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The Game Effect Review

Awesomenauts Review

A Paper Thin Game That Easily Distracts

By Nick Schneider on 5/6/2012
My employer calls me while I'm hurtling through the atmosphere of the remote mining planet, and informs me that his competitors have also hired mercenaries to destroy his Solar drilling equipment. I let out a few choice words about these other interplanetary undesirables and continue my descent. Breaking through the atmosphere I grab a few pieces of solar to aid in my acquisition of weapons and other technology for the upcoming battle and crash landing onto the surface below. Other mercs hired by my employer have already begun the battle and share with me some of the solar they have managed to find along the way. I suit up choosing to increase my pistols damage capacity, and give my self a few extra pieces of armor to make sure I last more than a few seconds on the battlefield and prepare to help my fellow Awesomenauts destroy the target. Being a mercenary isn't a perfect lifestyle, but it does offer me a chance to escape the boredom of everyday life.

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Awesomenauts, from Ronimo Games, is one of those titles that leaves a strange impression on the player. The level of enjoyment to be had comes from how much you are willing to give, and how well your team works together. As a strictly multiplayer competitive title, Ronimo Games has created a game in which players are given just enough choice of upgrades to leave the impression of strategy, but limited player caps often leave strategies to consist of one or two character loadouts chosen each time. Each of the six characters offer enough distinction to allow unique strategies, but in my time with the title their appears to be only a few strategies that align with team success. The situation becomes less of what do I want to do, but more of did my team and I choose the right team to counteract the other team, and the experience becomes one that feels shallow, but at the same time offers enough entertainment to be a worthy distraction.

Presentation Goes A Long Way

 Awesomenauts presents itself in a very family friendly way, the 2D sprites for each character offer some great detail, but in more heated battles it can be easy to lose track of which team a character is fighting for. Each team, a blue and a red team, consists of the same 6 characters, and rather than distinguish players in outfit, or in any visual customization, Ronimo Games went with a rather simple color swap. This color swap even runs right down to the turrets, friendly robots, and each team's base. While simple in presentation, the illusion of doing anything other than participating in a confined battle on a small map is completely washed away from this design choice. There is however some personality to the game, but like much of this downloadable title, these features are left for the player to add.

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Selecting your character at the beginning of a match usually results in a comical song that parodies a musical style. For example Froggy G, whose bio reads as the following from the official site 

"Straight out of the marsh pond ghetto's of planet Ribbit IV comes Froggy G. Taking part in his first swim-by shoot out as a tadpole, he seemed destined for a life of crime and prison. As a hired gun, he combines his thug life experiences with lethal watery breakdance moves."
When players select the gangster frog, they are treated to a rather hilarious tribute to Snoop Dogg. Similarly each character gets their own song, and each is a stereotypical tribute to a country or culture that they "represent." The characters breath life in this way, however during battle, they lose all personality until a player actually chooses them to say something. Otherwise, bullets are fired, special attacks go off, and each character becomes just another tool to help turn the tide in their team's favor. Outside of the lack of life from the mercenaries, and the rather poorly done color swap, Awesomenauts is extremely fluid and graphically looks great.

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The 2D environments provide a fantastic level of detail, and the colors explode off of the screen. Each map has a distinct feel to it, and goes far in adding variety. Special attacks offer their own unique animation, and once again look fantastic, and provide plenty of eye candy. One of the most telling successes to this title is that during my time with it, except when a host dropped out, the game ran incredibly smoothly. There never seemed to be any lag to my controller input, and overall the game felt and played fantastically. Sound wise things are a bit dull, there are enough effects to keep you aware of actions being performed, but the pace of the game is incredibly quick and offers very little time to pay attention to the sounds.

Ultimately Gameplay Matters

Providing a review on presentation alone is not a standard action, however often times presentation is a good indicator on how the rest of the game is finished. Unfortunately for Awesomenauts, the gameplay, while fast and fluid, is rather dull. The maps for each battle could easily be split down the middle and folded on top of eachother, and while this provides a fair level for both sides, it also takes away any ability to exploit any weaknesses or build on strengths. Each battle a player enters will feature the same objective to destroy the opposing teams solar drill. Along the map there are essentially turrets that the two teams must destroy to get to their goal.  

