League of Evil Review – This Game is Turning Me Evil
Many people grew up on tough as nails platformers; Contra, Battle Toads, Mega Man, Donkey Kong Country and many others. But as of late tough platformers have seen a new time in the spotlight. It all started with Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy. With retro 16-bit art, precise levels, tight controls and catchy tunes, SMB became a quick hit. Every indie developer worth their salt tried their hand at one upping SMB at their own game. With games like the Bit Trip Saga or Shovel Knight it seemed like a genre reborn. But with every success there’s a mountain of failures. League of Evil is one such failure.
League of Evil was originally released in the mobile market in 2011, making its way to consoles only recently. The game is an 8-bit platformer where you are tasked with stopping a group of scientists called the League of Evil. That’s about it as the story is concerned, the game doesn’t waste time throwing you into the levels. This is where the mobile roots really show, as the levels are at most 15 seconds long, and that’s going as slow as possible. These levels are done before they start, if they combined several levels together then maybe the game would feel more meaningful. But as it stands the game feels over-simplistic, cheap, and boring. More mobile elements, such as a star system and an optional collectible, are also present. The game feels so mundane as well, with the environments looking really drab. Where many 16- or 8-bit games go for vivid colors League of Evil has a relatively flat, muted palette. The levels also suffer a lifeless quality, the parallax scrolling of the backgrounds doesn’t add much to the atmosphere. The music is an eight second loop that repeats constantly in the menus, during gameplay, when paused, etc. I completely understand this choice, I just wish the music wasn’t as grating or as loud as it.
Where the game tries to pad it’s running time is by being “difficult”. This game is hard in the sense that it is incredibly frustrating and death is often cheap. Poor hitbox detection, weird collision and sloppy controls had me screaming in rage. The game only uses two buttons and directional movement of left and right. You have a jump and an attack button, but neither of these work properly. The jump always goes over or under the point you are trying to hit, making the basic platforming angering. The attack you have can double as a dash but the move doesn’t last long enough, leaving you stopped in front of enemy units, who kill you in one hit. When the player has to readjust their position mid-jump to reach a stationary platform then you’ve done something wrong. The levels also seemed to be remixed versions from the mobile release. Some of these changes don’t make much sense, like changing two blocks to a solid pillar, while others throw the balance of a level, like removing a swinging ax from a row of them, screwing up the timings. This makes levels annoying, as you will die, die, die, again and again as you try to make sense of out of sync timings. All these elements sludge together to make a game that isn’t much fun to play. I had to stop every few minutes because the combination of bad game elements and annoying music were testing my patience, again showing the game’s mobile heritage. This isn’t meant to be played for more than a few minutes, lest one goes insane.
I hate that I find this game bad, no doubt Ratalaika Games put effort and care into the game, but there is just too much bad design and too many questionable choices to give this game a recommendation. If you’re a diehard fan of the genre and want something to pass the time for a couple of hours, then give it a shot. But if you want tight controls, well-crafted levels, and a sense of accomplishment, play any other highly praised indie platformer. In the battle of game design League of Evil isn’t too genius.