A subgenre that has experienced tremendous growth and popularity in recent years is the MOBA, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game. Games like Defense of the Ancients focus on having two competing teams try to take out their opponents’ base or an equivalent of some sort, while taking each other out in the process. Now, Ronimo Games is stepping up to bat with the downloadable game, Awesomenauts, with a unique 2D take on the genre that works pretty well.
There is very little in the way of a narrative or campaign. When you first start the game up, you play a brief tutorial level with narration that gets you used to the basics of the gameplay. After it ends, you immediately go to the main menu, consisting of matchmaking, leaderboards, and options. While it would have been nice to have some sort of campaign to better ease players into the game and give them some experience before going online, it still makes sense why there isn’t one: the gameplay isn’t hard to get the hang of.
Each level takes place on an entirely two-dimensional side-scrolling plane, complete with hand-drawn, cartoony characters and backgrounds. Players start in a rocket that plummets to the arena’s surface, and respawn the same way if they are killed. Playing as one of six different character types (half of these are locked at the beginning,) the two teams of three traditionally start on opposite ends of the map. Each team has a base with a drill in the center and automated machine gun turrets guarding the entrance. It’s up to them to fight through the opposing forces as well as their defenses, and to ultimately destroy the drill to win the match.
Players are not completely alone, as two additional types of characters also reside on each map. Local alien wildlife can be destroyed for health power-ups, and color-coded droids aligned with each team automatically walk towards the turrets, and once there, can be used as shields while the opposing team destroys each turret. However, droids can be destroyed by the opposing team, so they are not a guarantee for an easy victory. Also littered throughout each level is Solar, the game’s sole currency. Players can choose to teleport back to the main base at any time, both to regain health before they die and to use a store menu. There, they can spend the Solar they’ve accumulated on various new ability enhancements for whatever character type they’re playing as. Using the right power-up can be the key to coming out on top in a skirmish.
Both local and online mutiplayer are supported, with up to three players able to combine as a local team, work together in an online battle with six separate players, or play with a mix of both local and online participants. The game cleverly uses a well-done system where a player can instantly join a match in progress and replace an A.I. controlled character if there are not six human players in the match already. If a player chooses to leave, the A.I. will automatically take back control of their character. Finally, if the host leaves, the game will momentarily pause and select another one instead of ending the match prematurely. It’s a nice workaround for what could have been something problematic.
Like many modern multiplayer games, Awesomenauts makes use of an experience and leveling system. Depending on how you do in a match, you’re awarded points at the end, which build up a bar on the bottom of the screen. Once you’ve hit the end of the bar, you level up, and unlock additional characters and items. This has always been a good incentive to keep playing a multiplayer game, and here, it’s no exception.
Awesomenauts has a unique presentation to it. Upon start-up, a fully animated intro theme song plays out, purposefully evoking older Saturday morning cartoons like Thundercats or G.I. Joe with its style. The character designs are inspired and fun, though the few lines of spoken dialogue they get can be hard to hear. It’s a fun game to look at.
If the game has any major flaws, it’s in its long-term appeal. Though the separate maps each bring some unique factors to the table, and despite the fun of testing each character out and choosing favorites, the gameplay is ultimately very simple and won’t change much from match to match. It’s a game that is much better suited for picking up and playing in short bursts than it is for playing for long stretches of hours.
Awesomenauts is a solid entry in the MOBA genre that also separates itself from the rest of the pack due to its 2D style of graphics and gameplay. Its simplicity and repetitive nature make it well-suited for the cheaper price a downloadable game can bring, and if you consider yourself a fan of this type of game, it’s worth checking out.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.