Balls and sports are synonymous with one another. I’d be willing to bet of the last three major sports you’ve seen mentioned on the news this week, two of them involved a ball in some way. Baseball, Basketball, Football (sorry… Soccer), American Football, Rugby, heck even golf has balls nestled among the fairways. Now imagine taking a ball and thrashing it across the field to, quite literally, tear the color from opponents at supersonic speeds. Sound good? Then let us open the doors to Lethal League.
While the name may suggest a Riot Games lineage at work here, there’s no relation to the League of Legends. As far as genres go, Lethal League fits best into the fairly empty world of 2D beat’em ups but without any actual beat’em uping. The aim of the game is to smash the ball – who we shall affectionately call Lucien – around a small arena into opponents while avoiding his wrath. It seems very simple and frankly it is. What’s great about Lethal League though is how it takes this simple premise and creates such a compelling game.
Combat takes place between two to four players who can each choose one of five different characters. Unlike the vast rosters of other titles like Street Fighter or Tekken, developers Team Reptile only dished out five choices because five is all the game needs. They all move in much the same way but with their own little special flavors for traversing arenas. Latch, a crocodile in a trenchcoat. is able to attach himself to walls and clamber around while Switch can hop on his board to skate up boundaries. Outside of that, no character bears any particular advantage, unless your opponent has Visiosubrideophobia.
And this makes it all so much more enjoyable.
Reptile Games describe Lethal League as a competitive projectile fighting game which removes one important element from the whole idea, the fighting. It is highly competitive and our poor little Lucien is most definitely a projectile but you can never directly damage an opponent. What could be seen by some as a detraction from potential competition is actually a beautifully brilliant way to create a new dynamic in the competitive gaming scene. If two characters both swing at the same time they will parry the strikes of one another, negating any action.
Not wanting to knock more popular competitive 2D games but, lets be honest, they often have quite significant barriers to entry. A wealth of training and practice modes may be available to new players. However, when you’ve just bought a new game the desire to actually play it is normally high. Jumping into your first battles and getting beaten to a pulp in seconds for trying something new just isn’t fun. Lethal League welcomes in new players with open arms. While being far from complex, the simple control schemes are incredibly hard to master. Once again, all thanks to our old friend Lucien and his inexorable desire to bounce around in patterns which could be used to summon a demonic presence from the abyss.
Much like anyone getting hammered repeatedly by four angry hooligans, every time Lucien (our affectionately personified ball) takes an almighty wallop he speeds up. In the initial stages he accelerates slowly but after ten or so slams he ramps up the rate to speeds so high that following his path can make your eyes bleed. Not to mention the screen starts to discolor, seemingly as the force of each successive strike ripples out and pulls apart the very molecules holding reality itself together. As the pace of each round shifts up a gear, the senses are bombarded with skull-shattering impacts until one player finally stands victorious. Then it starts all over again.