Awesomenauts? More like… Pretty Good… Nauts.
I was really really hoping that Awesomenauts, Ronimo’s new 2D multiplayer online battle arena game for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, was going to be either absolutely exceptional or a pile of garbage. That way, I could punch up my opening with “Awesomenauts is AWESOME!” or “Awesomenauts is awesome…naut!” respectively for a hilarious laugh. Instead, this game is just pretty damn good, which is fine by me.
The game punches you in the face with personality the second you turn it on. The over-the-top 1980s Saturday morning cartoon-style animated opening sets up the simple premise: competing teams are trying to conquer the galaxy, they hire the AWESOMENAUTS to do their bidding. The opening promises a game bursting with personality and charm, and boy does it deliver.
This game is straight-up multiplayer. With the exception of a brief tutorial, there is no single-player campaign to speak of. You can either play online, split-screen, or both. The game’s team-based combat pits two teams of three against each other to take down the opposing team’s defenses and destroy their base. The characters are class-based, and every character is unique in both play style and personality.
Each character even has their own theme song in Awesomenauts! There’s the straight-shootin’ cowboy Lonestar (who sounds frighteningly like a bad Chris Rock impersonator), the melee-based chameleon Leon, and the hip urban frog Froggy G who pulls opponents in with his long tongue. Continue to level up and you’ll unlock more characters, like my personal favorite, the healer Voltar. He has no weapons, so when he’s attacked, he just screams “UNARMED!” in hopes his enemies will feel sympathetic and back off. I love it.
In every game, you start with 200 Solar, the currency being battled for in the game. You use Solar to upgrade your abilities – you can add exciting abilities to your special moves, increase your maximum health, or improve the damage you deal. It’s up to you, and it only lasts for the match, letting you customize the best strategy for your favorite character. Every character has his advantage, and there really is something there for everyone. I didn’t think I clicked well with any character until I unlocked Voltar, and suddenly I was winning almost every match I had! Every player will find a way to master the character that’s best for them, and once you do, the game becomes a LOT more fun.
This game is different than most multiplayer ones on the market. Racking up kills is not the key to success. There really is a focus on strategy and working together to take down the other team’s defenses and base. If you just run around killing everyone else, the game will last forever. Sometimes you’ll go against a team of kids thinking they’re playing a 2D Call of Duty with space cartoon characters and end up having an eternal deathmatch. But, get placed with the right team and the right opponents, you’ll have a relatively slow-paced, methodical, and intelligent multiplayer battle that can break into utter chaos and destruction at the most beautiful moments. I was satisfied as often as I was frustrated.
Matches last anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes, and you’re probably going to die a lot if you aren’t thinking. One way to avoid that is by teleporting back to your base to recharge your health; but if you do that, you have to fight your way back to where you were and potentially screw over teammates you could have died alongside like a hero. If you do die, you respawn in a rocketship that has to crash land its way back to your base. Continue dying, and your respawn time gets longer and longer. It’s incredibly irritating waiting 20 seconds to fly a ship to get to your base and spend some Solar, but the game is simply employing tough love to make you think as you play. Oh, and on a side note, listen to how the game announcer says “two” when counting down. He sounds like he’s spitting.
The impatient player may get a lot of kills in Awesomenauts, but they won’t get much else out of the game. Long sessions of hard work, slowly breaking down each enemy turret typically culminate in gigantic, explosive battles that will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you practice patience, you’ll find there’s a lot to love in Awesomenauts.
The game’s visuals are great, though in a style we’ve seen many times before. It’s simple Flash-style animation, but characters look great and come to life. Unfortunately, the environments lack the same great design as the characters. Levels are interchangeable space stations with only two or three actual arenas to compete. It would have been nice if the levels had a bit more in the way of structural design, as it could have allowed for more strategy and added to the longevity of the game. The music is fantastic, but doesn’t really fit the nature of the gameplay all that much. However, that can easily be forgiven, because the opening theme song is excellent.
As someone who typically refuses to play multiplayer games, I had a surprising amount of fun with Awesomenauts. Some matches are a little one-sided off the bat, but a great match can be a tense and exciting 30 minutes that’ll make you want to high five your teammates and opponents alike. Fun, smart, and bursting with personality, Awesomenauts is a multiplayer game worth the time of anyone sick of the same old thing. You may not play it for months and months, but my time with it was well spent.
But hey – if you see me online, keep your hands off Voltar. He’s MINE.