When you first boot up Awesomenauts, you’ll think that you’re watching a 1980s cartoon. The setup for the game is that in the distant future, two robotic droid armies are locked in an enduring war and only the elite group of mercenaries, The Awesomenauts, can help turn the tide of battle. The opening cinematic, bizarre characters and stereotypical voice-overs instantly harken back to the Saturday morning cartoons that everyone who is now in their 20s to 30s grew up watching. If Awesomenauts was on TV back then, I most certainly would have watched it. It’s corny, but it’s all in good fun and serves as a great reason to face off in a tug-of-war battle online against friends.
[private_insider] The best thing about Awesomenauts is that it is one of the few 2D platform deathmatch games available on consoles. There are a few games that feature this core mechanic (Take Arms and ZP2KX on XBLIG come to mind) but Awesomenauts is the only one out there that throws in RPG elements, character abilities and a great deal of strategy into the mix. The game is incredibly easy to pick up and play and each match is drop-in/drop-out. Each face button is mapped to an attack or jumps and the left stick moves you around.
Before entering battle, you’ll have to select one of the Awesomenauts – each come comes with their own unique abilities and upgrades. Clunk is the lumbering dreadnaught, Leon is a sneaky chameleon ninja, Froggy G is quick with mad hops, Sheriff Lonestar is a good overall soldier, Voltar acts as a medic and Yuri the monkey can lay mine traps and has a jetpack! Each character plays incredibly differently and has their own set of abilities (that you select before a match), but there are still some balancing issues. Yuri seems to be utterly useless unless you’re standing by a turret and Froggy G’s Dash is overly deadly.
Despite the balance issues, Awesomenauts is still a joy to play. Each spawn starts with an exciting ride down to the battlefield in a dropship. The graphics are colorful and vibrant and the action on the screen can get incredibly hectic and filled with special effects, explosions, and AI-controlled bots. Another highlight of the game is the hilarious one-liners of each character. From the French-speaking ninja chameleon to the southern drawl of the space sheriff, each character is full of entertaining dialog.
Awesomenauts is more about survival than kills. The objective of each map is to destroy the other team’s base and the easiest way to do that is by collecting solar (the game’s currency) and upgrading your character’s abilities. Smart players will quickly learn that fleeing behind a turret and teleporting back to the base is a great way to live and fight another day. Skilled players work together as a team to take out enemy turrets that block their progress and rarely die. This may turn off some people who are more into kill counts than death ratios. Not to mention that this strategy element is especially frustrating when you’re without friends or on a team that doesn’t understand this concept.
If you can stick with Awesomenauts though, there is a lot of fun to be had. The six existing characters offer a great variety of play styles and the game promises that more ‘nauts are coming soon. Even if you’re getting your ass handed to you by skilled players, you’re constantly unlocking new abilities, maps and characters with the player experience system. It’s also a huge bonus that Awesomenauts supports local play so that you can enjoy the game outside of the online frag fest.
Awesomenauts has its flaws; it would be great to have more maps (there’s only a handful), characters could be more balanced, and things can certainly be frustrating if you’re not on a good team. The important thing is that the awesomeness greatly outweighs the bad. The developer, Ronimo, can always add more maps, characters, and balance the game. The core game is immensely fun and offers a different type of multiplayer deathmatch game that is currently under-represented on consoles.
More information on Awesomenauts can be found on the game’s official website.[review pros="Incredibly addictive, quick/easy matchmaking, character variety, strategic multiplayer" cons="Lack of levels and game modes, some character inbalance, rewards running away too much" score=88] [/private_insider]