REVIEW – Awesomenauts (XBLA)

Bringing Saturday Morning To XBLA

AwesomenautBoxArt

Having already released Swords & Soldiers, Ronimo is no stranger to the 2D Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre.  Building upon this platforming brawler gameplay is Awesomenauts, an addictive and colorful title that rewards strategy and team work.

From a side scrolling perspective, three players square off against another set of three players; bots will take the place of humans if need be and each map is loaded with other NPCs.  If you can imagine a competitive Contra then you will have an understanding of the basis of gameplay – platforming, shooting, power ups, respawning lives.  The goal is to basically destroy the other team’s base, called a Drillcore.  The fun and strategy comes into play by thinking on the fly: should I attack or defend?  Retreat and heal?  Upgrade attack strength or increase defense?  Which path should I take to get to the enemy base?  The decisions to these types of constant questions will determine the outcome of most battles.

With an online battle brawler like Awesomenauts, balancing combat is critical to the overall fun and success of the game.  Luckily, everything pretty much evens out in terms of character special abilities and weapon upgrades.  The biggest aspect of success comes from teamwork; teams that work together and help each other usually win the match.  Lone wolves beware.

I must admit, when I first started playing Awesomenauts, I was almost instantly frustrated due to repeated quick deaths.  But after the two-match learning curve is completed, Awesomenauts can be pretty addicting.  Because the gameplay is well balanced, matches can easily extend past 30 minutes.  Earning enough Solar, the game’s currency, rewards the player by providing upgrades to weapons, stats, and special abilities.  These game specific upgrades not only make combat more interesting, they can very well decide the outcome of a battle and determine your overall rank.

Drawing inspiration from Saturday morning cartoons, the colorful and heavily outlined characters give the game a friendly and even humorous personality.  The voice acting was also treated with care and even the Achievements are references back to cartoons of yesteryear.  Presentation values are pretty high for a ten dollar game too.  Even the opening tutorial is quick and informative.

As awesome as Awesomenauts is, there are a couple of minor downsides.  First, the character roster and stage selection seems rather limiting.  It seems that Ronimo was a little more focused on nailing down the balance as opposed to increasing content.  But I supposed this is what paid future DLC is for, right?  And as solid as the balancing is, lower ranked players will probably have a tougher time competing against higher ranked players due to less time and experience to refine custom loadouts. But if you are willing to stick it out and learn from previous mistakes, then Awesomenauts will begin to shine.

Awesomenauts is an unexpected, peculiar, and faster paced 2D platformer that will become more addictive the more you put into it.  A niche title like this is welcomed on the XBLA and future titles are bound to draw inspiration from it.

7.75/10

Better Than: Double D Dodgeball

Also Try: Rocket Riot

Wait For It: Castle Crashers 2

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