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Brash as its title might seem, Awesomenauts pretty well lives up to its confident billing by delivering a stellar side-scrolling take on the surging Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre, in which small teams work together to storm the enemy base while protecting their own. While the core mechanics should be familiar to anyone who's played one of the genre's more traditional top-down 3D entries (like League of Legends), the fun tweaks and personality are what make its cartoonish combat so engaging.
Each match begins with teams on opposite spectrums of the 2D map, with the three-person squads – comprised of online or split-screen players, or computer-controlled allies – looking to push through the opposing fortifications to eventually destroy the enemy base. Doing so means coordinating with teammates to try to topple certain bullet-spewing turrets in unison, as well as countering incoming assaults on your own automated firearms. The resulting back-and-forth relies on simple mechanics, but often proves pretty satisfying when played well.
What's interesting is the way that Awesomenauts utilizes tried-and-true elements of the genre while charting its own path in a side-scrolling world. Players must still be vigilant with in-match weapon and ability upgrades to keep up with the competition, and robotic allied grunts are there to draw the heavy fire away from the turrets while you unload your arsenal. Likewise, Awesomenauts requires a significant amount of play to unlock many characters and abilities – a staple of the genre – but mostly makes it feel like an engaging pursuit rather than a punishing obligation. The 2D world offers some nice opportunities for deviation from the typical MOBA framework, though, such as the chance to collect currency as your spawn pod falls from the sky, plus little hidden pathways found between the primary lanes.
Awesomenauts' hand-drawn aesthetic looks fantastic, but thankfully doesn't require much in the way of current Mac hardware, and its sense of humor charms throughout, from the audacious opening cinematic to the various character personalities. As hinted by the genre title, though, the game really is intended as a multiplayer experience, and while you can play it individually against bots, the lacking A.I. makes that a middling last resort. For just $10, though, even multiplayer dabblers should give this rich team-based battler a look.
The bottom line. Whether you're new to MOBA or a genre veteran seeking a fresh perspective, Awesomenauts' 2D shift empowers magnetic multiplayer action.
Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, Intel Core Duo, 512MB RAM, 64MB VRAM
Engaging side-scrolling spin on the MOBA. Alluring aesthetics with minimal specs. Fantastic price point.
Genre is based on repetitive actions, and this one's no different. Solo play is unremarkable.