New to the indie gaming scene is AGO Games and their side-scrolling brawler The Asskickers. Being designed as a tribute to old school beat 'em ups like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, it's quite the nostalgic little bugger; however, the nostalgia runs a little dry once you take notice of issues with gameplay and the overall feel of the game. It certainly feels like older games, faults and all.
There are three modes to do battle with: Story, Survival and Time Attack. On top of that, there are three characters to choose from, each with their own unique move sets and characteristics. With that said, don't expect an all encompassing narrative, it's a side-scrolling brawler that nods at brawlers of old and The Asskickers does little in the way of hiding behind smokes and mirrors in that regard. Depending on how well you jive with these games, that's either a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, there's no hand-holding or pulling of punches; on the other, there's no substantial fat to the meat.
The gameplay is simple to grasp once you get a hold of the controls, of which the game doesn't even bother to explain, forcing players to look through the menu to see what the Punch button is. Not a biggie, but certainly a questionable design choice. The game is played out on a 2D plane, with fighters moving across horizontally with various vertical planes acting as depth, much like any other 2D brawler on the market.
Seeing as it's a game designed in tribute to the genre, the illustrations and animations are done in a style where they feel nostalgic. As for gameplay, you can punch, jump or do a combination of both. Performing combos is as simple as landing the first punch and following through with more hits. Get up close and personal and you'll automatically grab your target, although this leaves you vulnerable to getting hit from other enemies on-screen. With that said, enemies can do the same to you, giving themselves a huge opportunity to deal some nasty damage.
There's a nice variety of enemies, some are the run-of-the-mill bare-handed thugs, some carry weapons and the especially annoying ones ride on scooters or carry around shields. The problem isn't trying to figure out the most efficient way to best them, the problem is trying to land a hit in the first place.
As mentioned beforehand, The Asskickers tries to reflect its heritage with hand-drawn illustrations and deliberately clunky animations, but it presents a very big mechanical problem: it makes the game feel broken and unplayable. Animations are slow and clunky, hit detection feels non-existent and the overall experience can be somewhat painful. Nevermind the animations, the real issue that constantly crops up in Asskickers is the incredibly small hit-detection range. Assaulting a thug is like trying to punch a housefly. It's nigh impossible. Well, that's a hyperbole, but it certainly feels just as frustrating.
The experience would certainly feel a lot less infuriating if there was a block button as well. It's one thing to be unable to hit enemies within range, it's another to miss and absorb damage right after. Then again, this can be seen as a challenge, a very frustrating one. Enemies will also walk on and off of the screen, leaving you alone for a good few seconds before returning with several knuckle sandwiches. You can't chase after them either as the camera will remain fixed on one area until all enemies have been defeated.
Regardless of the infuriating mechanics, The Asskickers has a fun premise. It's especially amusing and worryingly satisfying when a boss is defeated and you can literally kick their ass. The illustrations aren't exactly the most impressive and the characters look like roughly drawn doodles. I won't deny it has a certain charm, it's just all overwhelmed by how frustrating the gameplay can be. The co-op, however, is definitely the way to play the game as it becomes a lot more tolerable. Why get your own ass kicked alone when you can get your friend to join you?
All in all, keep in mind that this is AGO's first foray into the industry and for their first game, it's a solid attempt. Rovio slogged through 50 games before coming up with a gem like Angry Birds, so there's no reason why AGO can't hit that g-spot with their future titles. As for The Asskickers, it's worth a go if you've got someone to play with, especially when the $4.99 price tag is considered. In fact, co-op play is highly recommended for anyone interested in the game. Simply keep in mind that there are some big mechanical issues with the gameplay. Otherwise, it's a fun "“ and certainly challenging, if only for the wrong reasons "“ throwback to old school brawlers.
|Old school nostalgia.|
|Charming hand-drawn illustrations.|
|Co-op is a blast.|
|It feels mechanically unpolished.|
|Small hit-detection is a major fault.|
|Challenging, but for the wrong reasons.|