In the year 3578 mining corporations are waging war amongst each other to control what precious resources remain. Mercenaries are hired to protect and secure mining projects. These mercenaries are the Awesomenauts.
Upon starting the game you’ll be treated to an opening cinematic and a short guide explaining the general gameplay mechanics to prepare you for online play or play vs bots. Three Awesomenauts go up against another three of the mercenaries with the goal of destroying the other corporation’s Solar Drill. In your way stands a number of turrets and “lane creeps”. On most maps there is also a “jungle” style area that has “neutral creeps” in and around it. Killing creeps, other mercenaries and turrets gives you some “Solar” that can be used to purchase upgrades from the shop to help you continue to fight against your enemies and/or assist your team. “Neutral creeps” also drop health packs which makes “creeping” an effective strategy to heal up if you didn’t need to go back to base to buy upgrades.
The shop is fairly unique compared to other MOBA games in that it is a preset loadout of 12 upgrades that can be selected from before each match. While this gives you the flexibility to change what upgrades you want for each given match there is no way to change that loadout once you are in game and as such there’s no way to counter your opponents other than just trying to best them and get more upgrades. This is nice and simplistic but it lacks in comparison to most other MOBA games where a large part of gameplay is learning to counter your opponents and how they are itemizing their characters.
Gameplay is fairly fast paced and the combat feels fairly fluid but there didn’t seem to be any option for a “twin sticks” style of combat that makes ranged classes feel fairly lackluster compared to the melee who have no option to hit anywhere other than in front of them. The result is that ranged characters lack accuracy and can’t take advantage of their ranged advantage as much as they should be able to.
The opposing team’s turrets form an immovable barrier that cannot be traversed until that turret is destroyed. The result is that there is no such thing as “turret diving” or other strategies often implemented in other MOBA games as you cannot even use the jungle exits beyond an opponents turret without them being destroyed. This creates an extremely new player friendly environment and also gives ranged classes a slight edge as they can use the turrets as an extra layer of armor that they desperately need against assassin characters.
The lack of characters is both a boon and a curse for the game. With only six characters you can easily learn how to counter each character and learn how best to tackle the opposing team but seeing the same combinations of mercenaries can grow old rather fast. On the character selection screen it suggests that we may see more characters in the future and this could help diversify things a bit but in comparison to other MOBA games there is a lot to be desired.
There are only three maps but I found myself sticking to the first map that is available as the others seem to have certain mechanics that I didn’t enjoy too much as I felt that it changed the balance a lot. For example on the second map, Sorona, there is a pit with a trap door above it. By standing on a button on the platform above the trapdoor opens up and a worm-like creature comes up and eats whatever unfortunate mercenaries happen to be there. It’s fun the first few times you manage to trap somebody in it but you’d be surprised how many times your own team will get you killed while simply passing through. This could just be a lack of coordination but after having it happen one time too many I decided to stick to the map that has nothing extra going on. After all, we’re here to fight mercenaries not to become a worms dinner party!
Speaking of parties I have to say something about the music. It’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a game’s music track so much. The tracks are extremely fitting for each character and is guaranteed to put a smile on almost everyone’s face.
Overall Awesomenauts is pretty solid and well worth the 800 Microsoft Points on the XBLA or $9.99 on the PSN if you’re looking for a 2d platformy beat-em-up MOBA game to drop in and out of. Despite it’s lack of depth it makes up for it with how fun and addictive it is!