If you have a family member who games, odds are you’ve heard the term “MOBA” tossed around. It’s an acronym for multiplayer online battle arena, which is only marginally more informative than the term itself. MOBAs are the most popular genre of video game right now, with 1% of the total global population (and the total population here includes people who don’t game) playing League of Legends. But MOBAs are also the most inaccessible type of game to outsiders. Awesomenauts seeks to change that.
In Awesomenauts, you control one of the, well, Awesomenauts. You and a team of two others have a simple enough goal: walk into the other team’s base and break their big, glowing important thing. There are some obstacles in the way, of course: waves of enemy droids will spawn, and turrets blocking the way must be destroyed. And there’s also the other team to contend with, who are trying to do all the same things to you. It can seem overwhelming at first, but only one or two quick rounds in, a comforting ebb and flow begins to form in the mess.
Awesomenauts eases you into the basics of the genre gently: jumping around the high and low platforms that make up each level will feel familiar. Each character begins the match with just two things: a basic attack (which can range from a laser pistol to a slimy alien claw) and the ability to jump. Smashing enemy droids and opposing Awesomenauts will give you money to buy secondary abilities—your space cowboy might get a satchel of dynamite that he can toss out. The lizard assassin might grow a tongue that can pull enemies closer. Incidentally, these things are not only actual real abilities, they are extremely indicative of the pulpy, radio-show glory of Awesomenauts’ style. I haven’t even mentioned Dr. Brain-In-A-Jar (not his real name, but he is a doctor and also a brain in a jar).
And while we’re on the subject, the look of Awesomenauts is one of the greatest boons to the game’s casual aspirations. Since the game never stops long enough to take itself seriously, the stakes of each game never raise to the eyeball-popping stress of other MOBAs, such as Dota 2 or League of Legends. Losing a round of Awesomenauts is like losing a round of air hockey—and therefore pretty unimportant when it comes to your overall feelings about the game.
If you’re looking to figure out why your kid, partner, or distant cousin spends so much time playing MOBAs, Awesomenauts is a great game to bring you into the fold. Though it takes great pains to step out of the crowd, Awesomenauts preserves the greatest appeal of the genre: that is to say, shouting at your teammates because you’re winning, or losing, or just because there are a lot of lasers all going off.