The turrets are at identical points on the map for each side, and truly only really act as checkpoints to the destruction of your opponents drill. Since a turret can not be passed until it is destroyed, this means that battles are often won and lost from defending these key resources. Luckily turrets can be difficult to bring down, or easily with a team working well together, depending on player interaction. Awesomenauts is primarily a 2D shooter, but there are some ways to build an effective strategy against your opponents. This strategy only really comes into play when players customize the mercenary that they have chosen.

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Loadouts for your character consist of two powers, which cannot be swapped, and a variety of upgrades. These upgrades essentially function the same among all six mercenaries, but offer slightly different benefits to each character. Clunk, a giant robot, has the ability to explode for an area effect damage attack. Two different upgrades, exclusive to Clunk, provide him the means to make this a devastating ability on the field. Players could choose to limit the amount of damage they do to themselves from using this attack, or they can reduce the respawn time after killing themselves to use it. What makes this system work well, is that of the 6 upgrades for each ability, players can switch out any upgrade and combine them with another. The limit to each ability's upgrades is three, and easily represented on the loadout screen.
Other upgrades are mostly tied to characters primary weapon, and there is some variety based on what each mercenaries primary weapon does, but for the most part each upgrade acts the same. Increases to damage, rate of fire, and range are all for the norm in this area, but mingled throughout are enough differences to make each character unique. The final set of upgrades are standard among all six characters, and primarily only function to boost health, provide automatic health regeneration, movement, or extra income to purchase more upgrades.

The system for upgrades works well, however in an uneven match, once things start going south for one team they can quickly spiral out of control. Since upgrades are purchased through solar, which is gained by defeating opponents and collecting it throughout the level, if a team takes a fall too early to the losing side it can become difficult to catch up. In games with random players this can lead to frustration, as it is nearly impossible to turn that momentum back around once you've been out-resourced. There also seems to be "ideal" loadouts that teams who win consistently make effective use in decimating opponents. However, it is difficult to assess if this was merely a case of being in lobbies with teams of good players against mediocre players, but I did notice several striking similarities each time.

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Overall Impression

 Awesomenauts is, once again, a hard game to fully give credit to, and to also fault at the same time. Ronimo Games has crafted an incredibly smooth and playable online title, however the game seems to never find an audience. The limited player cap, at three per team, feels more like a hindrance than something that offers a compelling experience. Yet despite the limited nature, battles still feel hectic and deadly. These up-and-down experiences play out similarly throughout the upgrades and various stages, but provide just enough engagement to create an entertaining experience. Awesomenauts may not be very deep, and it may not offer any reasoning for why you are destroying solar drills, but what it does is offer a nice diversion to the overly competitive world of online gaming. Ronimo Games haven't created a masterpiece in storytelling, they've created a fun side dish to a gamer's routine playlist, and one that if gone into with the right mindset will leave players satisfied.

The Good
  • Solid Gameplay
  • Smooth Online Play
  • Colors Pop Off Screen
The Bad
  • Color Swapping Teams Adds Confusion
  • Upgrades Lack Significant Variety
  • Game Lacks "Life
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TheSwaninator on June 04, 2012
I think Awesomenauts is a really cool game worth a 9.5 
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MikeDeas879 on May 18, 2012
Tried reviewing it for GamerNode. Couldn't get past the tutorial.
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jrcross62 on May 16, 2012
looks intresting i dont know if it is going to be really good or really bad
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KrazyTaco1 on May 15, 2012
Never heard of it.
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Elleyena on May 13, 2012
Hmm, I heard this wasn't so great, but maybe that's just because the player in question isn't fond of the genre. I'll have to give it a go and find out for myself.
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cjf582 on May 06, 2012
It actually is a pretty good game.

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