If you were in the Twinfinite offices (aka Twitter, texts, and Facebook messages) recently, all you would hear is me talking about Awesomenauts. I’m not the biggest fan of downloadable games but I made an exception after I got to play it at PAX East. I talked about it very briefly in our, now classic, convention recap episode of the TSFT podcast, where I got to play it with the producer, Robin Meijer, giving me tips and explaining things right next to me. (We lost.) Unfortunately, its’ publisher, DTP Entertainment AG, filed for insolvency (bankruptcy) a few days beore it was set to be released. While this could have killed a great game, all it did was push back the release date by 24 hours. When we got the good news, I fought off the rest of the staff with a butter knife and a splintered bat to get the chance to review it.
Awesomenauts can be classified as a MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) game like League of Legends but with a 16-bit/2D platformer flair. You pick a character from a roster of six Awesomenauts, each with a basic attack, a version of jump, and two special attacks. There’s the obvious tank, healer, and stealth classes but there’s also the brawler, pusher, and support class. You get airdropped onto one of three arenas (based on locations from 80s cartoons), each with its own little quirks and obstacles, and are tasked with fighting through the enemy’s droids and turrets to reach their base and destroy their Solar drill. Solar is the in-game currency which can be collected from the floor or the exploded bodies of enemies. This is used to purchase moves and upgrades, like a speed increase or a damage boost on your basic blaster.
As the game progresses, respawn time is lengthened from instantaneous to as long as 20 seconds, which can be critical if the other team is close to destroying a turret or your Solar drill. Longer games tend to drift towards hit and run tactics as no one wants to be that one asshole who dies and leaves the team shorthanded on a crucial attack or a last ditch defense. The Awesomenauts available at early levels are more beginner friendly and others have to be unlocked through level progression.
For those looking for a plot (or even a single player mode where you do anything but compete against bots) you need to look elsewhere. You can tell Ronimo Games focused solely on making a kick-ass multiplayer game. To that end, you can create a private match for you and up to 5 friends or just jump into a quick match against other players. For the sake of balance, if one team is short a player, a bot takes up the open slot until a player is found. The bots seem to increase in difficulty depending on the level of you and your teammates, the number of bots on either team, and which team is winning at that point. I jumped into a game where my team of all humans had destroyed all the enemy turrets and were making a final push towards the drill, when two human enemy players rage-quit. The two bots that replaced them reminded me of Conan the Barbarian’s famous line, “[What is best in life is] To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their [droids].” Total time it took for us to lose after the bots came in: 45 seconds.
There is a slight balancing issue where if you are constantly dying, you can’t earn enough money to buy upgrades. If you don’t have any upgrades, the other team can easily mow you down. Which limits how much Solar you can collect, which limits which upgrades you can buy, which leads to you getting killed again. Surprisingly, this isn’t as frustrating as it sounds because you learn from every death and if you’re quick on the sticks you can usually collect Solar during your orbital drop and around the arena. At the end of the match, you are awarded experience for kills and receive a bonus for being on the winning team. Leveling up also unlocks arenas for practice mode and more powerful special attack upgrades.
The biggest shock for me was finding online players that were worth playing with. I even ventured as far as to not mute everybody I played against except my XBL friends. Since you are much more effective when working with your team, you get less of the lone wolf idiots who go off and do their own thing. Those that do show up quickly rage quit after dying repeatedly within a few minutes.
[+Fun Gameplay] [+Surprisingly Deep Upgrade System] [+Team-Focused Community] [*Lack Of Single Player] [*Increasing Respawn Timer]
I’m a huge fan of late 80s-early 90s cartoons. Everything about them, from the colorful visuals to the jamtastic music drew me in like a moth to a flame. Ronimo took everything that made those cartoons great and squeezed them all into the game. The intro video has all the hallmarks of a phenomenal old school cartoon. Colorful art, character shots, a cheesy song, a wailing guitar in the background, and a massive explosion. Needless to say, I lost my shit when I first saw it and laughed for a good 10 minutes.
The in-game animation is smooth and colorful. Even with six characters, multiple droids, arena hazards, and all the powers flashing on the screen, it’s very easy to identify which character you are and where you are. Each power is beautifully articulated; the colors and auras are distinctive even if they are layered on top of each other which sometimes happens when players start brawling in close areas. Even though this is can be considered a 2D game, certain attacks and environmental hazards have a 3D feel. I did encounter some lag when the connection was bad where players stuttered across the screen. There was only once instance where it got so bad that it booted us back to the main menu.
The sound design is genius in its use of nostalgia. The menu music sounds like an old sci-fi cartoon with its synth tones and beeps. Once you pick an Awesomenaut, character-specific background music starts up. None of the characters have any attack that sounds alike and spout off little one liners every few minutes to liven up the match. The turret fire and explosions are surprisingly realistic for a cartoony game but they don’t feel forced or out of place. If anything, they enhance the the feeling of strength from using special attacks.
One of my favorite parts of this game are the achievements. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m not an achievement whore but I want to get every single one here. Not because the requirements are unique or hard or challenging, but because they are all based on popular 80s cartoons. The names are tweaked a bit, but true fans can easily spot the nods to G.I. Joe, Transformers, and more. Some of them had me go off and look up old clips on Youtube because I had an insatiable desire to relive the Saturday morning cartoon days.
[+Best. Intro. Ever.] [+Clever Achievements] [+Fantastic Sound Effects] [+Even Better Animation] [*Occasional Lag Stutter]
Awesomenauts costs 800 MS Points on XBL or $9.99 on PSN. Each match usually goes 15-20 minutes. I played it for about 10 hours and I’m about 10 levels from the level cap. For a multiplayer focused game, this is a great price point. The replay value comes from unlocking new characters, levels, and upgrades. Ronimo has promised to support the game for the foreseeable future and has even released concept art of their next new character.
[+Lots of Unlockables] [+Future DLC Promised] [+Lengthy Matches] [+Focused On Multiplayer] [*Average Price]
Ronimo Games knocked this out of the park. This game has made me a believer in MOBA games. I haven’t found a single thing about this game that gives me pause or makes me regret playing this game, other than the fact that you’ll easily spend HOURS engrossed in match after match. I went a few rounds with fellow Twinfinite writer Josh Whitehurst and our communication quickly degraded to inarticulate yells and swearing but in a good way. I can’t recommend this game enough, especially to people who used to wake up early on Saturdays to plop down in front of the TV and watch soldiers, anthropomorphic cats, and robots all duke it out with the bad guys.
(PS: FUCK THAT MONKEY SO HARD. ASSHOLE.)
[+Fun Gameplay] [+Surprisingly Deep Upgrade System] [+Team-Focused Community] [+Best. Intro. Ever.] [+Clever Achievements] [+Fantastic Sound Effects] [+Even Better Animation] [+Lots Of Unlockables] [+Future DLC Promised] [+Lengthy matches] [+Focused on multiplayer] [*Lack Of Single player] [*Increasing Respawn Timer] [*Occasional Lag Stutter] [*Average Price]