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Ben Hornsby Ben Hornsby
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Awesomenauts' is better than its name

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I don't know what to tell you, but I only ever played as the little lizard guy. He's the ninja character. You can run around, drop a decoy of yourself as you turn invisible, and then try to get the jump on people with your double-damage reveal attack. It's pretty fun. I guess this game is probably a better multiplayer 'Castlevania' than that multiplayer 'Castlevania' game was. 

Not that it's anything like that, really. In fact it fits into an even more recognizable mold: The one that Team Fortress stuck into our lives. Or to be even more exact (and get even more 'Battlefield'-related hatemail): the one that 'Monday Night Combat' fits into.

You pick one of five (or seven?) characters and get dumped with your two teammates on either the blue side of the map or the red side. You have to tear through a series of turret-walls to get to the other team's core while they try to tear through yours. Only, hey, fist-pump: It's in 2D. Most of the twoish maps are sort of double-tiered; they look like 'Mario Bros.' arcade levels that have been stretched out on both sides. You know the ones, with the pipes in the corners and the POW block in the middle.

So you can either hack at the other turret on the top floor or the one on the bottom, which leads to the most fun you can have with the game: dropping down invisibly in the middle of a bottom-floor brawl and trying to figure out who to use your double-damage reveal attack on before running away.

Well, I guess there are characters other than the ninja frog. Maybe. Yeah, there's the jerk medic thing, which is used exclusively by jerks who sit on their team's core, just out of reach, and constantly heal the jerk playing the big tank guy. Also there's usually a third jerk playing the jetpack monkey, flying around and being useless. Man, I haven't even unlocked the jetpack monkey. Anyway, you can kill all those jerks with a beefed-up dynamite toss from the cowboy guy if they start sitting on their core. Hmm. I guess there's a cowboy guy.

Anyway, the game feels pretty nice. It doesn't feel perfect: there's not much, uh, crunch. But there's a hell of a lot of swishing around. Jumping as the frog - he jumps pretty high and pretty fast, compared to these other dudes - and connecting your sword to an enemy midair would be perfect, if the screen stuck for just a 16th of a second. Instead, it is just almost-perfect. Hey! That's pretty good.

I honestly don't know how the other characters feel. The cowboy dude can spawn this giant bull that charges forward, and it just kind of chugs through everything. It's pretty interesting.

No, here it is: The robot tank guy can do this self-destruct thing. A bubble forms around him and suddenly he's moving through the air like it's mud, and - get this - anyone else in the bubble is suddenly gummed-up, too. You have about 2.8 seconds to get out of it before you take a bunch of damage. It's a really wonderful 2.8 seconds. If I'm going to play this game again it's only because of that 2.8 seconds. Those 2.8 seconds are like pulling on a sledgehammer that's feet-deep into a bucket of wet cement.

Anything else? Yeah, one thing: On each map there's a little group of endlessly spawning enemies that give you some health and a couple dollars if you go kill them. This is a cute idea. And then: On one map they are little alien dudes tucked into a little area between the top and bottom floors, and they're hanging out next to a big alien dude that vomits everywhere in a way that will probably kill you if you're new at the game. There's something about the way they're all just hanging out in the middle of the map while you and the other team are jumping around like lunatics that - well. I'm pretty sure there's $100,000 in there, somewhere.

(I can show you where for $10,000.)

two stars out of four

Ben Hornsby always means it.


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