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The developers are damn lucky that this is a good game, because with a title like that there could have been a ton of reviews that begin with “Awesome? NOT!” Fortunately for everyone, Awesomenauts starts with a good premise for gameplay and adds in a ton of funny aesthetics.
The theme song to Awesomenauts started up and suddenly I was nine years old again, sitting in front of my TV on a Saturday morning, watching cartoons. The story is that there is a grand battle in outer space between armies of droids that compete for resources. There are bands of mercenaries who will fight for either side of the war and each of these mercs is anything from a Space Cowboy to a Brain-in-a-jar to a Soviet monkey with a jetpack. Who are these bizarre space warriors? Of course they are… The Awesomnauts!
Essentially it’s League of Legends… In SPAAACE! And in 2-D. League of Legends and its ancestors like Defense of the Ancients are Action Real Time Strategy games, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games. The genre takes its influences from strategy games where players slowly accrue resources, use these to buy upgrades, then try to destroy the heart of an enemy base. All the while a nearly identical army is trying to do the same to the first team’s base.
Artificial Intelligence handles most of the work, like building and deploying groups of minions, or manning the base’s automated turrets, so this leaves players free to focus on guiding their powerful Hero unit in combat.
Awesomenauts follows this formula very closely. At the start of the match, players choose a Hero unit, one of six quirky Awesomenauts who each have a variety of unique powers, weapons, and special attacks. Each of them is tactically-suited to a particular task, like clearing minions out of the way, striking from a distance, melee combat or soaking up damage. Players have a persistant level and, as they gain Experience Points from matches, they’ll unlock new characters and features.
The two teams of Awesomenauts fight each other, but the game isn’t a death match. Players have to get past enemy droids, while safeguarding their own droids. These little bots are used as cannon fodder for enemy turrets, and any player who tries to take on a turret without cover will meet a quick death. The teams must systematically destroy enemy turrets along multiple paths, ultimately reaching the core of the enemy base and destroying it.
While it can be played alone against AI, It has to be emphasized that this is a multiplayer product. The offline mode is really just for training, and the experience has been designed specifically for online multiplayer mayhem. There is a local split-screen mode too, but the real fun comes from the 3 Versus 3 online mode where every Awesomenaut is controlled by a human being.
Gamers who are already familiar with League of Legends and other such games should take note of a few features. Notably the transfer to a 2-D side-scrolling format. This adds in good deal of distinction to Awesomenauts when compared to the typical overhead view used by other such games. Jumping becomes a factor, and different characters can upgrade their jump/flight abilities for tactical advantage.
There’s also the change from the typical fantasy setting to science fiction, and the use of more light-hearted character designs. These goofy cartoons add a sense of humor to the game (And experienced LoL and DotA players know that some people take those games a little too seriously).
At the moment, the character roster is very small when compared to the multitudes of playable characters in DotA and LoL, but the available Awesomenauts are diverse, and each serves a clear purpose in battle. Still, no one should be surprised if the developer, Ronimo Games, releases more characters in a DLC packs in the future.
Console gamers who’ve never tried this sort of game should definitely give Awesomenauts a try (There is a reason why this genre of gaming is so popular). League of Legends fans who are looking for a little more action and humor in their games might be interested in it as well.
Awesomenaughts is available now for XBLA and PSN.