Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
It's the year 55 BC and the Roman empire is in complete control of all Europe, save for one tiny Gaulish village. Despite all Roman attempts to capture this area, it still remains free and independent under the leadership of Chief Vitalstatistix.
The reason for this extraordinary record of hardness is the magic strength-giving potion brewed up by the venerable druid Getafix. When the Gauls swig this elixir, it allows them to dust anyone who gets in their way!
Being wise to this, top Roman geezer Julius Caesar has decreed that the druid be captured and transported to the Italian capital to make the potion for the Roman forces, making them unstoppable in their quest for total world domination.
So it came to pass one fateful day as Getafix was gathering herbs alone in the forest that he was indeed captured and taken to Rome with the express intention of transforming even the most pathetic example of legionaryhood into a human killing machine.
This is where you come in. As Asterix and Obelix, the village's hardest men, you must undertake a quest of many platform levels, dodging hazards, negotiating underwater sections and beating Romans senseless with your combat skills and special items which can be picked up along the way. Should the pair fail to reach Rome and rescue the druid, slavery is assured for our French boar-loving chums.
As anyone who's ever read any Asterix books will know, Asterix and Obelix are inseparable. This means there's no splitting them up, even in a one-player game! If there's just you, each level must be completed twice (although it does differ slightly the second time), once as Asterix and once as Obelix! If a friend is playing, you can relax after completing a level as he or she takes the part of the second half of the team.
Asterix and Obelix's jaunt into the jaws of death is not just your standard mission to save a close friend and a rebel village! It's also a way for the lads to earn some spare cash. Destructible blocks and even more destructible legionnaires litter the landscape. Bashing these yields much in the way of gold coins, from a single sesterti to a whole bagful of shiny coinettes! Not only this, but life-giving food and points-granting bonuses such as amphoras can also be found with this method!
Although the primary concern of the duo is getting straight to Rome and rescuing Getafix, it does indeed pay to explore. Hidden in parts of the scenery are routes to secret rooms which contain many bonus-related delights. One particularly good example is found in level two. After swimming down a particular pool it's possible to penetrate the wall of rock on one side at a certain point. Do this and a cavern is found in which resides a jug packed full of bonuses.
It's a sad thing that Getafix was fresh out of magic potion when he was captured. This makes our heroes quest somewhat more difficult. Luckily, the druid was able to whip up a much simpler potion in his prison wagon and he has scattered cauldrons of this throughout the game. Asterix can use bottles of this concoction in a similar way to grenades. After being thrown, the mixture bubbles for a few seconds before exploding, destroying any enemies or destructible sections of scenery in the vicinity. Obelix (who fell into a cauldron of potion when a baby and as a result is permanently super-strong) prefers a much more direct method of attack. The fat one throws huge menhirs which, quite unsurprisingly, crushingly demolish their targets.
Airborne liquid is lethal to our Asterix, so watch out
Some interesting objects here, eh?
Asterix faces up to the boss and his deadly bees!
Asterix is yet another example of an excellent Master System platform game, just like Mickey Mouse, Sonic and Donald Duck. In fact, it's perhaps just a little too much like these games for my liking. There's the usual bottom bounce manoeuvre used to dispose of the meanies, and chucking your bombs/menhirs/potions about is just like throwing a rock in Mickey Mouse. Even some of the ideas behind the levels are taxed directly from the Disney classics. However, originality gripes apart I found Asterix a particularly entertaining piece of software. The character switching for each level is quite good and I like the way that each stage is subtly altered to make it possible for each character to complete it. There is also plenty of variety between each level, making it a very compulsive game. What I don’t really like about the game is the infinite amount of continues available. I reckon that experienced platform gamers could probably finish the game in one sitting. If it’s a fab platform game you want, I’d recommend Donald Duck over this, but if you’ve got that, take a peek at this.
First impressions of Asterix are most favourable. The graphics are top-notch and the sprites closely resemble their comic counterparts. The game is also very playable to start with. The action is fast and there's a lot of secret rooms and bonuses to discover. Some of the puzzles found even in the early levels are pretty taxing, but can solved with a bit of thought and trial-and-error. The only real flaw with Asterix is that there are too many places where one single mistake results in the loss of a life with no second chance to save yourself, such as one level which constantly scrolls; get caught against the side of the screen and it's curtains! Don’t get me wrong, Asterix is a great game, but be warned - it can be very frustrating at times.