Review: Awesomenauts!

Pre-release Impressions

Awesomenauts wasn’t even on my radar until a couple of weeks before the game released in May.  However, after watching some of the teaser videos, my interest was piqued enough to grab the demo and try it out.  I enjoyed the limited amount the demo showed and it was free for PS Plus members ($9.99 for non-Plussers).  Then it fell off my radar because something new and shiny came along...30 times.  Now I’m back to give it an honest chance.

Story/Premise

There isn’t much of a story per se aside from two factions battling over Solar – a valuable resource that also acts as a currency.  There is a bit of a tutorial the first time you boot up the game that explains exactly why you should want to blast the other team and take their Solar.  It reminds me of the games of generations long since passed – 30 seconds to a minute of “story” and then straight into the game. 

Gameplay

Awesomenauts is a team battle game that takes place in a finite space - also known as Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA).  Each game is 3-versus-3 in which you try to fight you way into the other team’s base and destroy their Solar drill.  In order to do that, players will need to destroy the opposing team’s robots, several turrets defending the base and enemy players themselves. 

The stages the battles occur in have multiple vertical levels on which to do battle providing several avenues of attack.  There are eight characters to choose from – three initially unlocked and 5 that become unlocked as you level up.  It only takes a few matches to unlock a new character and all are unlocked by the time you reach level 15.  The characters are varied and each one can employ multiple strategies. From the big, slow, powerful robot that can detonate himself to damage nearby enemies to the speedy snow boarder who specializes in quick turret destruction, each character has a unique feel.  As you level up, abilities are unlocked that can be chosen to make up a load out to be used during battle.  This allows for more customization and specialization.  The thing about the loadout, though, is that each ability must be purchased from a store front as you collect Solar.  The store can be accessed after respawning or by warping back from the battlefield.  Again, this adds another level of strategy to the game.  It also forces you to actively participate in battle to collect Solar and be able to afford power-ups.

Co-op/Online/Multiplayer

Awesomenauts is all about playing with your friends against people online or bots.  There are several options to choose from when you boot up the game.  These include Practice, Private and Public.  If you play with two buddies the screen is divided into four, but I personally found that playing with one other person to provide optimal viewing area – top/bottom split.

Practice mode is played offline with up to three players split-screen against bots that offer a slightly less difficult challenge than the online bots.  This mode is perfect for your first foray into gameplay.  It offers a relatively safe environment for you to become accustomed with the controls and the different characters.  This is where I started.

Private mode occurs online with up to three players split-screen as well.  The main difference is that you can invite friends to help your team.  The bots are also a little more difficult than in Practice mode.

In public mode, you join games with open slots just like most other multiplayer games.  This is where the big boys play which I am apparently not.  I struggle against the people who have been playing this since its release.  Nonetheless, it is still worthwhile to try this mode out as it will force you to play a tighter game and will expose you to strategies that you may not have come across otherwise.  Once you see something new, take it back to the Practice/Private mode and try it out or develop a strategy against it.

One thing to note is that I was unable to find a way to have six friends playing 3-on-3.

Graphics

Awesomenauts looks great.  It has a hand-drawn cartoony style that really helps to add to the fun atmosphere.  The only issue I had was when playing three player split-screen.  It seemed like there was some ghosting or frame-rate drop or something going on that wasn’t quite right.  It might just have been my TV, but it wasn’t bad enough to affect my gameplay experience. 

Audio

The theme song for Awesomenauts is over the top and totally works.  For lack of a better term it’s awesome.  Give it a listen either with the game highlighted on the XMB or in the games main menu.

The in game audio is nothing special.  An announcer will call out important things like player kills, turrets being attacked and enemies in your base.  When playing alone in private mode, I found that I would usually have some music or a podcast playing instead of listening to the game music and sound effects.

Kid/Family-Friendly

This game is the type of game you can play with your kids, family members or whomever.  Due to the cartoony nature of the action and violence, I wouldn’t be worried about it offending anyone.  I didn't have any issues with loudmouth jerks while playing online, but that's not to say it won't happen.  I would hope that this style of game wouldn't attract those types.

Trophies

As a quick aside for those of you who enjoy trophy hunting, the trophies in Awesomenauts are relatively easy to acquire.  They mostly fall into the category of “Play the game, get the trophies.”  The gold trophy for reaching level 45 can be considered a “grinding” trophy which I think is partly true.  As you level up, you unlock character abilities that can be used in battle.  The final character ability unlocks at level 45 so there is incentive to fully level up.  If you win every match, it should take you roughly 40 matches to reach level 45.

Lasting Impressions – One Week Later

The first night I started playing, I played for four hours without even noticing.  I think currently I’ve spent about 15 hours with this game because it’s so easy to jump in for 20 minutes or an hour.  Despite reaching level 45, I will likely play some more Public matches to hone my skill and discover new strategies.

The beauty of Awesomenauts, aside from the actual gameplay, is the depth.  It can be as deep as you want or just a nice diversion to kill an hour here and there.

Recommendation

Awesomenauts was free for people with PS Plus and $9.99 for everyone else.  If you have any interest in trying this out, grab the demo.  If you like the demo or enjoy MOBA-style games, buy the full game.  At the very least, play until all the characters are unlocked and give each one a try for a couple of matches. Doing only this will justify the price tag.  Invite your friends over to try the split-screen and online modes.  Most of all – don’t be afraid to experiment.

*For the purpose of this interview, the PS3 version was used. Xbox 360 and PC versions are also available

*Pictures were obtained directly from the media section of the Awesomenauts website