Have you ever played a game that you really wanted to like? You do everything within your power to enjoy the experience and look for positives. The Asskickers from AGO Games was one of those games. As an indie budget title, there are certain levels of forgiveness that are immediately granted because you’re developing a game on a shoestring budget and releasing it for next to nothing, in this case $8.99. Plus, side scrollers have had a bit of a revival over the past few years and The Asskickers looked like it was poised to fall into the category of surprisingly fun throwback games. Instead, it felt like I installed 1GB of disappointment onto my hard drive.
There’s a certain expectation out of games of a specific genre. In the case of The Asskickers, a side-scrolling beat ’em up brawler game that pays homage to those fine pieces of the 16bit era, one may expect to find some unique environments and backgrounds that allow for some interaction between the player and the landscape. That is in place; the artwork is hand done and it gives it a simplistic, stylized look that is appealing because it is clear that a fair amount of work went into them. You might also expect an array of baddies that range from easily dispersed to annoying buggers that you try to deliver a couple extra hits to before they vanish. This is also delivered, but it’s not quite in a way that is enjoyable. This is where the game starts losing all of its footing and starts a fall that doesn’t end for a long time.
While each genre brings its unique expectations, games as a whole have a pretty universal expectation of them: To work. I cannot say that The Asskickers meets that expectation. The problem comes pretty early on when one realizes that some really basic functionality just doesn’t always function. For example after the first couple waves of bad guys, I was rewarded with a trophy that I was supposed to pick up for some reason. The only problem was I couldn’t pick it up. It wasn’t possible. I’m not that big of a trophy fan personally, but when it’s in the game to interact with, I’d like to be able to interact with it. For whatever reason, when certain items fall in certain places, you just can’t have them.
Even getting those items out of the enemies can be a pain in the ass, because the AI on your opponents is absurdly random. You’ll get ganged up on in ways that are nearly inescapable. Some of the baddies will simply run away when you try to swing at them, and then you find yourself waiting for them to return so you can kill them and continue to advance. You’ll get trapped in moves that are unavoidable, and since there isn’t really a combo system you can’t take on a plethora of enemies at once. Oh, did I mention there wasn’t a combo system? Yeah, there isn’t. This is a problem when you find yourself up against seven bad guys who run away from you and attempt to approach you like the Jets if they found a lone member of the Sharks in a back alley.
Here’s why the AI is really an issue. You’re going to die a lot. Not because the game is particularly challenging or difficult. You’re fighting against the flaws of the design. But you’re still going to die and when you do, you’ll be taken back to the start of the level, which you will inevitably play through again until you hit another glitch that will send you back to the start again. This game will eventually destroy your keyboard, not because it’s a button masher, because you’ll just be so frustrated that you will need to break something.
If there was an interesting story here to make your play through a little more worthwhile, some of the issues mentioned could potentially be forgiven. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Perhaps its an issue of rough translation, but for the most part the story just isn’t what it thinks it is. It’s an attempt at a political satire of the current state of the US, at least I think so because it’s hard to tell from the terrible dialogue. What the story does accomplish is to somehow work the phrase “asskick” into every interaction that occurs in the game. It just feels like they are insisting that it’s funny and clever rather than letting it be that, and it falls pretty flat in regards to story and dialogue.
All in all, I can’t particularly recommend The Asskickers as it fails to do the few things that it sets out for: It fails to duplicate the experience of classic 2D side-scrolling beat ’em ups, it fails to provide a coherent, satirical story, and it generally fails providing the basic requirements of a game like, say, functioning properly. The art style is unique, and it’s a game that you want to root for as an indie homage to the games of yore. Alas, you’re better off skipping this one than feeling the disappointment that it will provide.
Overall Score: 1 out of 5