Asterix is the name of a very popular French comic that, like many Americans, I have never read. I can tell you that Asterix is the little guy, Obelix is the big guy and they both have Atari 2600 games named for them. That’s about it.
Sales weren’t exactly brisk in North America, something to do with being based on a French cartoon few American kids had heard of, so both of those games are a little hard to come by over here. Anyone on this side of the Atlantic who wants to get their “Turmoil without the shooting” on can do so with Taz, the much easier to find North American counterpart to Asterix. But anyone wanting to drop giant blocks on stunned enemies with, say, Foghorn Leghorn is out of luck.
Once you start playing Obelix, you might notice you actually control Asterix. Or you might still not know which character is which and just assume you’re controlling Obelix since the game is called Obelix. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you control Asterix, running around the screen stunning Romans while Obelix marches back and forth across the top of the screen carrying his menhir. Pressing the fire button causes him to drop the menhir, which will crush the first stunned Roman it touches for X, L, C, D or M points.
I assume by this point you either already know what a menhir is, don’t care what a menhir is, or have Googled “What the heck is a menhir?” so I feel pretty comfortable continuing without explaining what a menhir is.
Asterix (not Obelix) stuns blue Romans by simply touching them. The Romans don’t stay stunned for long though. You’ll usually only have one chance to drop a menhir on one before he wakes up red with rage (the manual’s words, not mine). If a red Roman catches Asterix, you’ll lose a life.
The game looks absolutely lovely. The main character sprites are colorful and well animated. The Romans, though monochromatic, are also well animated. The only knock I could give it visually would be for the sparse background, but I’d actually take this uncluttered void over an attempt to create castle walls with the 2600’s chunky playfield graphics any day.
The one knock I will give Obelix is for the game progression, or rather, the lack of game progression. Five Romans appear on the screen at a time, each marching back and forth in a straight line. Early in the game they move slowly and only turn around when they reach the edge of the screen. Eventually they move more quickly and change direction more unpredictably, but it takes a long time to reach that point. The levels feel impossibly long and there’s no indication of how far along you are.
Obelix is unique and fun for a while, but the lack of variety and slow level progression mean it becomes old before it has a chance to become really good. It’s not a bad game, it’s just not as good as a game about dropping giant rocks on people should be.
OK, there. A menhir is just a giant rock. I guess you didn’t have to Google it after all.