Onion Assault Review (Switch Online Store)
If you’ve played Bertil Hörberg’s Gunman Clive and its direct sequel on the 3DS, Wii U, or Switch, then the developer’s latest effort, Onion Assault, will feel familiar. But while the previous two titles were undoubtedly inspired by Megaman franchise, Onion Assault instead feels like an homage to Nintendo’s own game Super Mario Bros. 2 (originally Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, certainly). It’s a well-made game that shines in all the right places, but it proves to be disappointing at times and, unfortunately, one that probably won’t be as memorable as the developer’s previous efforts.
Onion Assault features two main characters: Pelle Lok, a rude topless man, and his mother, Mama Lok, who wears an apron and a pair of mittens that can be used instead of boxing gloves. Both characters have the same stocky height as Clive the Gunslinger, as well as the same thick eyebrows that the protagonist Mechstermination Force boasted about. There is no difference in how the Loks are handled, so your choice here is purely based on which one you like aesthetically.
At the beginning of the game, Pelle and Mama’s house is invaded by a group of soldiers with bizarre square heads. While the soldiers fail in their efforts and get their fair share of bumps and bruises, that doesn’t stop Pella and Mama from setting out to exact revenge and rid the world of this dangerous force. In terms of story, that’s pretty much all there is to it, but like the retro platformers that Onion Assault draws inspiration from, you really don’t need much more context to figure out what’s next.
Once you’ve finished choosing your character (you can switch between stages, by the way), you’ll have to complete a total of 16 levels across four main areas. Each area consists of four levels, and when you get to the end of each area, you will come face to face with a formidable boss character to test your skills. It’s not a particularly long game – you’ll probably watch around 2-3 hours from start to finish – but you can return to previous stages to collect any coins you may have missed.
In terms of core gameplay, Onion Assault looks like very similar to Super Mario Bros. 2. Your only method of attack is to jump on objects (of course, mainly on the bow) and enemies, pick them up and throw them off the edge of a cliff or into other enemies. It’s simple and easy to understand, and in some parts the mechanics are used creatively. For example, you can collect snow mounds and stack them on top of each other to create a makeshift ledge that allows you to get to hard-to-reach places.
However, despite the simplicity of the gameplay, it can feel rather inaccurate. There will be frequent moments where you will need to jump and throw an object at the same time to get a little more attack distance, but your timing should be impeccable; we missed our targets more often than we would like (often by just sliver), and while there’s almost always another item or enemy waiting to be picked up, it can be frustrating when your progress stops for a moment due to the slightest inaccuracy in your target.
The basic platforming is solid for the most part, but there are undoubtedly times when the physics feel a little bit. off. One of the later levels includes structures that sway back and forth in the wind, and this movement also affects how your character jumps. It makes sense logically, but when you’re trying to jump over to an adjacent platform only to have your momentum stall and your character stop mid-air before falling, it feels less enjoyable than it could possibly be with a minor tweak or two .
However, despite these shortcomings, Onion Assault is pretty slick, and once you get used to how the physics behave and how to deal with each type of enemy, you’ll be racing through the stages in no time. The boss characters also introduce unique challenges that we really enjoyed, including the requirement to throw bombs at the web, causing them to jump in the air and crash into a robot crawling along the ceiling.
Looking at the overall presentation, the Onion Assault is exceptionally charming, although there are some minor flaws. On the other hand, the visuals are bold and colorful, and some environmental objects like flowers, clouds, and coins will bounce along with the music, which is nice. Conversely, goal-shaded visuals are definitely lacking in detail in certain areas, and many assets, from enemies to environmental objects, are often repeated throughout, giving an undeniable sense of repetition.
Stumbling aside, Onion Assault does a hell of a job with its basic idea. It’s teeming with creativity and a perfect reminder of the simpler times when games weren’t overwhelmed by add-on systems, endless skill trees, and upgrade mechanics. For the low asking price, you’ll have a good time with this one.
Onion Assault is a worthy purchase if you’re looking for a short, fresh platformer that pays homage to the original Nintendo classic. While there are some annoyances scattered throughout – some inaccurate platforming, finicky physics, and repetitive visual assets – there’s enough here to keep you entertained for at least a couple of hours; maybe a little more if you want to collect all the collectible coins. Onion Assault may not be as memorable as the developer’s previous games, but it’s worth playing nonetheless.