Despite the financial problems that DTP Entertainment has had recently the release of Awesomenauts has gone off without a hitch. But is this game Awesome or does it deserve a nought?
With the bad puns out of the way let’s talk about the game. Awesomenauts is an online battle arena, bursting at the seams with personality and visual delights in the form of a really pleasing cartoony art style. It’s also a relatively fresh idea for console owners, all the game needs is a healthy and enthusiastic community behind it, they are what drives the gameplay in multiplayer titles after all.
Once you’ve started the game you’ll need to choose one of six dynamic and varied characters – each with their own theme music during loading screens – whether that be a monkey with a laser mounted to its jet-pack, a space cowboy who (for some reason) can summon a raging bull from the spirit realm, or a robot not even mega man could destroy. Once you’ve made your choice you’re thrown headfirst into matchmaking and what is essentially a king of the hill deathmatch between red & blue teams.
Awesomenauts refers to the opposing teams as the “Ones & Zeros” and in order to win all each team has to do is coordinate their efforts and unique character specific abilities to destroy the opposing base’s mining drill. Why are the ones and zeros mining liquid metal from the cores of planets? Well apparently its now the galaxy’s most valuable resource and you’re a hired mercenary whose job it is to protect it. All of this is irrelevant however, since there’s no single player narratively-driven campaign.
Each team will have help from A.I buddies and formidable turrets, but right from the get go there’s a noticeable unbalance. More experienced and leveled up players will absolutely slaughter newcomers and that’s what’s most off putting about the game. For such a simple concept (“kill everything that moves and then some”) the learning curve is frustratingly steep and, if you can, you’re best off climbing it with a friend. If you’re friendless then just be prepared to hunker down and grind your derriere off because victories don’t come easy.
The short tutorial at the start of the game does little to prepare you for the hectic and challenging online battles. You’ll need to use strategy, cunning and, most importantly, upgrades which can be bought on the fly from a brightly lit shop during a match, after collecting the game’s currency (called solar). The balance of power between teams will shift all the time but ultimately whoever earns the most solar wins, since solar lets you buy more powerful weapons and passive effects such as regenerating health or speed boosts. If you find yourself in a bind it’s best to retreat rather than become a martyr. This can be done by finding a quiet spot to rock back and forth and cry in, then teleport yourself back to the upgrade shop for heals.
It doesn’t take long for you to realise that these upgrades are more important than kills. Playing defensively takes priority since every time you die you’re dropping more money for the opposing team to use against you, upgrading their dynamite, lazer guns, acid spit and the rest of their explosively annoying arsenal.
But if you aren’t crushed by the game’s initial difficulty and enjoy a bit of grind, then you’ll be rewarded handsomely, since Awesomenauts is indeed fun, entertaining and great to look at, even more so when you’ve unlocked some of the more powerful characters. Unlocking them and other abilities is as simple as collecting XP. As is the case with most online games nowadays you’ll collect XP from everything that you do to benefit your team. When pitted against an evenly matched team you’ll find matches tend to drag out a bit and that’s where the fun factor starts to fade.
But all of that aside I’d have to say the most appealing part of the game is its presentation. Awesomenauts takes it’s theme and inspiration from those Saturday morning cartoons we all know and love. Its vibrant and detailed backdrops are complimented by the colourful explosions and interesting assortment of weapons, with the turrets taking centre stage. In fact it could’ve been an excellent kids TV show and maybe would’ve been more successful than the game could ever be.
Overall I’d have to say that the key thing that Awesomenauts is missing is a narrative. That would have been a deal breaker, especially at the price point of £9.99 (or 800 Microsoft points if you’re an Xbox owner) but that’s not what they were going for when Ronimo designed this game.
Awesomenauts’ inviting 2D visual style and fun-filled gameplay is contrasted quite harshly by the amount of strategy and grind you need to invest to get the most out of it. If you like platformers you’ll certainly enjoy this game’s well designed maps, with multiple levels, floating platforms to engage the enemy and even some traps here and there for some cheap kills. In some ways I feel like it would have made an excellent handheld game, it has a great pick up and play element if you ever feel like shooting some stuff for 10 minutes, but at the same time there’s scope to be be rewarded for investing your time and energy into it.
Gameplay:3.5/5 - It’s simple, fun and rewarding when everyone comes together for the win, but initially it’s hard to get used to and battles can become tiresome when everything goes to hell.
Sound:4/5 - The Awesomenauts soundtrack is delightfully fitting and the sound effects make it quite an enjoyable experience even if you are losing.
Graphics:3/5 - Visually this game has a lot going for it, colourful, detailed and full of personality. The lack of a third dimension hasn’t hindered things, but I do wish there were more levels to choose from.
Longevity:3/5 - You get out what you put in. Invest the time to push past the initial challenge and you’ll be rewarded with extra characters with more promised as DLC. It’s a shame there is no story based mode to play though as that could’ve significantly increased longevity.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Awesomenauts can’t justifiably call itself awesome but get some friends together and you’ll have a blast… for a short while at least.
- Adam Radcliffe