Lethal League is an indie title from developer Team Reptile, located in the Netherlands. It started as a basic flash browser game in 2013 and has now come to the PS4 and Xbox One. Up to four players pick from the six different combatants and then, via online or local mode, battle each other by smacking a ball around. If that ball connects with a player, they are knocked out. The fight continues until only one player remains and is declared the winner. I would describe Lethal League as a mix between a fighting game and pong. What seems to be a very simple concept at first, after playing for a while, begins to reveal a hidden depth. Unfortunately, Lethal League is plagued by flakey online connectivity, and for a game that requires either a few friends and three extra controllers, or online play, that can be very frustrating.
I love when developers can take a tried and true game genre, such as a fighting game, and inject some new and creative ideas into it, changing the way people play. Lethal League does this by making players focus on the ball that will take them out, as opposed to attacking the other players, or relying on combos or complicated special attacks. Players must pay attention to the location of the ball, and try to keep it moving, or bunt it so they can slow it down and position an attack. Players can jump, swing, bunt, and use a special attack when their meter is full. This make it much easier to play with a standard controller as opposed to most fighting games where I prefer a stick; that is nice, considering it can be played locally with friends.
Lethal League feels like a demo in its simplicity. With so few characters to choose from and the basic Sega Genesis era graphics, it feels older, or incomplete, by today’s standards. Thankfully, the music is not old by any means. The soundtrack is my favorite part of Lethal League. All dance, techno, and some serious earworms, the music is perfect for the high intensity of the gameplay in Lethal League. The gameplay is frenetic and fast paced, even when playing two-player with a friend. It took us both a while to get the hang of timing our hits, then longer to learn to utilize the bunt and special moves. After we got them down, Lethal League was a blast to play and matches would last longer and longer.
I was unable to find enough people to play a local four player match, this left me using the online matching system. This is where Lethal League became less fun. I spent a lot of time just waiting for matches, many times over five minutes. When a match was found, it was almost never with four players. To make matters even worse, over half of the time, a match would end in a disconnect screen. It was infuriating to wait so long only to be disconnected and back to watching the loading screen less than 15 seconds later. Other than a few short training matches, there was nothing else to do in Lethal League. This also made it feel incomplete and was disappointing. If the online system did work correctly, Lethal League had the potential to be fun anytime, not just when a couple friends came over.
With a killer soundtrack, fun with local versus mode, and creative, simple gameplay, Lethal League should have been a great game. Sadly it’s plagued with online play disconnects, long wait times, and the feeling of being just too plain and incomplete. I can see the potential in Lethal League. That is what makes it so much more disappointing. If you have a group of friends who can physically come over and really get into Lethal League, you will see how much fun it is. The joy of beating your besties is always a selling point, but most of us play online with our social groups leaving Lethal League hobbled currently. Hopefully, in the future, the matching system and/or pool of online players will increase. With some polish, additional characters, and maybe some challenge modes, Lethal League is a game I would revisit. It really is creative and original, but right now, Lethal League is a swing and a miss.
Lethal League is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. This review was made with a digital PS4 copy provided for that purpose.
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