The baseball season is rapidly coming to a close, with only a short month to go before the postseason. Reptile Games has a decidedly different view on America's pasttime. In fact, it's a far deadlier one, in which balls hit maximum velocity and bonk you to an early grave. That vision is called Lethal League.
Lethal League is a multiplayer-emphasized game that sees players run against one another in one-on-one or four-player free-for-all matches. The idea is that there's a single baseball and players swing at the ball with their baseball bats, with each player hitting the ball back and forth. The ball kills on contact and will go faster with each successful hit, with the winner being the last person standing.
The action is constantly frantic, particularly since the arena space is so small. Sessions take place along a single screen, so as to give the ball plenty of walls to bounce from. The idea is a simple one to grasp, as it's more reminiscent to tennis than baseball, with the complex angles of billiards tossed in.
Lethal League is a simple enough concept on its own, but attempts to differentiate itself with a colorful cast. Characters like the smiley-faced Candyman and the skater robot Switch all move at different speeds and hit the ball in different ways, leading to interesting matchup possibilities. They can also utilize special moves once their bars are filled, each having a different effect on the ball. It's one of the few instances where ball trajectory can get truly unpredictable and skilled players can use those special moves to take advantage of unseasoned rookies.
Those rookies shouldn't fret, though, because Lethal League is easy to pick up and play. Even the rankest of amateurs can pick up a controller and get the basic idea of the game. Those are also the types of players that'll mostly nail down the timing within an hour. Finding worthy opponents shouldn't be a problem, especially if they're among your own circle of friends.
Of course, don't let that indicate that Lethal League is a fully even playing field. This game can be mastered and I've already encountered players that have nailed down the timing to an absolute tee by simply standing a few inches away from an opponent that's in the midst of the launching animation. Coming up against these players is almost a no-win proposition and there's no animation cancel or anything available to throw off their sense of timing. That's really the only time where I found any sort of imbalance, but it was a minor annoyance when I came across it.
There are few game modes and scant options to be found in Lethal League, with only a single-player challenge mode helping break up the main game mode. Fortunately for developer Reptile Games, that main mode provides more than enough entertainment, whether played locally or online. The GGPO (Good Game, Peace Out) netcode is in place and is mostly solid. There were a few instances where I encountered connection issues, which Reptile has stated will be fixed in the game's next patch. With that said, once I was able to connect to a game, I was able to play flawlessly, with no lag or rubber-banding to speak of. Given that shoddy netcode can be the downfall for indies looking to venture into the multiplayer space, Lethal League is able to stand out among its peers as a beacon of stability.
For its simple premise, its fun characters, and an experience that can be fully enjoyed both online and off, Lethal League has proven to be a delight. It falls into that category of fun party games that are fun to play and fun to watch. That's especially the case when the tension rises across longer sessions and friends holler over the perfectly-timed catch of a ball flying at 10,000 miles per hour. Reptile has come out of the batter's box strong with this one.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
This review is based on a digital PC copy, purchased by the reviewer. Lethal League is available now on PC. The game is not rated by the ESRB.