Awesomenauts almost didn’t see the light of day at the last minute due to some financial problems with its publisher DTP Entertainment. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, or we would be missing out on one of the most unique multiplayer games available on XBLA or PSN.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, MOBA for short, is a genre that sees a lot of love on the PC, but hasn’t really been represented on the console front. Awesomenauts seeks to change all that and does it with a great 90’s cartoon vibe, an over-the-top silliness and a deep level of strategy.
In Awesomenauts you’ll be taking over one of 6 characters, 3 of which are unlocked at the outset (with more on the way through DLC). The characters themselves range from a space cowboy to a monkey with a jetpack and each duke it out in various arenas. Within the 2D space there are a few different paths to take and each of those are blocked by turrets of your team’s color. The goal is to fight your way through these turrets and make it to the enemies base to blow it up. You’ll be joined by AI bots that will help to shield you while you attack the turrets. Gameplay can be done via 3 on 3 online or with bots filling the place of players until the roster is full. In a move that’s sure to please many, split-screen is included and you can take guests online with you. All of this sounds like a simple premise to be sure, but the level of strategy within the game is deep and nuanced with wildly different approaches to the game brought by the different Awesomenauts and their various upgrades.
As your team defeats enemies and turrets you’ll collect Solar which can be used to purchase upgrades for your Awesomnauts. Each character has two unique abilities, in addition to a standard attack and jumping. The abilities can be upgraded in different ways either upgrading range, damage, or possibly adding a new attribute to the ability. Once you’ve played a bit you’ll unlock the chance to change the upgrades available to buy throughout the match at the beginning, and as you level up through playing matches you’ll unlock new upgrades. This system allows you to customize your character to your play style and to approach the challenges in the game in unique ways. For example playing Leon, the chameleon, you could level him as an assassin with a powerful cloaking ability or you could focus on his ranged tongue attack to make him a master of controlling the playing field.
Abilities themselves range from a holographic charging bull attack to a giant robot bite that drains health, and the flavor text of the abilities takes every opportunity to try and make you laugh. All around the presentation of the game is top notch and often laugh out loud funny. The game itself even opens with what could easily pass as the opening theme to a 90’s cartoon. Each character has a small song that plays after choosing them and they all have immense personality in the way they fight, the abilities they have and their individual play styles. The sound and artwork is great and the vibrant colors of the characters practically jump out an HDTV.
The only downside I’ve found to this game is the difficulty that newer players will commonly have, especially those unfamiliar with the MOBA genre. Don’t mistake it as difficult to learn, because it isn’t, but the nuances of the characters and the different builds you could play with them takes time to learn. At first a newer player might make the same mistake I did, which is to try and play it like a death match game. That was definitely the wrong idea. Instead this game is as much about destroying the enemy as it is about denying him resources. This might mean instead of attempting to sacrifice yourself for a kill, as you might do in most games, a quick escape might be the best plan. After all you drop valuable solar when you die, solar that the other team will use to get more abilities, quicker, and that’ll lead to a quick defeat.
I’ll be honest, when I first started playing the game I got completely owned online and I’m still not exactly tearing up the competition. In fact, when I first started the game, I loved the 90’s cartoon vibe and the humor, but found myself wanting to quit because of constantly getting steamrolled and the frustration inherent in that. However, once I put some time into the title and began to understand how deeply strategic the game was, I not only began to die less, but became deeply enamored with the game itself. Leveling is fun and addictive and every single character brings something to the table. I’ve heard complaints of unbalanced gameplay or overpowered characters, but so far as I’ve seen every single Awesomenaut has his Achilles heel and an opposing Awesomenaut with the skills to take him down if built right.
Normally I’m not a big fan of multiplayer only games, I prefer my gaming mostly solo, but I have found an immense amount of enjoyment in Awesomenauts. A cast of deeply customizable and unique characters leads to different matches every time, and the overall design choices as far as the strategic gameplay, tongue in cheek humor and vibrant visuals makes Awesomenauts easy to recommend for anyone willing to put a little time in. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some Awesomenaut butt to go kick. Feel free to look me up on Xbox Live, Gamertag: Mail0rderNinja, in order to steamroll me as well!
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this title was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this game the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.