Preview by James Cunningham (Email) April 12th 2012
Team-based first-person shooters are all very nice, but the endless flood of polygons wears thin after a while. Sometimes it's nice to revert to some 2D side-scrolling blasting action, but with the class-based roles of Team Fortress and its many, many shooter clones. Wrap the whole package up in a 80s-inspired Saturday morning cartoon style and you've got Awesomenauts.
There are going to be some truly bizarre epic battles fought with Awesomenauts.
Awesomenauts is a three-versus-three game of base destruction involving a cast with a diverse set of skills and attacks. Froggy G is a low-health, high speed frog with a stun attack, and while his damage is mid-range at best he can leave enemies wide open for more powerful teammates to annihilate. Sherrif Lonestar, on the other hand, has more health, decent guns, and powerful dynamite. Clunk is a powerhouse, Voltar the Omniscient a weak but maneuverable healer, etc. Everybody should be able to work together into a powerful destructive force with a bit of teamwork, but it's going to take knowing how your skills work best with everyone else's in order to run the combination of defense and offense necessary to grab victory.
The basic flow of gameplay is that you're dropped from a spaceship into your side of the arena, and both you and the enemy have heavy passage-blocking turrets for defense and little droids for offense. The turrets are pack a mean punch, and attacking one without a droid handy is a great way to soak up a load of damage. It's best instead to clear a path for the droids to amble along, because unlike you, droids have shields that can soak up a decent amount of fire before they're destroyed. So you're hanging behind the droids while protecting them from enemy attacks as they approach the turret, taking out advancing enemy droids so they can't do the same, and getting as many good shots on the enemy turret as you can in the limited time before your droids are taken out. It's a war of attrition, and the multi-staged arenas mean you'll be constantly hopping up and down levels while coordinating attack, defense, and support with your team. It can get frantic fast as everyone tries to cover all bases simultaneously, and the best teamwork in the world isn't going to let your teammates be in all the places they want to be at once.
While still a little ways off, my hands-on time with Awesomenauts showed a well balanced, fast, and very fun side-scrolling team-based shooter, equal parts Super Smash Bros. and Team Fortress. The Saturday morning cartoon vibe fits perfectly, and that goes double for the animated intro complete with theme song. There are going to be some truly bizarre epic battles fought with Awesomenauts, and that's always worth looking forward to.