Developer: Team Reptile
Publisher: Team Reptile
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
Lethal League has become immensely popular since it released on Steam back in 2014. Though it falls into the fighting game genre, I still don’t know whether to to call it that. After many matches, I realized that this is the deadliest version of pong I have ever played. Lethal League shows yet again why I love the independent side of the video game industry: the game bleeds style and is entertaining at the same time. I have seen it on the Steam store during many sales, and yet I never jumped on the purchase. Team Reptile has now given console owners an opportunity to take part in the chaos and made Lethal League available on PS4 and Xbox One.
Violence: In Lethal League, players hit a ball back and forth much like a game of ping pong or tennis. The key difference is that the main objective is for the opponents to hit each other with the ball rather than having it land in a zone for points. When an enemy is hit, they react and yell in pain. As players rally (hit the ball back and forth) the ball’s speed greatly increases into mach levels. The lack of blood or gore is noteworthy.
Language/Crude Humor: The violence mentioned above relates to the objective, which does indeed fall into the category of crude humor. As far as language is concerned, there is some that isn’t mentioned in the ESRB that apparently doesn’t fall into their standards. One character by the name of Candyman screams “d**n it” multiple times when he is defeated. It can be rather annoying when the character is present within the match.
Positive Content: Beyond the content mentioned above, the game’s cartoon art style keeps things fairly clean. In terms of negative content, there is much worse out there that your $15 could go to.
Lethal League is unlike any fighting game I have ever played, because it technically isn’t one. In a match, players knock around an anti-gravity ball, but the goal is to hit your opponent with it. Rounds happen in what are called “bursts”; when one player is left standing, they win the burst. Think of it like a stock match in Super Smash Bros., except that you are eliminated as soon as you get hit. Once a player loses all of their lives, they are eliminated from the match. Sounds easy right? Well no, it isn’t—the ball increases velocity every time it is hit, eventually to the degree such that players may choose to dodge rather than return a shot, lest they be eliminated.
The term “easy to pick up and tough to master”is cliché , but that phrase applies here appropriately. On top of just hitting the ball back, you can launch a special attack or slow down the ball by hitting the lob button. There are other various tactics such as parries and clashes that can be very instrumental in your victory if you can execute them properly. Like most fighting games, competitors can easily break things down by hitboxes and frame just like they would do in Street Fighter. When I first started learning the ropes, I stuck with one-on-one matches, and that quickly got boring. Once I started joining team and free-for-all games with the maximum capacity of four players, I got the full experience. More than a few times I found myself thinking, “Just one more match!” when that next match was surely not my last.
I mentioned Super Smash Bros., which Lethal League was clearly inspired by. It is the four-man matches and zoomed out camera that helps it resemble Nintendo’s mascot brawler. Though the gameplay is not all the developers copied—the developers blatantly copied the menus and UI of Super Smash Brothers Melee. This comes off as extremely lazy. However, the developers’ originality is seen through the characters and stages. The 2-D hand-drawn art style very much reminds me of Jet Set Radio, especially since it is accompanied by a funky soundtrack loaded with hip-hop and house music that is far from generic.
One major downside is that Lethal League is light on content. There are only six characters and a handful of stages in a fighting game so unique that it is ripe for some variety. We do have our standard training modes, local and online multiplayer. I was pleased to find the challenge mode, though it was behind the “extras” option. It basically works like an arcade ladder, which Street Fighter V doesn’t even have. The downside is that the difficulty ramps up about half way through and can sometimes be rage-inducing. In a world where many fighting games have story modes, Lethal League does not have one (and it’s not really needed). The most we get is some information in the form of character bios.
Though there are only six, all of the characters are unique and play a bit differently from each other. That uniqueness comes not only in the form of stats, but with skills as well. For example, the lizard named Latch can actually latch and climb up and down walls while the bat-wielding kid named Raptor can only slide down them while other characters can’t jump on any walls at all. Characters even differ in attack reach and speed; a robot by the name of Switch rides a skateboard that makes him significantly faster when other characters may have a longer reach. Each character’s special attack is also different from one another; Candyman, whose head is a jaw breaker, uses his own head as the ball for his special attack.
When I first booted up Lethal League, I expected this to hinge on having friends to play with, but I found that wasn’t the case when playing match after match online. It is evident why Lethal League has become a hit for Team Reptile, but after three years of being on Steam, I expected more content to come with it. I have no doubt that fans of Super Smash Bros. and people who have friends to share the joy of local multiplayer with will get everything they can out of Lethal League and its chaotic fun. My hope is that it keeps a consistent online community on consoles, where many popular indie games from the PC sometimes don’t have one when they finally make it to the PS4 and Xbox One.
Review Copy kindly provided by Team Reptile
The Bottom Line
Having finally experienced the intense chaotic fun that Lethal League is known for, its no wonder why it was such a hit on PC. Despite a few minor setbacks, Lethal League is perfect for fans of Super Smash Bros. and anyone looking for some great multiplayer fun.