Publisher: dtp entertainment / Developer: Ronimo Games / Platform: PSN, XBLA

2D platformer/shooter?  Class-based multiplayer?  Comic book-style graphics?  I’m in.

I have what may be a crippling weakness for 2D platformers (and western RPGs, and anything with SNES-era music/graphics, but that’s another story…), and Awesomenauts looked like a promising investment since its relatively small announcement a few months ago.  Despite some threats of bankruptcy from its publisher, Awesomenauts still released on XBLA as promised, but was it worth all the trouble?

In case you haven’t heard anything about Awesomenauts (which is likely, considering the extreme lack of presence the game has anywhere outside of it’s own corner of XBLA), the game plays kind of like the characterized class-based team system of Team Fortress 2, with teams chopped to three players apeice, and squashed onto a 2D plane.  Each of Awesomenauts’ characters operate completely differently from one another.  While it is slightly irritating that there can only be one of each character on a team, and once you’ve chosen a character you can’t go back and change until the match is over, the fact that there are only three players to a team keeps things tight, and really makes you rely on one another in order to succeed.

While Awesomenauts can be compared to a number of other multiplayer, class-based shooters, the ideas that it borrows all come together to create quite a unique experience.  Finishing matches helps you level up overall, but when you start a match your character starts out with the same beginning stats and abilities as everyone else.  As you fight and jump around you’ll collect resources which you use to purchase upgrades for your character, ranging from new attacks to more health.  Your overall level, which is tracked outside of games, is used to unlock additional characters and upgrades that last until the match is over.  These upgrades are then stocked inside the vending machine you use ingame.  These additional upgrades can be switched out before a match starts, sort of like perks in Call of Duty, except you have to stock up resources to buy them.

Awesomenauts takes a lot of general ideas from other games, but many of the fine details are of its own creation.  Each of the characters you can choose to play as plays a different role in the team, but they are balanced enough so that a three-person team still feels complete no matter who is playing which character, as long as everyone is working together.  While playing Awesomenauts I was surprised how fine-tuned the entire experience seemed to be, and unlocking new perks and characters to play with was constantly rewarding.  Awesomenauts is an overall fun experience, and the fact that the game is multiplayer only is offset by the fact that playing offline with bots still grants you experience points, and finding two three-person teams isn’t incredibly hard.