E3 2011: Awesomenauts Hands-On Preview

This loopy mash-up of genres is a lot of silly, 2D fun.

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Awesomenauts is what happens when you take the retro side-scrolling mayhem of Metal Slug and stir in the class-based online multiplayer of Monday Night Combat. Oh, and it’s also what you get when you throw in a super-cheesy '80s cartoon art style. And did we mention one of the characters is a frog who's also a pimp? So yeah, Awesomenauts is that kind of game.

It's also quite a bit of fun, if our brief hands-on time with the game is any indication. Because it's a purely competitive online multiplayer game, there's no proper story campaign: you just start up a three-versus-three match with a few bots, and the game will automatically merge your match with others playing online. The gameplay itself is fairly simple as well. You move about a 2D level, running and jumping around trying to destroy the other team's base while dealing with the ridiculous upgradable weaponry everyone is throwing all over the place.

Said weaponry varies from character to character, this being a class-based game in which any of the six characters you choose from will have a unique set of tools at his disposal. For example, there's the dynamite-flinging cowboy Sheriff Lonestar, the monkey astronaut Yuri, and Froggy G, the aforementioned frog pimp. We played as Sheriff Lonestar, who starts off with a six-shooter and some basic dynamite. But as you collect the stray orblike objects floating around the map (which generally pop up after killing someone), you'll be able to purchase upgrades, such as jet-powered cowboy boots, and the ability to summon a sort of destructive bull ghost that tears through the map in the direction you're currently facing. Did we mention this game is a little bit insane?

Altogether, Awesomenauts was a silly, charming little downloadable game. The controls are easy to pick up and play, with the sort of side-scrolling 2D movement we all know and love, combined with the multidirectional shooting of a more hardcore shoot-'em-up and a vast pool of eccentric weapon upgrades. It's scheduled for release this fall on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

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