Awesomenauts may be the single most refreshing take on the MOBA concept Iíve ever seen, and it executes the concept perfectly, blending it seamlessly with 2D platforming action and vivid cartoon aesthetics. I admit that a lot of the time, I donít care much for MOBAs (or Lane Defense, or Lords Management, or whatever else youíd like to call them), but Awesomenauts managed to overcome my initial reservations and win me over with its playful attitude, simple controls, and endless variety.
The general concept of Awesomenauts is that in a spacefaring cartoon civilization, a precious commodity known as solar exists. A number of companies are trying to mine solar and hire mercenaries to keep their competitors from doing the same. Thatís where the Awesomenauts come in. These elite mercenaries march off to destroy their enemyís drilling operation while also protecting their own. Assisting each team are a small army of robots that are periodically manufactured and sent off to fight, and each drill is protected by a couple turrets that youíll need to destroy to get to the enemy base.
When you start up the game, youíll be launched into a brief tutorial going over the basic gameplay concepts (Fight next to robots, destroy turrets, fight off enemy heroes, and destroy the enemy drill) and the general controls. Oddly missing are the controls to actually move your character, but you can figure it out quickly enough (I initially tried the arrow keys, when it actually wanted me to use WASD). You can press space or W to jump. Your primary attack is triggered by a click of the left mouse button, and aimed with the mouse cursor. Thereís a special move you can perform by clicking the right mouse button, and holding down the F key causes you to teleport back to base, where youíll instantly heal and can purchase upgrades with solar thatís dropped from defeated foes.
The game starts you off with three characters. Sheriff Lonestar is the character you start with in the tutorial, and heís a relatively straightforward character. He has a gun with decent range, can double-jump, and he can throw sticks of dynamite. Froggy G can jump high and has a rapid dash attack that can stun whoever he runs through, but his gun is extremely short-ranged. Leon Chameleon doesnít even have a gun. He has a knife that can be upgraded to do some serious damage, especially if he hits someone in the back. On top of that, he can turn invisible and leave a decoy behind. As of this writing, the game has eight characters that you can earn by unlocking them, and is advertising an upcoming new character named Gnaw.
To raise your level and earn new characters, you need to gain experience points by playing matches. As your level rises, you can unlock the ability to choose new characters and new maps, as well as new upgrades for each character. This is one of the more interesting little bits of the game that adds a load of variety to play. When you start a match, youíre prompted to select upgrades for your character. These are divided into four rows.
The first two rows correspond to special powers you can purchase that have cool downs and generally act like youíd expect a power to act like (though itís worth noting that this game doesnít have MP or any resource like that). The third row affects your basic attack. The fourth row is always the same for all characters, and covers passive benefits like raising movement speed or granting some regeneration. You can choose three upgrades from each row. Each row has six upgrades, but only four in each row will be available at the start. Youíll need to play to unlock the rest.
The upgrades you choose arenít, however, applied immediately at the start of a match. These are the upgrades that you can buy with solar that enemies drop in play. Choosing upgrades at the start of a match lets you choose the different focuses you can move into once the game begins, and of course, the upgrades you do end up buying over the course of the game provides customization as well. For example, Froggy G can focus on his dash attack, which stuns enemies, or he can focus on a whirlwind attack that lets him spin around, hurt enemies, and deny an area for a while. Both of these choices lead to different play styles.
All the different powers look great in motion, and the game in general is pleasing to the eye. The game starts with a cutscene that perfectly sells the mood and looks like a Saturday morning cartoon, complete with singing the word ďAwesomenautsí over and over. All of the sprites are well-animated and have very expressive movements, and the gameís cartoony visuals breathe a lot of life into the game.
The characters also have recorded speech to sell their personality a bit more. These range from passable to mildly interesting, but at the least, they donít offend the ears. The sound effects and music do a great job of keeping things exciting. The music is cartoony without being ridiculous, and the sound effects of ray guns and explosions really bring the battles to life.
Awesomenauts is a game I really do have to recommend for everyone. Itís a fun game thatís easy to learn how to play, and so far, the community is actually not terrible. In most MOBA games, communities are infamously hostile and scornful of new players, but in my experience so far, people have been decent, speaking to comment or offer tactical advice instead of streams of insults. The game offers incredible value as well. For $10, this game is an absolute steal. Get this game as soon as you can. For the price of a hero or two in League of Legends or a similar game, you can get this game. I donít know if itíll have the kind of staying power that other MOBAs have, but at the very least, youíll get a lot of fun for your money.