by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Old school qualities
A battle opens up like an early morning weekend cartoon. A conflict that spans the stars as huge robot armies are locked in an enduring stalemate. It could be the plot straight out of a Transformers storybook. In their bid for galactic supremacy, the combatants call upon the most powerful group of mercenaries in the universe: the Awesomenauts. This is where you come in. As one of the Awesomenauts, it is up to you to help break the deadlock. This fun console game has now hit the PC.
For those unfamiliar with the console versions, gamers in Awesomenauts get to choose from one of eight playable characters (up from the six originally available on the console versions). Although some are initially unavailable, each has their own back-story and unique talents and abilities. Froggy G, for instance, is a fast moving melee fighter with a special charging attack. Lonestar, a galactic cowboy, is a bit slower but can shoot from a distance, can throw sticks of dynamite and can summon a hologram bull that can clear enemies from his path. Voltar is another medium speed characters, but can heal both himself and his allies and can create special robotic drones that will fight for him.
Although there is a practice zone where you can learn the ropes, the games are three-on-three online matches (where bots can make up the numbers until someone jumps in) where the ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy base. Of course, the other team stands in your way. But also there are numerous turrets that protect the base area from being penetrated. Winning will come from a combination of individual brilliance and superb teamwork. In some cases, the make-up of the team can be the overriding factor in determining the victor.
Awesomenauts can definitely be a tough game to get into initially. Learning the nuances of the maps, the characters and the controls against other gamers who have already had some time with the game can be a baptism of fire. The first few games whilst you gain some experience will ultimately be providing little more than target practice for other experienced gamers, already adept at the game.
Of course, with more play comes more experience. As you complete matches, you will actually gain XP points towards the next level. Once the level is reached, new characters become available for you to play. Itís not just that though.
I mentioned earlier that each playable character have their own unique abilities and talents. They, in fact, have four categories in which they can be further customised, each with up to six upgrades. Not all upgrades are available right from the start: new bonus items for each of the characters become unlocked at certain stages, greatly enhancing your ability in play. But although the upgrades may be unlocked, each character can still only choose three from each category to use in a particular battle.
To balance these superior upgrades, the developers have made most of these bonus items more expensive to purchase whilst playing, meaning that youíll all be starting out on a relatively even footing at the start of the match. As the battle begins, characters all begin without the upgrades as they must then be opened up during the battle by collecting coins found scattered around the battlefield or from vanquished foes. Some of the unlockable characters do seem to be slightly more powerful, so there is certainly an incentive to keep at it despite being hopelessly outgunned early on.
Visually, Awesomenauts has me reminiscing of the Amiga era of gaming. Although the graphics are clearly sharper than in those days, the style seems reminiscent of the classic Bitmap Bros games. The characters in gameplay could have come straight from Speedball 2. The various backgrounds too have a somewhat retro 2D side scrolling platform look to them and full of colour. Combined with the simple controls and you could be mistaken for thinking it was a game directly from the early nineties.
As mentioned earlier, as you get more familiar with the game, it becomes much easier to play. So although you may not do so well to begin with in the online matches, it is best to stick with it a little longer until some of the bonus items and characters become available. The level of customisation will certainly help make the game seem fresh, with the unlockable characters and upgrades which become available as you progress. Sorting out which character bonuses suit your game style and those that help your team win battles can be quite satisfying.
Awesome or naut?
Despite the slightly steep learning curve, once you get into the game, Awesomenauts is a heap of fun to play. The visual style complements the fun aspect perfectly with the 2D platform and crazy cartoon characters making the game seem a throwback to the days when all games were designed for fun rather than ultra-realism. And if you have a couple of friends to make a team, then youíll probably have even more fun.
The game is all about fast-paced fun
The game is a little unforgiving for newbies, requiring them to build up experience before they become competitive