Originally released back in 2011 for mobile devices, League of Evil scratched the Super Meat Boy itch that was absent from the App Store at the time. It was welcomed with praise by critics and on-the-go gamers alike for its addictive gameplay and surprisingly decent on-screen control system despite the lack of a physical gamepad. Now developers Ratalaika Games and Woblyware have finally seen an opportunity on Nintendo’s family of systems to finally bring this action-platformer to the Nintendo eShop.
Over half a decade later from its initial release, it lands with fists at the ready from a chopper onto the Nintendo Switch, bringing with it a Super Mario Maker-esque level editor to boot. Whilst it fit nicely as a mobile filler for the genre back in the day, it has now set itself up against stiff competition with the likes of the excellent Slime-san as well as the upcoming projects from Edmund McMillan who kicked off the precision-platforming indie trend in the first place.
League of Evil sees you as a generic 80’s style, half cyborg super agent who is on a mission to rid the world from the evil scientists that threaten humanity. To do this you must make your way through over 160 levels of tight performing as you punch, kick and dodge your way to complete your objective, assassinating each sinister-yet-defenceless genius that occupies each area.
For a genre that is notoriously known for its difficulty, the first block of challenges does have a steady learning curve that you will probably fly through without too much trouble. However, it doesn’t stay that way for long as more threatening enemies and obstacles fill each mission making things very difficult as you sharpen your hand-eye coordination, constantly swearing at the screen with each failed attempt. The gameplay does always stay constant though, with instant restarts and lightning fast transitions between each stage allowing you to maintain your determination for success.
There’s also the objective of snatching a briefcase on each level putting yourself at risk even further as it agitates your OCD nerve if left uncollected. These briefcases have no real purpose other than bragging rights which is unfortunate as it would give more incentive to grab them if they actually contributed to unlocking rewards of some sort. You can also challenge yourself even further by aiming to get three stars Angry Birds-style by darting through each level as fast as you can.
Of course, the only way a platformer like this can work effectively is if the control scheme is up to scratch. Your bionic hero has the ability to double jump off walls as well as attack your enemies. Your attacks can also be used to gain a little extra air time as you throw a flying kick onto a resting wall or platform giving you your breath back to double jump again keeping your momentum flowing. Controlling the character feels fundamentally precise with the addition of the melee attacks, turning this game from a copy into a contender.
The only real gripe I had with the control scheme was with the wall jumping. It feels as though you jump too far from a wall to effectively climb up it so you have to use your second jump to gain any real height. I would have preferred a little more freedom of air movement in this situation to wall hop like Mega Man just so I could feel that I have 100 percent control of my character. It’s not a big deal though, and an easy habit to kick.
Platformers such as this are optimal with a physical controller in hand. Whilst the mobile version of the game did a great job of trying to capture the essence of the genre, It just doesn’t come close to the true navigation that a gamepad can provide. Thankfully, the controls translate to console as you would expect – tight and responsive with no lag time whatsoever making the console iteration the favourable way to play. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be HD Rumble support which is a real shame as that feature does actually work quite well for this sort of game.
The game’s 8-bit visual look is very basic but does carry a bit of charm with the animations of your jumping somersault looking satisfyingly fluid as you punch the face off your enemies – their bodies exploding into a pulpy mess. It reminds me of something Kenshiro from The Fist of the North Star would do in the popular 80s manga movie. The comical gore can be turned off if desired but I can hardly imagine it being offensive to anyone, even children. The option’s there if you are concerned about that sort of thing, which is always a plus in my book.
The chip tune sounds are decent enough, but the short repetitive loop can start to grate slightly for it can take a while before a new soundtrack is introduced into the mix. It doesn’t feel out of place though, as it suitably keeps the tempo in line with the fast paced gameplay.
The level designs are set out with basic blocks and layouts which make the level editor a very welcome and easy to learn experience. You basically have all the development tools that the missions are made out of at your disposal, lightly substituting any withdrawals you may have from the absence of a Super Mario Maker on the hybrid console. It isn’t even close to being on the same level as the Wii U classic but it is a fun and practical addition regardless.
You can upload and download creations, all of which are cross playable with the Wii U, Nintendo 3DS and Steam versions of the game which is a fantastic feature. You can also share codes of your creations for others to play, although it did take me a while to find out where my code was as it seemed so small and lost on the screen it can be quite easily overlooked. You can, however, download packs of the more popular levels to keep you going which is also a nice feature.
The layout of the tool sets can be a bit of a pain though, as they have no explanation on what item does what without either testing them out or running into them in the main game, which can slow your creativity down a bit. There are a few controller short cuts you can take advantage of to keep the flow moving as you build, but it can still feel a bit long winded on how everything is implemented. It is easy enough to create something though and the added touch screen support is a welcome addition.
As a package, it still feels very much like a mobile game. The levels are very short and basic. Besides the level editor, it can feel quite light on extra content. It is also hard to ignore the fact that you can buy this title for a quid on the App Store. There’s even a free version on mobile that has pretty much the full campaign minus the impossible missions, but, of course, you can only take advantage of the level editing feature and the luxury of using a physical controller with the console versions. It would have been nice if the two sequels that followed were added as a bonus to help warrant it’s console price although, the game is still fun enough not to feel ripped off.
League of Evil is a fun little game and still satisfies that craving that it set out to do several years ago. It doesn’t quite have the personality and flair that Slime-san possesses and even back in the day it was never in the same league as Super Meat Boy, but it does have its own little charm and style. There’s still plenty of addictive fun to be had that will certainly test your skills and patience. Add that with the added cross-play level editor and you’re unlikely to run out of challenges as long as the community keeps the creativity alive.