Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Awesomenauts

Well, this one’s aptly named. I don’t usually bother with arcade titles - not because they’re below me or anything, but because I’d rather spend my cash on ‘proper’ games. So the fact that Awesomenauts shackled me to the screen for a couple of hours from the second I turned it on is pretty telling. It really is awesome(nauts.)

Belonging to a game genre known as the ‘multiplayer online battle arena’, Awesomenauts plays like those old side-scrolling shooters you spent your pennies on down the bowling alley as a kid, crossed with a 90s cartoon – crossed with a vat of LSD.
Putting the gamer in the magnetic boots/floating robe/jetpack of a cast of crazy characters, Awesomenauts challenges the gamer to blast his/her/monkey’s way along an insane 2D map with the aim of blowing up the enemy’s base.  It’s annoying, then, that wave after wave of AI robots, massive defence turrets and three AI or human-controlled Awesomenauts stand in your way.
The game’s plot is utter craziness, which sees two massive opposing space navies fighting over a resource known as ‘Solar’. To break a deadlock that’s lasted forever, the Awesomenauts are brought in – teams of highly unstable nutters which include a massive robot with a serious overbite, a Russian, jetpack-equipped monkey, a French assassin lizard called ‘Leon’ and a brain in a jar.

Each of the teams in the 3vs3 game pick their Awesomenaut – which starts with no upgrades – and has to work as a team to take down the robots, turrets and enemies together, while defending or rebuilding your own.
Each of the player characters has his/her/monkey’s special abilities, which can be upgraded throughout the match by spending both Solar and gold coins at the in-game store. The characters all compliment each other really well, and a clever team will play to each character’s strengths, while looking after their team as a whole.
While you need to unlock some of the characters - as the entire roster requires a little grinding to grab - the game is such fun that you’re unlikely to notice.
The worlds offered by the game’s 90s cartoon-inspired graphics engine are colourful and varied, stretching from a giant robot graveyard to the depths of space and time, and the maps are all large enough to make each match a challenge.
The animation is excellent, with nary a hitch in frame rate, despite the frenetic action on-screen, and the music and sound effects also hold up really well, especially some of the voice acting, which is fantastic and funny.
The game’s matchmaking throws up a few issues, however, as it often falls flat on its robotic arse in the middle of a tense game, kicking friends and opponents alike for no reason.
Sure, the game replaces said lost friend with a bot – but what use is a bot when a giant turret is blasting you apart and you desperately need a brain in a jar to heal you.
And while there is a singleplayer component, playing against the bots gets old fast – so don’t invest in Awesomenauts unless you want to get online.
Come heal me as my Russian jetpack monkey hurls himself at the nearest turret - it really is awesome!

Reviewed on PS3