The 2D-shooter Awesomenauts is absurd, frantic, and fun to play. The constant challenge of trying to capture an enemy’s base leads to some truly entertaining online matches. As one of the first console-based “multiplayer online battle-arena” games, it is held back by the concessions the developers had to make and the difficulty new players will have to endure. Oversimplifying a traditionally complicated game structure leads to opening up a genre rarely seen on consoles, but it does water down a usually rich gaming experience.
The essence of the gameplay is that players and their AI companions must try to smash through the opposing team. Whichever side does this first wins. Despite the seeming simplicity, Awesomenauts crafts a surprisingly rich tactical layer around the game. Paths can be blocked by turrets, hidden routes allow players to outmaneuver their foes, and there are spawn points where extra help can be summoned. However, there is more to the game than just an offensive perspective. You must construct a base around your own core to prevent other players from taking you out. There is plenty of strategy in deciding which upgrades to pick and how to balance your efforts, whether it be offensively based or defensively based.
Your primary objective is to take out the core in your opponent’s base, and in getting to that point, you realize the true beauty of Awesomenauts. As crazy as the game can get, you always have to think and play strategically. A headlong rush will get you nowhere as you advance; you’ll have to be much more strategic than that. There’s a rewarding nature to the game in that your effort will reflect in the amount of enjoyment you get out of it. This is also one of the game’s greatest weaknesses, particularly for new players. Gamers who have horded vast amounts of solar (the game’s currency) and have upgraded extensively will make short work of newcomers. This is particularly true of the unlockable heroes, whose talents and strengths are vastly superior to the limited number of characters initially available. The later characters in the game give battles a massive imbalance. They will quite literally rip through your team with a combination of superior weaponry and powers.
Again, this is one of the first MOBA games on consoles, so it may not be to everyone’s taste. The matches are fun, but if you have a craving for a story, a great plot twist, or deep character development, you probably won’t find much to like in Awesomenauts. This isn’t Awesomenauts‘ fault so much as that of the MOBA genre as a whole. However, this title does a nice job of simplifying the genre, so if you are curious about this kind of game, this makes an excellent starting point.
It’s a bright, cartoonish game, but it’s unforgiving for novices, which may well put players off. If you do stick with it, you’ll realize just how vital it is to play with others. Certainly don’t rely on the bots and make sure you have friends to play with, because without them, Awesomenauts can be a real chore to find any enjoyment out of. If you can manage to do some planning beforehand and get a little practice in, there is a solid MOBA-style game that’s certainly worth playing; that is, if you can invest the time and effort.
Awesomenauts is a game that rewards you the more you play. If you like the genre and are looking for something a little different, this might just be the game for you, but there’s a decent chance that the high initial difficulty will put you off. If you can make it through your initiation, you’ll find a fun 2D-fighter that will happily absorb your time.
This review is based on a review copy of the Xbox 360 version of Awesomenauts by Ronimo Games distributed by Digital Entertainment Pool.