Lethal League is a High-Speed Mash-Up of Pong and Fighting Games
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Whenever I try to explain Lethal League to people, they always put on this squinty-eyed expression that says, "Wait, what?" Lethal League is a baseball fighting game, which is really just another way of saying it's a Pong fighting game, which is really just another way of saying it's a fun and interesting fighting game. I played a few rounds at EVO this past weekend before giving up my spot to Capcom's Yoshinori Ono, who seemed to be having a blast, so that's something.
At first glance, Lethal League looks like a typical fighting game: there are two characters squaring off against one another, some life bars, and a few energy meters, and the fighting is broken up into rounds. But here's the rub: the characters cannot directly attack one another. Oh, you can run over to the other player and swing your bat/club/cane around until you're blue in the face, but nothing will happen. Instead, you must look to the baseball that appears in the center of the screen. Striking it with your cudgel and knocking it into your opponent is the key to victory.
The matches I played all started out easily enough: one player swats the ball, the ball lazily bounces around the screen, and then the other player knocks it back. Things quickly escalate from there. With each strike, the ball travels faster and faster, and you can change the trajectory of the ball when you strike it to send it flying around the arena at odd angles. Before long, it's zipping around the screen faster than a cobra in a weasel's den.
It's important to note that the ball will not harm the last player to strike it, unless, of course, you decide to disable this feature, at which point the game is pure pandemonium. As the ball approaches ludicrous speed, the game gives the other player a bit of help by adding a longer pause between when the ball is struck and when it goes flying. This lets the recipient get into position to try to intercept the ball, but even then, the ball is traveling so fast that it's still a serious challenge.
This simple concept of ping-ponging a ball between players is enhanced by a cast of characters that bring different special moves to the table. One can swallow the ball and carry it around the screen for a time before spitting it out in a new direction, while another can knock the ball through walls so that it loops around and comes out the opposite side. Together, these designs and others made my rounds of Lethal League white-knuckle events where my opponent and I couldn't help but hoot and holler at the screen with each successful return of the ball.
Lethal League's developer, Reptile, hopes to have the game out this August on PC through Steam.