by Derk Bil
previewed on X360
Laying it down
Naturally, chaos ensues. Players on both sides gain coins that can be spent on cool and often freaky upgrades in a shop that has been placed inside the base. Some upgrades enhance or even transform some of the signature abilities of your character. For instance, a grenade throwing ability might change into a mine-laying ability, allowing you to litter the battlefield with explosive surprises for some poor sod to trip over.
To keep the pace high, the shop is placed right where you teleport to. It also serves as a healing point, handy for those perilous moments where you just barely manage to escape death. Staying alive is often more important than making the kill at the expense of your own survival. When you die, the opposing team gets a short but sizeable burst of additional coins, allowing them to purchase additional upgrades. In addition, the time you spend waiting to spawn again increases by a little, leaving your mates to fend for their own. So it is all about efficiency and making optimal use of your skills and your time in the field. Oh and if the waiting periods between death and spawns sound like a total killjoy, don’t worry. Ronimo Games has come up with a clever mini game for you to play while you wait to get back into the thick of the action. As your character drops down from the heavens towards your base, you can steer left and right, picking up coins along the way Mario-style.
The graphics were originally planned to be dark and grim. Somewhere along the line, a switch to bright and colorful was made. There is a cacophony of jingles, alerts and announcements belonging to each character that inform all players of important events that would have sounded out of place in a dark world. Add the hilarious characters and their colorful abilities and it is clear that the game was begging for something a little more vibrant. It worked out very well.
This game is best played with or against friends and probably enjoyed most when they are sitting on the couch next to you. Any spot left open are filled by computer controlled characters that are perfectly capable of giving you a run for your money. Should a player drop out of the game, the computer will take over and finish the game in his or her stead. Despite all the on-screen mayhem, split screen is very playable, even with three or four players sharing a single TV. There even is a priceless benefit for teams playing with three human players: the fourth square turns into a tactical map.
Awesome, these Nauts
Awesomenauts is easy to get into, even for people not accustomed to playing console games. Though the action is frantic, there is very little button mashing and the game’s strategic aspect could well turn out to be more important than dexterous fingers. To dominate, however, takes practice and finding out which character and playing style is best suited to your individual skills and interests. Fortunately, such practice is anything but dull in this game.
Ronimo Games intends to release more maps and additional playable characters to keep the game fresh and interesting. A PC version is being considered as well, but despite being a stoic PC gamer, I can’t imagine this game being any more fun than it already is on a console. So much fun in fact that Awesomenauts may well turn out to be the next big thing on XBLA and PSN.