There are few things better in the gaming world than gathering a group of mates together, plugging in four controllers and battling it out in a good old competitive video game. Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, Halo, Towerfall – just a handful guaranteed to have you laughing for hours. As console generations have passed however the multiplayer scene has shifted more toward the online side of things meaning true local four player experiences are becoming less of a certain feature.
Enter Lethal League, a new release based off of one of the most chaotic and downright fun browser based games you’re likely to the experience. Does this expanded, enhanced version retain the same level of fun as it’s original creation?
Taking place on an empty 2D arena, up to four players run and jump around whilst dodging a constantly bouncing baseball within the screen. Armed with a bat (or variation of) you can protect yourself by hitting the ball with a well timed swing back at your opponents. A speedometer at the bottom of the screen displays the velocity of the deadly projectile – make contact with a standard forward swing and its speed increases by one, hit a downward spike though and watch the pace of the ball double.
All it takes is a single hit from the ball to be eliminated so you can probably imagine the tension that fills the room the further into a round you get. An optional ruling that is fun to turn both on and off, sees that the last player to make contact with the ball cannot take damage. It offers a very relieving (if brief) sense of safety in knowing you’re practically invincible until one of your foes can return the ball back.
A round will rarely feel similar to the one that came before with results often ranging from quick eliminations thanks to mistimed swings and jumps, a last minute special move snatching you the win (more on those later) or the ball’s speed reaching several thousand becoming nothing more than a stretchy blur on screen. Rounds are constantly unpredictable and always entertaining.
Characters each possess a handy skill usable after a number of successful swings; Latch (a cyborg crocodile) for example can gobble up the ball and fire it in any direction while Candyman creates a portal capable of sending the ball through and out the other side of the stage. These moves add a little more chaos to the mix and aren’t too frequent so as to dominate the action.
It may come as no surprise but the game really needs to be played with others. The computer does a decent enough job keeping you on your toes but obviously the lack of any banter or trash talking with your opponent means it’s just not the same. Two player offers a good competitive time while three is certainly manageable with four players being absolute chaos (not too dissimilar from a game of Smash Bros.) In a nice addition, all this can be played online!
Visually the game isn’t anything outstanding but its cartoony style gets the job done. Characters look pretty cool with each sporting their own unique design – from crocodile to skater to robot. The music sports plenty of base-fuelled tunes complementing the frantic action of matches well.
I’ll admit that outside of the Super Smash Bros franchise, I had started to grow weary of the slightly stagnant fighter. Lethal League however manages to inject some much needed originality in the genre, creating what can only be described as a “baseball beat-em-up”. Absolute chaos with four players, Lethal League is constantly exciting and easily one of the best multiplayer games of 2014. Check it out.