I asked for no onions on this
The first time I laid eyes on Onion Assault was on the outskirts of GDC back in 2019. I was having a lunch interview with Bertil Hörberg, the solo developer behind the Gunman Clive series and Mechstermination Force. We were there to talk about Mechstermination’s impending release and how its development differed from the Gunman games. In the midst of our conversation, he decided to give me a sneak peek at something else he was working on. It was a new game influenced by the NES classic Super Mario Bros. 2, which I’m sure most of you know was a reskinning of Doki Doki Panic.
This brief, off-the-record preview was merely a morsel, but as a long-time champion of SMB2, I couldn’t wait to see one of my favorite indie developers find inspiration in it.
Onion Assault (PC, Switch [reviewed])
Developer: Hörberg Productions
Publisher: Hörberg Productions
Released: January 26, 2023
Onion Assault takes two of my greatest passions in life — buff, shirtless guys and getting onions as far away from me as possible — and combines them in a brief and challenging platformer that calls back to one of the greatest games of the ’80s. In Onion Assault, players take control of Pelle Lök or Mama Lök as they fight back against an invading army of pink shirts. Their weapons in this fight are anything they can pick up. Pelle and Mama can pull onions from the ground or pick up their enemies by their heads to use as projectiles. Even if that enemy is a massive tank, you can pick it up and toss it at the grunts that stand in your way. Simple mechanics, but effective enough to carry this game through its 16 levels and two-to-three-hour runtime.
Or, if you’re like me, six-hour runtime. Y’all, I was bad at this game. Embarrassingly bad. It was as if I’d never played a video game before. To watch me try and make it through Onion Assault, you’d think I was using the driftiest Joy-Con that ever drifted. That’s not to say this game doesn’t provide any challenge of its own, as it has its fair share of difficult platforming sections. It’s just I did far worse in those sections than I would have in the past.
Hörberg Productions did an excellent job cribbing the pick-up-and-toss gameplay from Super Mario Bros. 2, but it’s a shame more of that game’s eccentricities weren’t mined in the creation of Onion Assault. Because compared to the original Super Mario Bros., SMB2 is a weird game with unusual level layouts, fantastical elements, and a myriad of secrets to discover. Onion Assault, on the other hand, doesn’t bring much of anything new to the table. Most of the levels here are pretty rudimentary in their design. There are some moments of real creative inspiration, such as when you pick up and throw snowballs to build a pile of snow to climb on, but beyond that, its levels are pretty par-for-the-course as far as indie side-scrolling platformers go.
But, like other Hörberg Productions, Onion Assault shines brightest when tackling its boss battles. There are only four of them, which is a shame, but they make great use of the gameplay style and can even provide an appropriate challenge to players who aren’t failing their way through the game. Even the mid-bosses, though much easier than their final boss brethren, are delightful in their construction and execution.
Setting aside the fact I came down with a severe case of “stupid hands” while playing this, I did get a lot of enjoyment out of Onion Assault. It speaks to a very niche part of my nostalgic mind, and while I would have liked to have seen more creativity and new ideas, what’s here is good enough that I won’t be deleting it from my (rapidly filling) microSD card anytime soon.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]