After seeing the rebirth of the Saints in Saints Row and their mantra of killing thousands of people just to pay off their student loans, any new “get rich quick” scheme will naturally feel much more grounded. The two characters in League of Enthusiastic Losers need to find some money quickly to pay their rent. Their money-making plans are definitely a more chilled out affair, however.
Vitya and Volodya are two 40-something males living together in a pokey little flat. We first encounter them getting off the tram on their way to a reunion of sorts with some old school friends. En route, they discover a puppy stuck up a tree and decide to rescue, and then look after, it. Straight from the off, we get an insight into their kind-hearted nature and how their personalities complement each other.
Vitya has a more positive outlook on life, whereas Volodya is very much the typical despairing writer searching for a lucky break. Together, they come up with the rather fantastical idea of using a metal detector to find treasure and pay their rent off that way. First things first though, they need a metal detector.
League of Enthusiastic Losers is a visual novel/point-and-click game set in Moscow in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. It is a hand drawn game with a really calming sense to the visuals. You can’t help but instantly warm to Vitya and Volodya and their quirks; even though your time with them is fleeting, it is time well spent.
Although, I was hoping for a bit more of Moscow to be honest. Setting the game in that location and time period must have been a design decision and was alluded to as a major component of the game. But aside from a few Russian notes stuck to a broken lift and found littering the desk, this could have been set anywhere. At a crucial time period breaking free from the shackles of the USSR, there could have been many more references to this. All we really get is a curmudgeonly old man looking out for spies.
But despite League of Enthusiastic Losers being a short game – we’re talking less than an hour to complete – it packs a lot in. As well as the reunion, Vitya and Volodya will go treasure hunting, sailing with toy boats, make work and social commitments and even have time to name a spider. Whilst their objective may be to find buried treasure, it is the slice of life storytelling that is one of League of Enthusiastic Losers biggest selling points.
However, nothing will prepare you for the ending. It is the most abrupt ending I have ever come across. The plot plods along nicely and then bam, something happens, and the game ends. It feels like there is a missing second half to League of Enthusiastic Losers, and part of me initially thought the game had glitched to the ending and skipped over the entire second act.
I was always told in school to never finish a story with something like “and they went home and went to bed” but this ending is the videogame equivalent right here. It’s a real shame too, as I would have loved a bit more time with these characters.
In amongst all of the pointing and clicking, there are a few other gameplay options. One early on had me as Vitya – the resident handyman – putting up some shelves. This is done by grabbing the shelf and matching it up to the outline on the wall. It will show you the button prompts in the top right, but these are wrong. And it took me a while to realise this. It will state to use the right bumper to grab the shelf, but you should instead use right trigger.
There are other performance issues for League of Enthusiastic Losers too, which makes no sense as it isn’t exactly maxing out the CPU. Volodyas walking animation looks like he limps along as a few frames are missing; when controlling Vitya you can leave Volodya behind on a long enough screen as he is noticeably slower. And then there are loading times that take a few seconds. One or two of these would be fine but they occur between most screen transitions. Maybe we’re just used to frequent load times being a thing of the past on Xbox Series X|S consoles that make these ones feel a bit more intrusive.
But, with a short game comes the prospect of easy achievements, and League of Enthusiastic Losers is no exception. There are only ten on offer, with each one worth 100G, and all come through natural play.
Just don’t forget to pet the dog!
The best games leave you with a feeling of wanting more, but when that feeling is accompanied with a half-baked story that abruptly ends just as things get going, it also leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The hand-drawn style is very pretty, though it doesn’t necessarily make the best use of the location it is set in. And performance issues relegate League of Enthusiastic Losers from a visual novel/point-and-click with potential, into little more than achievement fodder.
Join the ranks of the League of Enthusiastic Losers via the Xbox Store