A lot of indie developers like to make crazy game concoctions. Games like Divinity Dragon Commander, Rocket League, and Shovel Knight amongst others like to mix various game styles into one big game and Lethal League is no exception. From the creators of Megabyte Punch, Lethal League is a mixture of Pong and Super Smash Brothers with the style and music similar to that of Jet Set Radio thrown in. It's crazy cast of characters, awesome music, and easy to learn/hard to master gameplay will entertain even the pickiest of fighting game fans.
When you start up the game you're asked if you want to learn how to play the game. Should you select yes you'll be able to select a character from the roster to help you learn the ropes. The characters are:
•Raptor: A 15 year old rookie in the Lethal League scene, hailing from the south. Though young, he’s very determined and fiercely competitive. His weapon of choice is a metal baseball bat and his special ability allows him to twist around and quickly hit the ball two times in a row.
•Switch: A 5 year old skateboarding ex-working class robot. He uses his skateboard and skateboard tricks to hit the ball. He sports cargo pants to stop filth getting into his leg joints when speeding across the city. Very unlike his old robot peers, he’s carefree, a daredevil, and he likes a challenge.
•Candyman: A 28 year old tap-dancing mutated human with a big yellow head. He hits the ball with his cane and he has a special ability to change the chemical composition of certain objects to give them strange and odd properties due to his mutation. He’s jazzy, expressive and crazy.
•Sonata: A 23 year old human. Sonata is all about pushing her body to its physical limits in the name of showmanship and impressing her audience. She joins the game to boost her recognition and fame. She wields a giant boombox hammer effortlessly, owing to her diligent training.
•Latch: A 20 year old crocodile outfitted with a mechanical tail. Enhancements to his spine and brain allow him to function in human society. He is in possession of tremendous physical as well as mental strength. His personality is calculated, his movement is raw.
•Dice: A 19 year old human. He eschews the typical weapons of choice for a ping pong paddle that he wields with uncanny force. He appears distant at times, but can be intensely concentrated whenever he feels the need. As a Buddhist, Dice is known for his mental discipline and diligent physical training.
As you play the tutorial you learn about how you move around the battlefield as well as how you control the ball. You have a dedicated jump button, a hit button, a bunt button, and a taunt or “expression” button. The hit button does exactly what it’s supposed to do, though you can hold it down to increase the speed of the ball when you hit it and you can also control the direction of the ball with the left analog stick. The bunt button slows down the ball on impact just a bit for you or someone else to follow up for a hit. The expression button allows your character to perform his or her specific taunt, though pressing the button along with the left analog stick in a certain direction will have the character say phrases like “Wow, Oops, OMG”, etc.
After a while in tutorial you’ll then learn about some of the deeper mechanics of the game, like how every character has a special move. After your character has hit the ball 4 times you can trigger your character’s special move to occur by pressing the hit button again after you hit the ball. This will use your entire special meter and will change the behavior of the ball. For example Candyman’s special allows him to turn the ball into a replica of his head that allows it to go through the walls of the stage hitting whoever might be on the other side. Latch’s special lets him eat the ball and spit it out at the player’s discretion. The special moves in the game are different for every character and each of them do something different to the direction or the speed of the ball. There are other mechanics in the game like each character having the ability to wall jump a la Megaman X, or how some characters interact with stages differently such as Latch being able to wall cling and Switch being able to ride the walls and ceiling of every stage. There's also parrying where, at the cost of your super meter. while you’re hitting the ball pressthe bunt button you can prevent your opponents from trying to hit the ball and instead opening them up for the ball to hit them out. These mechanics add a lot of depth to a game that has a very simple control scheme.
After you’re finished with the tutorial you’ll be able to select from either go online or play some local versus multiplayer. Both of them have their own modes similar to that of Super Smash Brothers where you can play either Free for All or Team Battle. There’s also a mode called Strikers where it’s two teams of two and the objective is to have the ball hit the goal on the opposing side a la Hockey or Soccer. There’s also an Extras section where you can go into Training mode to practice your skills and reaction time, and to Challenge mode where you fight a gauntlet of opponents until you reach the final boss The Doombox. Looking at the list of modes at first glance may not seem like much, but there’s definitely plenty to do in this game.
As far as the online component of the game is concerned, the online is great! The netcode is run by GGPO (Good Game Peace Out) which is considered to be the gold standard in fighting game netcodes. In the character select screen during online play you’ll be able to gauge how laggy your match will be via a bar that appears next to your opponent’s character. This is good information to let you know how long to delay your timings, especially when it comes to a game like this.
On the morality front there’s the violent act of hitting a ball toward your opponent’s face as well as some cursing with Candyman. Thankfully you can turn character voices off in the options menu if they get on your nerves.
Lethal League is an indie game that’s described by the fighting game community as “Pong but insane” and rightfully so. The mechanics, the characters, as well as the visual effects that play on screen when the ball gets over a certain mile per hour really make this game worth playing when you have friends over, though I’d wait for a price drop on Steam.