Are you a MOBA gamer? If you don’t know what that is, then the answer is probably no. But, just so you know, MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. As any of the vets can tell you, jumping into the genre is like jumping into a lake when it is 30 degrees out - i.e. you’ll either adapt quickly or get out of the water. The skill curve can brutal, and one typically knows if they will stick with it within the first ten minutes. Those of you who feel a bit burned by the lack of accessibility that most MOBA games present, I have one word for you: Awesomenauts.
Those of you who gave the WiiWare (and eventually PSN & PC) release Swords & Soldiers a spin have an idea of what Awesomenauts brings to the table. Developer Ronimo Games has been on my radar ever since Swords & Soldiers hit my Wii console, in large part due to the wacky humor of the game. Now, several years later, we have Ronimo’s latest entry, and it doesn’t disappoint, following in the same funny footsteps of its predecessor. And that’s funny ‘Ha Ha’, not funny ‘He He’.
"What Ronimo has accomplished here is impressive, mixing a MOBA with a 2D platformer and then smothering it with humor, and it shouldn’t be overlooked."
Awesomenauts is arguably one of the most accessible MOBAs in recent memory. The story plays out like something straight from a 1980’s Saturday morning cartoon (as well as the presentation and delivery, but more on that in a minute). You are one of six Awesomenauts. Acting as a sort of mercenary for hire, you are working for a big corporation to ensure the successful mining of solar (a very valuable commodity in that universe). Of course, there’s always competitors in big business, and it will be up to you to not only defend your drill, but blow the enemy’s drill to bits. It won’t be unguarded, though, as another team of Awesomenauts will be on hand to stop you, and take out your drill the first chance they get.
Yep, it is just as batty as it sounds. But, hidden below the goofy exterior is a fine MOBA experience. You will dive in head first with two other buddies (or bots if you don’t have anyone joining you) to face off against another team of three. The symmetrical maps are well balanced and thought out, which is a must for the genre, and include plenty of room to wage war in while also offering other tidbits like jump pads and native creatures that drop health when killed. The goal is to take out the opposing team’s drill before they take out yours, so intelligent strategy is required. If you go in guns ablazin as the lone wolf, the match will come to an end rather quickly.
Just as in typical MOBA fashion, a never ending stream of droids are on hand to help, beelining for the enemy’s drill core. They will do the manual labor for you, though they aren’t strong enough to do it alone. They will still need you to help them take out the defending turrets enroute to the core, and also in battling the defenders themselves. The droids act as a mobile shield as well, so players can use them for cover as they blast shot after shot at the heavily armored turrets.
The real nuts and bolts, though, comes via upgrades. The traditional classes - Tank, Ranged, Healer, etc.. - don’t necessarily apply here, as the upgrade trees sort of meld them together. And even though there aren’t a lot of them, each character plays very differently, and their skill trees enhance that even more. The key to victory is in choosing characters whose upgrade set is complementary to those of your teammates. The various skills, some active, others passive, will give you enough to work with to make your character truly yours, and fitting of your playstyle.
The presentation caps off the package incredibly well. The 2D sci-fi/fantasy based characters and environments are bright, colorful and crisp, fitting given the batty premise, and everything pops off the screen vibrantly. The narrative (what little there is) feels much like the cartoons from when I was a kid - the Voltron era - replete with looping mouth movements and off-sounding voice dubs. It may sound like a dated experience, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. The “classic” story mechanic works fabulously here.
Awesomenauts stands as a great entry point for those who have yet to get into the genre, yet still provides plenty of strategy for the more experienced MOBA players (and it even makes a fine party game). The humor does a great job of keeping things fun and light-hearted, while the frantic pace will keep you on your toes. No matter if you are playing with friends locally or online, connecting was seamless, letting the focus stay on the playful competition of the battlefield, instead of frustration in the game lobby. The addition of bots is more than a welcomed sight in a genre where team numbers can change the tide of a match instantly. What Ronimo has accomplished here is impressive, mixing a MOBA with a 2D platformer and then smothering it with humor, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
Release date : 2012-05-04
Publisher : Ronimo Games
Developer : Ronimo Games
Gameplay : Arcade
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