Its not as glaringly simple as whacking poor Lucien around though. As every character looks different, so too are they able to utilize unique abilities. Four successful smashes charges up a meter – because all fighting games need a meter of some sort – which can be used to throw out a specialist attack capable of ruining anyone’s day. Raptor’s special attack changes the trajectory of Lucien while Candyman’s is a head-bashing nightmare to deal with at times as he forces Lucien through the walls in a surprise strike. The ability of Candyman isn’t particularly difficult to deal with early game but later when Lucien reaches speeds of 100000 km/h and turns the screen white it becomes… unpleasant.
The trick to succeeding in Lethal League is almost as lethally simple as its presentation. At the bottom of the screen a boombox – an ancient and mystical device used in ye olde times to provide musical accompaniment to the days activities, while often resting atop the shoulder – has two important roles. Later in each round as Lucien violently bounces around the room, a strike will briefly stop him causing the speed to increase further. This can be counteracted by other players by timing a rebound hit perfectly. Where the boombox comes in is through the equalizer slowly rising on both sides. When it fills up, Lucien is released to wreak havoc but hitting it yourself at the climax results in an even faster launch in your favor.
Oh and the music blaring out at any time is absolutely fantastic. The sort of tunes which could be used to raise the dead into rave.
Lethal League doesn’t forget the solo players. There isn’t a massive amount of content for the solitary gamer. A challenge mode sits within the extras menu offering up a short mode where you can play against AI opponents. Unlike many other modes of the same type though, it’s always the same. The only purpose it really serves is as a practice mode or something to do when the internet isn’t working properly in your irradiated hovel — oh wait, that whole armageddon thing doesn’t happen until next week.
This lack of content extends out into other aspects of the game too. While not playing a big part in gameplay itself, the lack of different arena layouts does mean long sessions can become a little lackluster. There’s nothing wrong with every arena being the same but it does bring about a little slap in the face to variety. For example a level could have been designed with a central pillar. It wouldn’t be as easy to traverse but when variety is the spice of life, combat area organization in Lethal League is a little like a boring flavorless cereal: it gets the job done but there’s nothing interesting about it. Not even a cool decoder ring.
There’s a good reason why Lethal League was featured in the EVO 2014 showcase and other competitive gaming events. While there is a lack of variety there is no lack of fun. Reptile Games have created something really rather good here; an innovative game with fast-paced action where reaction times mean more than memorizing ten-button combinations and enough practice to turn your wrist into dust. It isn’t perfect but with its delightful graphical style and unique gameplay, Lethal League is definitely one for the competitive gamers out there. Or for those who hate someone called Lucien and want slam a ball which they name after him by choice.