Arcade-style games and game modes persist because we enjoy holding onto classic gaming mechanics.
One game type sorely lacking this holding onto its arcade roots is football simulators. So with Super Pixel Games bringing their 2020 football arcade title Legend Bowlto consoles.
The experience has a stiff learning curve for those who no longer have Tecmo Bowl or early Madden in their rotation.
But once you catch up again, there’s a classic sports simulator here that is perfect for on-the-go gaming or as a pallet cleanser.
Pick The On-The-Go Option
Legend Bowl currently enjoys a Steam fanbase that shows up for the game as if it’s their favourite team, so it’s excellent that console players are now going to get their chance to dawn the Legend Bowl foam fingers… probably not while playing, though!
I reviewed Legened Bowl on Nintendo Switch OLED and am convinced that handheld consoles will be the MVPs in this experience. Legend Bowl is all receptions regarding picking up and playing on the go. Aside from games initially facing a loading screen that will idle from 40 seconds to a minute, the technical performance counts me as a fan.
Monday Night Football-Like
Legend Bowl has an impressive broadcast presentation style that feels impressively full compared to similar football simulators.
There are great overlays and broadcast animations that change offer colour and graphics changes with teams.
The broadcast style hasn’t been totally without its issues, though. One major personal issue I have is with mascots.
Legend Bowl has a handful of mascots based on the game’s teams that it procedurally generates in the jersey of a team on the field. Being on a team called the LA Voltage and seeing a Lightningbolt man who should be my mascot in the Tampa Bay Corsairs orange jersey is underwhelming.
I also ran into a bug where the broadcast fact boxes would say things like my halfback had a two-yard ruin, his longest run of the day, which wasn’t because he had run 30 yards on the play before that one. But credit goes to the developer and their press agency because they reached out to see how I was doing with my review and my thoughts. And upon hearing about another bug I encountered, they provided me with an updated patch that fixed this problem and a few others I had.
The bug I had initially flagged to the PR rep and studio happened about a half-dozen times during my playthroughs, where my holder would keep the ball and run during kicks. During this run, my special team’s crew would attempt to tackle the holder as he ran the ball into the endzone, and the game would declare it was time to “change sides,” while the other team would be forced to start on their one-yard line.
Super Pixel Games was attentive to figuring out why this happened and promptly issued a patch that fixed this and other problems I encountered.
Legend Bowl’s Football IQ
I will just come out with it and say that Legend Bowlis tough to master.
It uses a lot of elements of the football sim that have been stripped out of similar games because of the way they’ve fallen out of favour. These include a QB power level while throwing where lob and bullet pass occupy different points on the power bar and not button combinations like Madden now does or taps or clicks do in the more touch-oriented Retro Bowl.
I enjoy having the element of power timing added to essential route timing. It was tough to get accustomed to again, but it added a layer of unexpectedness to the game. However, I see this as a big deal-breaker for those used to a more modern sensibility.
Another point of football IQ I enjoy about Legend Bowl is its stamina and injury system. Players will bleed stamina very quickly without buffs, meaning you must be mindful of how you target players. It’s doubtful that you’ll be able to use the same player to run plays repeatedly without a rest.
Injuries don’t entirely remove your players from the game, but they do cause weeks’ worth of stamina, and stat nerfs, which can be very taxing but is an element that is not always given the same level of care, tact or realism in the genre.
In terms of game modes on offer, Legend Bowl has your full suite of options.
The first time you boot up, you’ll be taken to a complete tutorial that walks you through offence, defence and special teams in a hilariously meta interaction between your coach and players, who want explanations of their roles as if they are playing a video game.
From there, you can play Exhibition games, take on a 16-team Tournament mode that mimics a playoff run without the season ahead of time and, of course, a full Franchise mode.
I will highlight one personal preference issue with Franchise mode: the cost of upgrades.
Like most football sims, Legend Bowl has a robust upgrade system that boosts your players and organizations. Uniquely, Legend Bowl has a square footage limit system that allows only 800 square feet of space for upgrades. This means that you have to be mindful of what buffs play best to your style of football. But only being awarded $50 for a win and having most upgrades cost starting at $150 means that there is a sizable upgrades grind at play.
Legend Bowl is undoubtedly a football simulator that keeps more traditional genre elements alive with a presentation style suitable for modern tastes. Getting into the game takes more than a few snaps to get used to. But once you do, there’s an experience here that is an MVP on handheld systems.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Switch
Protection of older football simulation game formula elements means Legend Bowl is hard to master. But with modern sensibilities, its an MVP in the on-the-go football gaming space.