Awesomenauts is a competent game with some highly entertaining wrapping that completely failed to interest me.
Man, do you guys remember cartoons from the 80s and the 90s? I don’t. I was a fetus around the first half of the 90s and have only absorbed the information necessary to understand what those cartoons were like through a kind of cultural osmosis. But I completely get it now. In case you’re like me, unaware of what cartoons from that era were like, then may I introduce Awesomenauts; essentially ‘What We Think 80s Cartoons Were Like 101’.
So yeah, there’s definitely a certain style to the whole thing. The playable characters are absurd, to the point where you could see them coming straight from an action figure tie-in cartoon, and the storyline is dumb enough to work. Everything is done in a 2D animation style, which adds another layer to the homage.
See, what makes cell animation distinct is the method by which the cartoon images actually are animated; by putting clear plastic with the things that are supposed to move on top of a background. Due to this method, anything that’s about to move has a more saturated look to it; much like the game itself, where interactive objects are consistently brighter than the background. I’m not sure if this was intentional on the part of the developers or a natural result of the decision to use a traditional 80s Western animation style for the world, but it certainly helps either way. Gameplay is essentially team-based tower defense with the added mix of NPC-controlled robot drones fighting for both sides. Based on that description alone, you could be forgiven for thinking somebody on the Awesomenauts team played a ton of Monday Night Combat.
Now, I’m not accusing the devs of plagiarism, since trying to catch a company making a game similar to another in this industry can be analogized to cracking down on the jaywalkers. It’s possible that Monday Night Combat cribbed its ‘purchase upgrades with money you earned from killing drones and players while in the game only so it’s still balanced’ idea from another shooter and Awesomenauts is just taking the same thing from the same game. It worked in Monday Night Combat and it works just fine here.
I don’t know what it is with 2D shooters and a lack of dual stick controls these days. Awesomenauts isn’t as bad in that department as Shoot Many Robots, for example, because the gameplay isn’t mob-based, and the guys you’re trying to shoot are usually on the same plane you are. It’s still occasionally a problem, but not to the extent of some single-stick 2D shooters. Splitscreen multiplayer is completely possible, although I never played it with anyone.
Being a downloadable multiplayer shooter, the content to be found here isn’t particularly varied. It’s got the same progression that a lot of these games have, with a ton of unlockable characters and loadouts as potential rewards for the loyal player, but loyalty can only result from an entertaining game. Thing is, Awesomenauts didn’t really blow my mind. It was a good way to spend a weekend, and now I’m probably not going to touch it ever again. If you’re itching for a successor to Monday Night Combat and can’t play Super Monday Night Combat, Awesomenauts will fill that niche perfectly. There are worse things to spend your money on, and Awesomenauts is not without its merits, but I’d recommend trying the demo first.
(PS3 copy provided by Sandbox Strategies for review, thanks from Velocity Gamer!)