title produced by Microids in fact focuses on a cooperative multiplayer up to 4 players (although only the protagonists are present as playable characters) and it is in this format that it manages to entertain the most, because teamwork goes well with the fast pace of the action.
Even the same environmental puzzles acquire greater sense, proving to be more dynamic and less cumbersome to complete than when faced in single player. It is clear how the game was developed with multiplayer in mind, which is why it would be ideal to involve at least one other participant to be able to find some interesting ideas in a production that, otherwise, really struggles to involve. In this regard, the cooperative is only available locally, as there is no type of online component (which could make someone turn up their noses). Having abandoned the appreciable graphic design of Slap Them All, which faithfully traced the style of the iconic comics by Goscinny and Uderzo, The Ram from Hibernia takes up the three-dimensional visual setting with a bird’s-eye view already seen in The Crystal Menhir.
Unfortunately, however, as much as it tries to be inspired by the original plates, the work of OSome Studio struggles to impress in the visual field. The scenarios are not lacking in details but they tend to strongly resemble each other, while the character design appears not brilliant, also due to often approximate and careless animations.
There are also more or less serious technical uncertainties, including visual bugs, occasional crashes and glitches that can even force you to restart the game: it can happen that an enemy gets stuck between the elements of the scenario, preventing the heroes from continuing further. If we add to this some frame rate drops and the occasional stuttering in portability on the Nintendo Switch, what emerges is a product that would have needed more time to be perfected in all its components.
If nothing else, the sound accompaniment turns out to be catchy: music with a captivating rhythm punctuates the many fights of the adventure and makes them a bit more engaging, while a good dubbing in English closes the circle on a successful audio component. There is no spoken in Italian, but in any case all the texts of the game have been translated into our language.