Whether you call it MOBA or DOTA, the genre that best fits Awesomenauts didn’t exist even a decade ago. Spawning from the Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, MOBA games are traditionally controlled as a isometric RTS style game. Awesomenauts changes things up a bit with the first major 2D side-scrolling release to the genre.
Awesomenauts follows the traditional MOBA formula of a team of players making their way past set defense points to reach an opposing team’s base. Each team consists of three players (which can be filled in with bots if someone is playing during slower hours) and the constant stream of less powerful computer controlled minions. Different from most MOBA titles like the DOTA mod is the game’s classic style 2D environment.
While greatly detailed to fit in a next gen world, all the action occurs on a 2D plane. Action is still fast and frantic though with players running in to battle, having rapid exchanges before someone is killed or forced to flee and most matches are over in less than fifteen minutes.
There is a somewhat limited supply of characters with only six playable Awesomenauts to choose from, each with different combat roles. Some act as tanks, others as damage dealers and others as more stealthy assassins. Players start off with only three unlocked and must earn combat experience to level up and unlock more. Hopefully Ronimo adds more through DLC or updates since the matches are usually matching teams with players already trending towards a few core characters rather than a variety that could come from an expanded roster.
One of the most fun parts of the game comes from players leveling up through matches. Even though one player might choose the same character as someone on the other team in this red vs. blue matchup, depending on the skills players choose to spend money on to improve, the two may end up playing very differently.
Obviously, the players who level up fastest with the most kills and destroy the most turrets quickly become the biggest challenges on the field to take out. But the players do have certain environmental hazards to be aware of as players in one level, for example, can activate a gigantic worm that instantly kills anyone foolish enough to stand on its target area.
Story and Presentation
The story aspect of Awesomenauts is pretty light. Players get a brief tutorial and find out that they are taking the role of a paid mercenary on either side of a galactic war between two robot armies, the reds and blues, that are competing over resources. While each character has a drastically different design with their own signature catchphrases and stylized weapons like the gunslinger who throws dynamite and sends a holographic bull at enemies, there isn’t much in the way of character development past that.
The game is strictly an arena game. As long as you are looking for straightup gameplay and don’t care about a story at all, you will enjoy Awesomenauts. Because even though characters unlock extra purchasable abilities as the player levels up, every match starts the character over at level one. This prevents seeing any true “growth” for characters, no matter how many hours they play the game.
Graphics and Sound
Awesomenauts has a fantastic visual design with its 2d sprites and level with 3D effects in the background layer. Each character is full of detailed animations so players see their character animate as smoothly as a full cartoon would. The game also has some great effects, specific to certain weapons. Dynamite might cause a player to lose much of their field of vision or a large explosion might spatter a red film over certain parts of the screen.
By far, one of the best parts of Awesomenauts is the theme song. Much like a Saturday morning cartoon, the lyrics are so direct and the music is so energetic that you can’t help but love it. (Check out the launch trailer below to listen to it along with seeing some of the game in action.) Every character also gets their own music for the character select screen and loadout screens as well, but none are as impactful as the game’s theme.
Awesomenauts is everything you can hope for from a $10 downloadable MOBA game on consoles. On a device that doesn’t usually lend itself to the normal mouse and keyboard controls used in traditional DOTA-styled games, changing the game to 2D gives it a perfect fit for the controller designed for a platforming world.
Matches are fun, fast, and furious and perfect for someone who doesn’t want to get roped into a long play session. They can more closely resemble a mobile experience of in and out gameplay for as long as the player wants. Even though there is room for further improvement and added depth to the game if it does well, the core experience as it is at launch is more than enough reason to give the game a try.
XBox Live Arcade (Also Available on PlayStation Network)
Developer: Ronimo Games
Publisher: DTP Entertainment
Price: 800 Microsoft Points ($10.00)