League of Evil: Incredibly Hard Platforming at Your Fingertips

Do you ever find yourself wishing that you could find a game on your iPhone that didn’t have some adorable animal as its main character? Are you from the old school of gaming, where “death” didn’t mean an instant restart, it meant sucking it up, putting another quarter in the slot and gritting your teeth while you hoped you could get further than before?

League of Evil is kind of like that, except you don’t have to pay a quarter every time you’re bested by a level. Which is good, because otherwise I’d be broke by now.

The Premise

You play as the Agent, a man with what appears to be a robot eye and arm who hunts down evil scientists and punches them into oblivion. That sentence reads like a twelve-year-old boy’s best dream, and it’s about as awesome as it sounds.

League of Evil isn’t trying to wow you with a strong backplot. League of Evil is about getting in there, playing a level and enjoying it for the gameplay. That said, there are a few times where the background can be enjoyable, generally in the opening and closing cinematics when you launch a new chapter. The game has a strong tongue-in-cheek attitude, securing its spot in the “don’t let your toddler play this game” territory.

Gameplay

Right out the gate I’m going to tell you that I’m disappointed at the fact that League of Evil uses virtual buttons instead of creating a unique method of interaction with the game. While I’m a big fan of controllers in a general sense and touch-gaming on the iPhone is certainly still evolving, I see virtual buttons as a sort of crutch to use while other methods are still in development. That said, the game does control very well, provided you can remember where those buttons are.

Getting past those hammers is easy, provided you remember where the buttons are.

Getting past those hammers is easy, provided you remember where the buttons are.

The main point of the game is to make it through a level chock-full of spikes, holes, soldiers and things that are carrying an electrical charge for no apparent reason besides the game hating you. After you make it through that level, you’re able to punch an evil scientist (who, oddly enough, just stands there waiting for you) and progress to the next level. As I’ve said, this sort of gameplay appeals to a certain subset of gamer, and you know who you are.

The whole point of the game is to punch these guys repeatedly.

The whole point of the game is to punch these guys repeatedly.

One area where the game doesn’t let down is with its blistering difficulty. I didn’t mean to undersell the obstacles up above; there is, literally, something waiting to kill you in just about every inch of each level. The obstacles themselves don’t vary all that much, but the way they’re put into new combinations will still keep you on your toes. Another goal thrown into the mix is gathering all of the briefcases hidden in the levels, often behind even deadlier obstacles than on the main path.

Don't you dare judge me for those.

Don't you dare judge me for those.

Visual Design

League of Evil, with its retro difficulty, sports a nice retro flavor to the design. Each item in the game is styled with the old-school mentalities in mind, giving you clues as to what an object is with a strong artistic sense that has really resurged in the past few years.

It's a good thing this screen (and the levels) look so nice, as you'll be seeing them often.

It's a good thing this screen (and the levels) look so nice, as you'll be seeing them often.

I’m a big fan of the visual style associated with this game, so I may be a bit biased, but I believe that the two go hand in hand. League of Evil is meant to be a throwback to the days when gaming was punishing, and part of invoking that nostalgic excitement (which seems like an oxymoron) involves using the visual style of that time in gaming.

Sounds

League of Evil is solidly average in the sounds department. Each action you perform invokes a sound, but it’s rarely more than a slight click to indicate that you pressed the right virtual button. While there is some background music, I found that I ended up muting the game more often than not. This isn’t solely the game’s fault and is also a byproduct of the fact that when I’m playing on my iPhone I often don’t have the chance to enjoy the sounds of a game.

Still, though, there’s only so many times you want to hear the click of a jump (or double-jump) and dying in the same spot before you contemplate throwing that shiny iPhone through a window.

Extras

Part of the appeal to this game for some people will be the support of OpenFeint, a Game Center competitor that is popular with a lot of games that try to incorporate a social aspect without Game Center’s limitations. I don’t use the service so I can’t comment on it besides mentioning its presence and acknowledging that, given how prevalent it is in many of these games, it has the potential to be excellent.

The Agent and other characters are available in The Blocks Cometh, an addictive platformer.

The Agent and other characters are available in The Blocks Cometh, an addictive platformer.

A fun Easter egg is the inclusion of “The Blocks Cometh” chapter. The Blocks Cometh is another game that has a close relationship to League of Evil, even going so far as including some of the characters from this game in its addictive “don’t get squashed” gameplay. While it’s not necessary to have both games in order to enjoy either, it’s fun to see developers working closely with each other to develop a bit of a backstory and rewarding gamers with fun throwbacks that only they will recognize.

Conclusion

League of Evil isn’t for everyone, and it does a good job of recognizing that and not trying to be. The basic premise is a bit far-fetched, but is really just there to provide a reason for flipping through (and dying in) level after level. If you’re looking for another game that will satisfy your cravings until the next Angry Birds Seasons comes out, League of Evil definitely isn’t for you.

For those of you that can remember what it was like to beg for a quarter from your parents only to die a level later, though, League of Evil can hold a special place in your heart. With its excellent visual design and levels that are truly frustratingly — in a good way — difficult, League of Evil is absolutely worth your quarters.


Summary

League of Evil is a well-designed, responsive platformer that brings the old-school mentality of video games back.

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  • http://www.AainaA.com AainaA

    Excellent & very well written – I have been looking for a more retro feel to new games, and I think you’ve pointed me in that direction. Keep up the great work. Appreciate it !