The Asskickers, as its name suggests, is a game about kicking ass. So how does this make The Asskickers different from hundreds of other videogames?
For starters, the asses in The Asskickers are all hand-drawn. Most asses in videogames these days are the result of hundreds of hours spent staring at computer screens, arranging wire-frame models into three-dimensional domes and encoding them with digital jiggles and jives. None of that happens in The Asskickers. Using a handmade aesthetic that is rarely seen in videogames these days, The Asskickers renders every object - ass or otherwise - with the lurid simplicity of a cartoon sketched onto a piece of paper or graffiti sprayed onto a wall.
And the asses themselves move with all the grace of a South Park character. The Asskickers is a visual throwback to an era when videogames animated their graphics by switching between pre-rendered images - oftentimes only a few for each character. The result is like a flipbook. Characters shift abruptly from one drawn pose to another, then back again, with no transition in between.
The kicking in The Asskickers is also a welcome throwback to an earlier era of videogame combat. There are no high-zoom sniper rifles or alien assault rifles here. The fighting is drawing-to-drawing - fist to face, knee to groin, boot to the back of the head. With low-fi grunts, the characters fly into motion. A blazing arc sweeps up through the air from a characters foot, followed shortly thereafter by the foot. Or a puff of cloud explodes into the air near a fist, and the character pops into attack and then pops back again. The whole thing happens in a heartbeat, making a speedy virtue of the game's unsophisticated animation.
Because all the action takes place in a flat, two-dimensional plane, attacks happen in the basic range of high or low, front or back. To add additional layers of complexity to the action, AGO Games, the designers of The Asskickers, have given the characters multiple planes through which to move, slding deeper back or further forward. The only way to reliably tell where a character is standing is to observe where their shadow is placed on the onscreen ground. This quirk will frustrate players looking for a nuanced, cutting-edge combat experience. In The Asskickers, the shenanigans are simple.
THE GOOD: The Asskickers costs $4.99, which is probably less than what you've spent on coffee today. The Asskickers offers the dual pleasure of senseless violence for a low cost. And since the global economy continues to suck, The Asskickers marks the first in an occasional series of reviews I'll be writing about videogames that are either really cheap or free (if anything actually is). Because there's no reason fun shouldn't be affordable.
THE BAD: Ever heard of button mashing? Spam attacks? These features - continuously tapping a button and repeatedly using a single, strong attack - are fundamental to the cheesy, vintage style of The Asskickers, but they can also make the game cross the line from simple to stupid. Lovers of complexity be warned. But what else do you expect from a game called The Asskickers?
THE BOTTOM LINE: For mindless retro action, The Asskickers kicks ass.