Review: Having a Moderately Good Time With the Awesomenauts (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network)

While more variety would’ve been nice, this multiplayer battle game does have awesomeness within.

Ronimo Games dodged quite a bullet with the release of Awesomenauts, as the game’s publisher, DTG, was just about ready to file for bankruptcy, throwing its release into question.  But things got worked out, and now players everywhere will be able to experience the MOBA – multiplayer online battle arena – action that awaits within.  While there are things that are hard to overlook, the situations you can get into with friends really put the “Awesome” into the game’s name.

In Awesomenauts, you play as Lonestar, or one of other given characters you unlock over the course of the game, as you land on a planet surface and attempt to overtake an enemy’s defense perimeter, destroying a core piece that holds it all together.  Of course, that means overcoming their defenses, like pre-set turrets or enemies that aren’t so eager to see you win.  And since this is a MOBA-style game, you also have to watch out for them trashing your defenses and destroying your core.  It’s got similar elements to the Unreal Tournament series, but stems most of its set-up from a Saturday morning cartoon, in pure 2D fashion.  And it works quite well.

Awesomenauts can be played in single player, which you’ll start out at first as you walk through the tutorials.  However, while you can take on AI opponents, the real joy comes from hopping on to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network and tackling the opposition there.  Working out strategies with your fellow Awesomenauts and/or trashing those who stand in your way both lead to some extravagant battles, even if they manage to come up with enemies that are bigger than you, mowing down half your defenses like a champ.  The longer you keep toiling away, the more great moments you discover – and the more you unlock for future sessions within the game.  Here’s where the awesome really comes in, getting forces big enough that you know you’re ready to be a contender.

The main problem with that is that you don’t have much terrain to cover.  Awesomenauts may have the battles, but it’s lacking the options, with only so many levels to take on within the game, and only one mode to choose from.  (There’s no survival mode here, awkwardly enough.)  Plus, taking on AI opponents just isn’t the same, as it’s too easy to exploit weaknesses or get run over like roughshod by an enemy who’s too well prepared for you.  The true fun comes from taking on friends, even with local matches.  Fortunately, the lobby was moderately full of challengers the last couple of times we checked, so that shouldn’t be too big a problem.