Awesomenauts (XBLA) Review

With a name like “Awesomenauts”, I instantly wanted to know more about this new downloadable title for the Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA). After watching the games trailer several weeks ago, which oozes with 80’s cartoon nostalgia with its catchy theme song and beautiful cartoon visuals I knew I had to play it. After many late nights over the past week playing a lot longer than I intended, I am left with the conclusion Awesomenauts is an excellent multiplayer title that is truly a blast to play.

Awesomenauts is a brand new Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game from developer Ronimo. MOBA is a game type that is usually played in a Real Time Strategy style – top down perspective; however, Ronimo changes up the formula by presenting Awesomenauts as a 2D side scrolling game, which adds a whole new platforming element. In Awesomenauts players are placed in two teams of three with the goal of destroying the opponent’s Solar Drill, while keeping theirs intact. On each the three maps there are two different paths, called lanes, to the Solar Drill. These lanes are guarded by impassable turrets that must be destroyed in order to progress. Trying to take on a turret head on is usually a bad idea which almost always results in death, but fortunately your team is supported by AI controlled droids who move down each lane drawing fire from the turrets. These droids constantly respawn from both sides at regular intervals, and march straight to the enemy base clashing head-to-head with rival droids on the way. The Droid do not have a lot of life and are easily killed by players, but are essential to taking down turrets. This leads to a delicate balance in gameplay where not only do you have to worry about the opposing players, but also you will want to destroy enemy droids while keeping your droids alive till they reach the turrets.

As players destroy droids and kill players they collect Solar, the currency used in the game, which allows them to purchase upgrades from the store. With each new game players start with nothing and will have to earn the upgrades during the game again. Before each game you can customize your load-out, selecting which upgrades can be bought in the store. This allows you to tailor your upgrades to your play style. You do have an overall player level that you level up from playing games.  It allows you to unlock additional characters and upgrades that you can select for your load-outs.

Players will take control of one of six Awesomenauts characters. The Awesomenauts are a colourful band of mercenaries each with a unique personality, from the Space Sheriff, to the Hip Hop Frog, or even the Russian monkey with a laser shooting Jetpack. The characters all seem really balanced and each has their own strength and weaknesses. Each character also has their own special powers and abilities to fill different roles. Only one player can pick a certain Awesomenaut per team, meaning each of the three players on a team must pick a different one. This allows players to pick a team that compliments each other and suits certain roles. I find that the abilities really complement each other as well. The Hulking Robot Clunk has the ability to detonate a huge explosion, but it takes time to charge up and Clunk is pretty slow which allows enemies to move out the way. Leon Chameleon has an ability that allows him to use his tongue to pull enemies towards him. Working together Leon can pull a fleeing enemy right back in to Clunk’s blast radius where he can dish out some massive damage.  Controls are really simple with just the left stick being used to move around and the 4 face buttons allowing you to jump, attack and use one of the two characters special abilities. Bottom line, the games controls are really easy for anyone to pick up.

Awesomenauts is strictly a multiplayer title. There is no single player campaign and there is only a light story to add purpose to the matches. You can play private matches online with friends; and split screen against bots.  The split screen matches against bots are a lot tougher than expected, but are still predictable and will not give the same experience as playing against human opponents.  There is also an offline practice mode as well. You can still level up your Awesomenauts profile in practice which is a nice option if you find playing online against players a little too difficult right off the hop. It is little disappointing that there is only the three maps to play on but hopefully more will be added later.

The art style of Awesomenauts is great. The game has a very colourful cartoon feel, and the characters and environments have tons of personality injected in them. The sounds in the game are fantastic as well with each character having cheesy one liners and their own theme song.

Overall, Awesomenauts for XBLA is a highly enjoyable multiplayer game with a ton of personality. The game looks great, each character has a unique style and the game is nicely priced at 800 Microsoft Points. If you looking for strictly a single player experience then Awesomenauts is not for you; however, if you are looking for a fresh and unique multiplayer game I highly recommend Awesomenauts, especially if you have friends to play with. This is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer games I have played in a long time and Awesomenauts is a great addition to the MOBA genre.


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