When League of Evil debuted on mobile devices back in 2011, it became one of the addictions of the year. Keeping you hooked through its four chapters of absolute platforming torture, its success and popularity has earned it a major console release. So, seven years on, can League of Evil captivate a new audience, or should it be vanquished?
Evoking the spirits of games such as Super Meat Boy and Spelunky, League of Evil is a 2D, 8-bit platformer set in a retro 80’s action movie. The game’s simple premise sees you take control of an android special agent to defeat a series of scientists, hell-bent on world domination. The unnamed protagonist seems to be a cross of DC’s Cyborg, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and Rambo. That’s as deep as LOE goes into its narrative, as what we are really here for is the infuriating, yet enjoyable platforming. There are four complete chapters with extra missions added for the Xbox One version of the game. And if you wish to impart your own fiendish torture upon yourself and others, there is a level editor where up to three hundred missions can be created.
The best aspect of LOE’s gameplay is that if you were expecting your basic jump and run platformer, you better start paying attention. From environmental interactions and varying enemy types, what is abundantly clear is that you will have to change up your game on every level to progress. From the get-go there is no hand-holding, bar one tutorial level, you are thrown in straight away. If you wish to be good at this game, you will have to have catlike reflexes. Astounding hand-eye coordination is also top of the “required skills” list, working through traps such as protruding spears, almost sentient explosives and moving platforms keeps your fingers moving at rate of knots. Finding a gap in said obstacles is difficult but rewarding when, after the 58th time, you finally break through.
As in most platformers, verticality becomes more and more prevalent. While traversing upwards, your character can slow his descent by pushing against booby trap-laden walls. It can devolve into frantic button mashing to soar higher and higher, as enemies and environmental traps can be set in the most challenging of positions.
Your objective is to collect intel cases and eliminate an endless number of mad scientists. And it seems there are plenty of mercenaries and out of work military officers ready to hamper your progress. Beginning with dodging the rudimentary handguns, eventually you will come across laser sword wielders which would not look out of place in a galaxy far, far away, and the obligatory rocket launchers. Depending on your speed through each level, you are rewarded with a level score out of three stars. What diminishes the value of the score is that the intel cases have no influence on your score at all. If you spend your time trying to collect each, your score suffers as your time is the deciding factor.
Also, be prepared to die. An awful lot!
For its enjoyable early romps, LOE can become infuriatingly frustrating. Controls, at times, are so overly sensitive that there is absolutely no room for error. It is a pure mobile port onto the Xbox controller. Whether playing with the d-pad or the analog sticks, the movement and speed are universal. Delicacy is not in this game’s vocabulary, especially when swinging arms combined with an automated turret and erratic rocket launchers are in play. It is so annoying at times!
The charm of the 8-bit graphics and upbeat GameBoy music will not tempt me back into League of Evil’s, at times, hellishly difficult platforming too regularly. It’s utterly flattering that the game trusts you to get right into the meat of it from the start, but the difficulty spikes leave a lasting sense of “I’ve had enough. See you after my blood pressure has dropped.”
As a fun distraction on your mobile device on a bus or train journey, League of Evil works well. However, it does not lend itself particularly well to a console port that you will find yourself longing to play for any significant amount of time.