What do you get when you cross an 80s style intro with funky animation, powerups, and insane multiplayer side-scrolling game play? You get Awesomenauts, of course. You could also get a lemon meringue pie if you get the ingredients wrong, but mostly you’ll get Awesomenauts. I took to the battleground to see what this game was all about.
It’s not often that you see team-based competitive side scrolling games, so for me, Awesomenauts turned out to be a fairly unique experience. Think Warcraft’s Defense of the Ancients, just as a 2D side scroller with a futuristic setting and colorful graphics, and you’ll come a little closer to understanding what Awesomenauts is like. For those of you who are still confused, let me go all the way back to the beginning. Awesomenauts is a team-based, 3-vs-3 battle game. To begin, you select one of the Awesomenauts to play as, and as a team, you need to simultaneously attack the opposing team’s base and defend yours. Each of the Awesomenauts that you can choose have different strengths and roles, and when you select one, that Awesomenaut becomes unavailable for selection by your team mates. When the game starts, you’re dropped from orbit, giving you the chance to collect the game’s equivalent of cash (“Solar”). Your team base serves as a way of healing yourself, as well as as a shop that allows you to upgrade yourself and your weapons using the cash you’ve collected around the level.
Littering the game’s levels are defense turrets. Your turrets will need occasional defending, and your opponent’s turrets need destroying, allowing you to come closer to the base. The turrets do insane amounts of damage, and this is where teamwork starts coming into play. Yes, the game automatically generates robots that can take the damage for you, but you can only hide behind them when you’re attacking a turret unopposed. The opposing team will, of course, defend their turrets, so you need to start battling it out with the others while defending the turrets, while healing your own. It gets quite hairy at times. I mentioned a shop earlier, and the shop simultaneously heals you and allows you to spend Solar to upgrade. An early unlock in the game allows you to select the kinds of weapons and upgrades that appear in the shop, and this too becomes a heavy strategy element. What you choose and what your allies choose will influence the way you play as a team. Players who select without thought are not going to make it through alive. As are players who try to go it alone. Teamwork is such an important aspect of the game that you really cannot play successfully without it.
As you may have noticed, the entire review discusses the multiplayer features of the game without really delving into the single player campaign, and that’s essentially because there isn’t one. Oh, there’s a tutorial that you can play to give you an idea of the basics of the game, and there are offline maps to play that can be filled with AI players, but there’s no cohesive story or campaign to play through. All the story you’re going to get is contained in the game’s introduction. But, damn, what an introduction! The entire sequence is styled as the intro to an old 80s Saturday morning cartoon, and gives you an idea of who and what the Awesomenauts are. I was quite disappointed to find, after all that, just how little story there is to be had. I’d have loved to know about the personalities of each of them, instead of going by the way they play. The best thing about Awesomenauts (fun, colorful graphics aside) is just how social it can get. It makes for something amazing to play when you’re together with a bunch of friends. The game supports split-screen local as well as the online portion. I was quite happy to discover that there was very little in the way of griefing to be had–there’s no way to overtly screw over your team mates (beyond the obvious lone wolf tactics and not playing, you know, as a team). What’s more, pulling off lone wolf stunts does more to get yourself murgulated than to do your team any lasting harm–provided they’re not also all pulling off lone wolf tactics.
On the down side, Awesomenauts is not that much fun as a solo game. If you don’t plan on playing with other people, prepare to be slightly disappointed. Without the teamwork and social interaction, the game becomes stale very quickly, especially with the AI the way it is. On the other hand, there were plenty of players online when I gave the online multiplayer a try, so there’s very little reason to go it alone. Is Awesomenauts worth buying? If you’re one of those gamers who likes to go against armies alone, you are unlikely to find Awesomenauts rewarding at all. However, if you have a regular team of friends to play with and against, the game can be pretty…well…awesome. It’s got a lot of fun weapons, and the gameplay is fairly “jump in and play” without getting bogged down in crazy amounts of learning overhead. It’s got a fair amount of replay value too, since it can take a while to learn how to play with each of the various Awesomenauts, and even longer to level them all up sufficiently to swap and change between them at will. It’s not 100% awesome, but it makes a pretty decent attempt.
Final Score: 7 Awesome prawns out of 10
Developer: Ronimo Games
Publisher: dtp Entertainment AG
Platform: PSN (reviewed), XBLA
RRP: R125 (PSN), 1200 MSP (XBLA)
Age Rating: Teen