The introduction to Awesomenauts sets the stage for a Saturday morning cartoon themed video game. What you get is a surprisingly strategic action game caked in good humor.
It’s the year 3587, conflict spans the stars…
Awesomenauts is a 2D MOBA title from Ronimo Games, whose former digital effort was Swords & Soldiers. S&S is a 2D RTS game that puts you in control of an entire army fighting to reach and destroy the opposing team’s base. Awesomenauts takes a few of the finer ingredients from S&S and tosses them into a magical blender with pieces of the Defense of the Ancients line of games (HoN, LoL, MNC, etc.). The result is a well-balanced dish that provides all of the nutritional value of a five star game. In gamer terms, I haven’t stopped playing it since it released. I think of strategies when I’m not playing, and the game even managed to pull us at PSNStores away from our usual (PAYDAY) Heist sessions.
In Awesomenauts, you play as one of six cosmic bounty hunters. Team up with two other ‘nauts and fight against an opposing team of three players. The objective is to navigate lanes, take down turrets, and eventually destroy the enemy’s drillcore. Awesomenauts supports mixed multiplayer, so you can have up to three people playing on your PS3 and still go online to challenge other players. After you choose a character, you then choose three upgrades from each of four rows to bring into the match with you. This makes up your shop, which is located behind your base. It’s accessible after spawning or teleporting back to base. You also have the opportunity to shop from the dropship if your respawn time is greater than eight seconds, making the otherwise frustrating downtime fly by. The currency within the game is Solar. It’s scattered about the maps and can also be gained by killing creeps and enemies. Each character has two special abilities that can be purchased in game.
The six characters are:
Clunk – The tank type character, which means he’s got a lot of health and packs an average punch. Clunk can bite enemies to deal damage and leech life. He also has an explosive attack that deals slight damage to himself and major damage to proximal enemies.
Froggy G – A swift character who relies on guerilla fighting tactics and status distorting abilities. His two abilities are a dash that stuns and a tornado that deals damage to touching enemies.
Yuri – A floating space monkey with a laser-beam shooting jetpack attached to his back. He summons auras that cause different effects. Yuri also deals damage by dropping mines.
Leon – A French chameleon direct damage character with typical rogue abilities. He can stealth, which leaves a visible dummy clone behind, and backstab (attacks from behind deal extra damage). Leon also has a tongue snatching ability that pulls an enemy to him.
Voltar – The self-proclaimed brains of the operation, Voltar is a brain in a jar perched atop a robe-clad body. He’s a support character who gains solar from healing allies. He also spawns drones that hover around him and shoot enemies when within range. He hovers like Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2.
Lonestar – Sheriff Lonestar is an interesting blend of offense and defense. His raging bull ability can be used to push back enemies and deal damage, but it can also be used to entrap enemies by pushing them into turrets. His dynamite ability is purely offensive and can be upgraded to bounce and deal major splash damage.
The Awesomenauts are unique in more ways than their skillsets. Through their inventive characters, Ronimo has done a great job crafting a hilarious game. The character designs are seriously funny. The upgrades for each character are humorous nods tailored to him. For instance, Froggy G’s upgrades are a variety of rap music inspired doohickeys such as ‘Hammer pants’ and a ‘Clock necklace.’ I constantly smile while playing as Leon. From his tiny French mustache to the romantic love song that plays during the loadout and loading screens, Leon is a riot. His upgrades include ‘Pinot noir,’ which allows Leon to regenerate health while cloaked, and ‘Cheese and garlic mints,’ which adds a silencing effect to the tongue snatch move. I hark on the characters because they’re so fully formed. Each character has a different set of sayings that spew out during gameplay, character-specific theme songs play during killstreaks, and, perhaps most importantly, they all play differently.
Awesomenauts doesn’t lose much of the strategy of the ARTS genre by making the move to two dimensions. If anything, it simplifies the complex balancing act that is so integral to the MOBA equation. This isn’t just a HoN-turned-2D game. You can’t see what characters the opposing team chooses and your team doesn’t choose in a set order, so the whole matchup strategy aspect of the game doesn’t exist. You will, then, have to adjust your strategy on the fly; in game. There were games when I’d come up against a quick-striking Leon and decided I’d increase my movement speed earlier than usual in order to retreat if he turned his sword on me. Your character gains levels within each match, but there is also an overall experience meter that fills up after each match ends. The unlock system is interesting because you don’t upgrade one character by playing him often. Rather, the upgrades for all characters are placed at different levels. For example, the Piggy Bank upgrade (for all Awesomenauts) is located at around level 4. Voltar’s ‘Warpgate overdrive’ upgrade unlocks at level 39, though, so you’ll have to play a lot to be able to use it when playing as him. You won’t necessarily have to play as him, though. All of the upgrades seem to be placed where they should be, with more powerful and advanced unlocks becoming available later on. There are 45 levels total. When you reach level 45, you have to ability to ‘prestige’, which resets your overall level, forfeits all of the upgrades earned, but stamps a shiny star next to your username when it’s viewed on the leaderboards or in-game. It sounds silly, I know, but the allure of letting everyone know you’re a boss is tough to resist.
The only potential problems come in longterm play. At the time of this review, there are only three maps, so playing the same maps over and over may feel repetitive. I’m sure this problem will be relieved over time with additional maps becoming available through DLC. The same can be said about the characters, though I think six will provide more than enough mileage. Awesomenauts isn’t perfect. When we played, Chris, Brad, and I came across some connection issues. There were also times when we would join a game in session only to be defeated less than a minute into the match. The game’s matchmaking isn’t extraordinary. It often tosses you into a game filled with bots and then populates it with people as they join. The drop-in/drop-out part of this system is fantastic, but it causes some awkward moments. For example, there were a few times when I’ve been in combat with a bot who suddenly disappeared because it was replaced by a human. Similarly weird occasions have occured, but not regularly. Not enough, at least, to curb my desire to play more.
The introduction to Awesomenauts sets the stage for a Saturday morning cartoon themed video game. What you get is a surprisingly strategic action game caked in good humor. For a 2D game, it sure boasts a cast of 3-dimensional characters. Special mention must go to Sonic Picnic for their excellent audio work. The game is a visual treat and it certainly plays well, but without Sonic Picnic’s sound design it just wouldn’t be the same. It’s even worth it to check out the credits, if only to hear the easy listening love ballad “You Will Always Be My Only Awesomenaut.” There will always be only one Awesomenauts on the PlayStation Network, and you’d be nuts not to at least give it a test drive.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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Release Date:May 2012
Players:1-3 (local and online)