The Asskickers

A game by AGŌ Games for PC and Mac, originally released in 2011.
The Asskickers is a beat ‘em up starring three playable characters in a fight against corrupt politicians and white collar criminals. According to the difficult-to-comprehend introductory text scroll – containing more than a few parsing and grammatical issues – the world is now being run by the U.N.

The game's heroes run into trouble when they beat up an intolerable prick who is trying to make their lives difficult. But it turns out that said prick is no ordinary villain, but rather the son of the U.N. president, which lands the trio in jail where they must make their escape, clear their names, and take down a number of corrupt leaders through a generous application of asskicking.

The three playable characters come in the form of Alex, Diane, and Marcus, each of whom has different stats, per genre conventions. Alex is the best all-around character, with average speed, strength, and toughness. Diane can move and attack much more quickly, but she is weaker and can’t take as much damage. Marcus is the brute of the bunch, with a somewhat slower movement speed, but he can take more hits and causes more damage with each punch.

Regardless of which character is selected, players are likely to notice straight away that the game's timing does not fall in line with other games in the genre. Generally, brawlers feature slow movement speed with fast attack speeds. The Asskickers is structured in the opposite way, with faster movement and slower attacks, making navigation somewhat slippery and combat a bit less snappy.

This reversal of standards is further highlighted by the rigidity of the hit system. In most beat ‘em ups, the player is able to move between the foreground and background to engage enemy thugs by approaching them from just above or just below their positions.

In most brawlers, this is a useful strategy to overcome AI shortcomings that prevent enemies from engaging if their target is not standing directly in front of them. The design also adds a bit of depth to characters that are represented by 2D sprites, allowing the player to make contact with them while slightly off center from their positions.

In The Asskickers, this margin for error is much slimmer, requiring that players line up more precisely with enemy sprites in order to engage them. This does allow for somewhat more technical combat, but the player's faster movement speed also makes it more difficult to line up attacks, and makes enemy characters seem more flat than those found in other brawlers.

Each of the three characters has the same basic set of attacks, with the ability to punch, string together short combos, jump, and attack while jumping. Characters automatically grab enemies when in close range, although there are no throws in the game; rather, holding an enemy allows the player to get in multiple hits without the possibility of retaliation… unless one of the other enemies moves in while the player in this locked position.

Each character also has two special attacks that are unique to the selected protagonist, and each drains a separate stamina meter (as opposed to draining health, as is the case in many other brawlers). Pressing FORWARD FORWARD ATTACK unleashes a quick special attack, while holding the ATTACK button for a couple of seconds unleashes a stronger attack with a wider range. There is also a special team attack when playing in 2P local co-op.

Per genre conventions, players may pick up dropped weapons such as golf clubs and Tasers, although characters are restricted from jumping or using special attacks while holding them. Weapons may be manually dropped, and they are knocked away when the player is downed.

Lastly, each character has a back attack, which is engaged when an enemy is standing behind the character, but it is difficult to use properly. When an enemy is approaching from behind, pressing toward the enemy and attacking begins a special back attack move, but pressing toward an enemy and attacking is also the button combination a player would use when attempting to turn to face the enemy.

Since forward-facing and back-facing attacks have different ranges, players may find their expected attacks falling short. Also, repeatedly pressing the ATTACK button during a back attack causes the character to initiate the attack several times, turning around each time to attack in a different direction, rather than allowing the player to resume a normal attack combo.

Restoratives are found by breaking objects in the environment, with burgers restoring some health and health kits returning the meter to full. Energy drink cans restore some stamina, while energy drink bottles fully restore it. Defeating multiple enemies in quick succession also restores some of the stamina meter. Often, the player will find trophies or other items which act as score items. For every 5,000 points, the player earns a 1UP, which is handy since most modes do not allow the player to save his progress.

On the easiest difficulty setting, the player has infinite continues and may leave the game at any time and return to any previously-visited stage. On the normal difficulty, the player still has infinite continues, but he must restart the game from scratch each time. On hard, the player is limited to three continues, and 2P co-op has friendly damage. Finally, there is a hardcore difficulty that gives the player only three lives to complete the entire game, with no continues. Players wishing to further challenge themselves may try the survival or time attack modes.

Unfortunately, there are a number of glitches to be found, lowering the possibility of a single run through the game… Background objects have a tendency to pop up into the foreground if you’re standing in just the right spot, especially during screen transitions. Enemies sometimes get stuck in scenery, which is OK for regular thugs, but not during a boss fight where you aren’t able to cause damage to the stuck guy. Sometimes enemies won’t enter the screen for several seconds, requiring that the player stand around and wait without being able to move forward.

Occasionally, screen transitions won’t work, leaving the player stranded with a hard reset as the only way out (which means you’ll lose all of your progress if you aren’t playing on the easiest difficulty setting), and sometimes the game just outright locks up, requiring the program to be forcibly closed.

The six themed areas have the player moving through outdoor locations, police stations, a mansion, and other buildings, each ending in a boss encounter. There is a bit of variety to be had as the second level features a fight atop the world’s largest paddy wagon where the player must dodge signs and other obstructions along the way. These levels also feature Taser-wielding cops who can stun you and prevent you from jumping or using special attacks temporarily. Later levels have lawyers who can bring downed enemies back from the dead with a call from their cell phones, as well as teleport (yes, teleport), and they burst into a poof of money when killed.

Boss fights are a bit unusual. Rather than featuring the oversized damage sponges found in most games in the genre, fights are against regular-sized foes, many of which have unique ways in which they must be engaged. For instance, the police commissioner must be chased through a police station where the player hides behind cabinets to avoid his bullets. When he is finally cornered, the player must lure him into firing and wait for him to reload before attacking. Once a boss is defeated, the player has a brief opportunity during which he bends the boss over and repeatedly smacks or kicks his ass, earning bonus points for each hit.

The Asskickers was developed by AGŌ Games, a French studio headed by Stanislas Berton, with music by Gery Montet, whose previous credits include Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc, Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party, and Fuel.