If you only tend to focus on the big titles released for Sony’s parallelogram-shaped machine, then you may have missed out on some of the memorable indie experiences deployed over the past few months. One such game is Ronimo Games' recently re-visited Awesomenauts Assemble!, a next-gen version of the 2012 multiplayer online battle arena. But in spite of the title’s attractive art style and above average gameplay, does its lack of blockbuster clout make it any less awesome? In short, no – but it’s not going to light everyone’s fire either.
A war rages in the galaxy, as factions fight over possession of a rare element named Solar, using mercenaries to help to give them the edge in conflict. These guns-for-hire are the eccentrics that you’ll be controlling in hectic three-on-three face-offs, across a collection of platform infested 2D arenas. It’s up to you to destroy the opposing team’s Solar collecting drill first, but the catch is that you’ll need to work your way through several automated turrets, droids, and powered-up opponents to get to them.
This ultimately means that the game hasn’t changed a whole lot since the release of its PlayStation 3 counterpart – in fact, the core structure remains untouched. Red and Blue overalls continue to distinguish each team, while each character has access to a melee and projectile attack. The real differentiating feature is the inclusion of seven new playable protagonists, complete with their own unique abilities that uphold the franchise’s manic trait. Unfortunately, these swanky new faces are concealed behind XP milestones, meaning that grinding is required in order to meet the new guys.
For a next-gen release, the visuals aren’t exactly what you may expect. Surrounded by eye-wateringly pretty products like Killzone: Shadow Fall, this title settles for a graphical style that’s a little more simplistic. Echoing an Alien Hominid-esque design, the colours are exuberant and well defined – especially the distinguishing Blue and Red garments of each team. This casual cartoon presentation offers a real breath of fresh air, and brilliantly complements the humorous personalities of the protagonists in the game.
Despite the defined nature of the characters, though, the arenas are a little less diverse, with only little details like native wildlife and colour schemes to differentiate them. Moreover, the scope of these battlegrounds is a little disappointing, as they can feel very small, but we assume that this is a consequence of the title’s paltry player count. At least the arenas are home to a deep-voiced announcer, reminiscent of the old Quake games. He’ll regularly let you know about the state of your defences, and even embarrass you when you face an awkward defeat.
However, while the gameplay is often very engaging, bedazzled with colourful explosions and interactive environments, it can’t seem to avoid slipping into the Sarlaac Pit of monotony. Player movement – although upgradeable in-game – starts out slow, and if you get bludgeoned to death, it’ll take you what feels like an age to trudge back to the firefight. If you’re having a really terrible game, your respawn time will appear to get progressively longer, ironically as your patience gets shorter.
It’s worth noting that these gripes are a direct result of the developer’s attempts to maintain an effective balance. In a genre as demanding as the MOBA, this is a key component: slower respawns and reduced movement are there to maintain an effective flow, and it’s generally successful here. This helps to improve the online experience, which is where the majority of your time with the game will be spent. Offline players should be aware that outside of a practice mode and the option to play private matches with your buddies, there’s not a lot else here that will keep you occupied.
And that means that the minor online hiccups can become increasingly frustrating. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the netcode, but with matches lasting up to 15 minutes, most people seem to have an issue with that kind of commitment, making mid-session dropouts a constant blight on the experience. While the title does compensate for this by replacing any quitters with competent computer controlled characters, it does rob you of the satisfaction of playing with a fellow human being. This isn’t really the game’s fault, but it’s still an issue worth mentioning.
Outside of the new playable characters and patched up gameplay, Awesomenauts Assemble! does little to distance itself from its PS3 counterpart. Fortunately, it’s still an enjoyable MOBA, with smooth – if a little slow – gameplay and a refreshing visual style. It’s without a doubt the best and most complete version of Ronimo Games' excellent eighties homage to date – but it never quite does enough to make it worth a double-dip.