The year : 3587. Conflict spans the stars. Huge armies are locked into an enduring stalemate. Only one force can help them now: The Awesomenauts.
This melodramatic narration plays over the pin-sharp, vibrant animations of characters a la Saturday morning cartoons. It’s silly, it’s stupid, and it’s cheesy. It’s also undeniably appealing. Awesomenauts is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) that prides itself on its cartoonish glee. A monkey with a jet-pack and a space-faring cowboy are among the six Awesomenauts vying for galactic control. The objective-driven, side-scrolling PvP action sells itself on the simplicity of its core mechanics, and thrives on its pluck.
The goal is to carve a path of destruction to the enemy base, toppling the enemy’s turrets while defending home base. It’s a war of attrition, a brutal game of tug-of-war in reverse. Those mounted guns are capable of turning ‘nauts into mush in a matter of seconds, so a steady stream of shielded robots provide cover.
My minions at my back, I wonder, “How should I traverse this map?” It’s a small but important question. My first assumption is that the game doesn’t offer enough scope for these decisions to have much relevance, but they do, and teams that can coordinate their movements are the ones that taste victory most often.
Awesomenauts‘ MOBA formula is simple. Each character can jump and attack (either melee or projectile). I exercise control over the direction of my attacks, with a little finesse. Opposing Awesomenauts descend into a comical theater of war. The combatants leap and shoot, hoping to land enough hits to send the opponent back to spawn. There’s little skill or tactile pleasure in battle, but there are unique abilities, themselves purchased as each match progresses. Even the intelligent use of these feel random, like an accidental note in the chorus of button-mashing.
It isn’t combat that will win a match, but team strategy. Ahead of me is an enemy player. Do I even bother to engage? The best strategy is likely to put pressure on an undefended turret. Combat is a sideshow, while the main attraction is the subtle tactical variances the game’s layout and team framework encourage.
Characters are a token mix of offensive behemoths, agile pranksters and support types. The upshot here is that they are all marvellously balanced. Some of the Awesomenauts need intense team support to function effectively, but when backed up, they can drastically swing the match. Going into Awesomenauts alone is a recipe for failure. Go in with a team willing to work together and the more enjoyable aspects of the game emerge.
Even though its cartoonish visuals create a fun atmosphere, its basic sense of play does little to endear itself to newcomers. It is, however, the underlying strategies that spring from the games straight-forward setup that elevate Awesomenauts into a MOBA worth investing in. New players will get massacred by more cohesive teams before learning the delicate rhythm required for victory. Initially baffling, but later compelling, Awesomenauts is a neat entry in the under-appreciated MOBA genre.