Action real-time strategy (ARTS) games are a dime a dozen these days. It’s quite easy—and valid—to say that all ARTS games are the same. Pick one of a gazillion heroes to play as. Escort your bots along lanes toward the enemy base. Push through the enemy bots and destroy their turrets. March into their base and destroy their core. If you’ve played one ARTS game, then you’ve pretty much played them all.
When you think of an ARTS game, what do you think of? I think of boring grind fests and sitting in one of the bot lanes for the entirety of the game. I think of an ongoing balancing nightmare by the developer in an attempt to add new content to appease the voracious appetite of the player base. I do not think of a game that is easy to pick up and play, nor a game that is fun to watch.
And then there’s Awesomenauts by Ronimo Games.
My first experience with Awesomenauts was watching a 3v3 versus game go down. Awesomenauts is an ARTS game but instead of the traditional top-down perspective it uses a side-scrolling perspective. This also means that it’s a platformer. It’s quite an interesting twist on the genre.
While I was watching others play I didn’t have a clue what was going on, but I could see all of the action. It’s a very entertaining game to watch. Just watching 6 strangers play was enough to get me excited to play.
Once I actually had a controller in my hand, I found that the game was really easy to get in to. You have two abilities mapped to Y and B, you can jump with A, and your weapon is on X; the folks at Ronimo had their booth set up to play on Xbox 360 controllers, but the mappings are identical for DualShock controllers. You can teleport back to your base by holding down RB.
The platforming is very similar to Castlevania in that you can drop through a platform by holding down and jumping. Launch pads reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog will launch you across the map. You can find floating cubes of Solar, the game’s currency, spread around the map like in Super Mario Bros. Upgrading your abilities requires that you return to your base and spend Solar on it.
It’s very easy to pick up and play. The platforming mechanics mesh well with the ARTS gameplay. If you’ve ever played a 2D platforming game, then playing Awesomenauts is going to be a very familiar to you. Anyone familiar with the ARTS genre will find that the upgrade system and objectives fit well with platforming. You can get your first game started with very little introduction.
If you ever find yourself hosting a weekend LAN party, put Awesomenauts on two systems and I guarantee you that you’ll find people flocking to play it. That’s how it worked at PAX East and it was a blast to come in and play for a game or three. With friends and some pizza, that experience can only be better.
Awesomenauts comes out in North America for the PS3 on May 1 and May 2 for the rest of the world and XBLA.