Saturday, February 6, 2016

PC review: Lethal League

Lethal League is neither a particularly complicated nor expansive game. But it is a game that knows what it’s all about, and strives to offer an energetic and fun party format that pits players against one another in intense, high-stakes racquetball matches. Drawing its rule set from arcade fighting games and utilizing an experimental technopop soundtrack that would make Jet Set Radio fans proud, Lethal League is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

The rules are straightforward – players try to smack a ball around a two-dimensional space in order to K.O. one another and be the last man standing. The ball is able to bounce off the walls, floor, and ceiling, and successive hits to the ball will increase its speed, which can reach an absurd velocity. It’s a risk-reward system – jumping in the ball’s path to smack it back at your opponent gives you a chance to knock them out of the ring, but at the cost of placing yourself in the ball’s path of destruction. Multiple hits from a single player will reward them a power move, which varies from character to character, but includes a bounce, the ability to stop the ball and relaunch it at a new trajectory, and even pass through the walls to strike from behind.

Each of the half-dozen playable characters boasts a different degree of mobility, speed, and agility, making the selection process prior to a match more complicated than simple aesthetic appeal. On that note, the characters bear cel-shaded designs with comic book sensibilities, while stages are largely urban, all of which matches well with the aforementioned soundtrack direction. Menus are simple but clean, and character animations on the whole look smooth. Hit detection is about as perfect as anyone could hope for in a game that falls into a such a grey area between genres.

While the default mode pits all four players against one another, there is an option for team-based matches. Lethal League even includes an alternate game mode that requires players to aim for targets instead of one another, though this mode is admittedly less enjoyable than the default scoring system on account of the tense risk aspect being almost wholly removed. A single player mode progresses in strikingly similar fashion to the Classic Mode of the Super Smash Bros. series, while online play is presented for players who do not have opponents readily available to play nearby. Lethal League may not be a very big game, but it knows what it’s aiming for, and – for the most part – hits high notes.

My rating: 8 (out of 10)

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