Ask anyone with experience, and they’ll tell you that making a football video game is one of the hardest types of games to create. There are so many intricacies involved to get it to not only look right but play right that many people would rather build something else. For Javier Martinez, aka King Javo, it’s a passion of his to build a fun, accessible football game that hearkens back to the days of Tecmo Super Bowl. Enter Legend Bowl, an early access pixel art football game that aims to bring that fun of yesteryear back for gamers and football fans, alike.
Gameplay is Legen…dary
Despite what it looks like, Legend Bowl plays like a finely polished modern game. Controls are responsive, movement is clean and crisp, and there’s quite a bit of depth to the actions you can perform.
Running the ball is pretty simple. When using a controller, there’s a sprint/power button that speeds up your runner when tapping rapidly. Holding the button down – A on an Xbox controller — will see your player use power to attempt to break tackles. There’s juking, cuts, and spins as well, making the running game a fun facet of the gameplay.
Throwing the ball can be fun as well, and finally feels as flushed out as the running game. From a positive standpoint, you can throw the ball with a variety of power thanks to the power/accuracy meter your QB has. Depending on the play will determine how you want to throw the ball, and requires a precise release to make sure the ball goes where you want. It’s a feature that will certainly promote practice and skill over time rather than just getting lucky on your throws.
My original gripe with the passing sat with deeper routes. On the default camera, it was impossible to see what’s happening with your receivers down field. To have any sort of deep passing game, you’ll still want to zoom out the camera to medium or high. You’ll also want to have the QB Vision option turned on that highlights the area where your receivers are downfield. With a recent update, the game does zoom out as your players run down field, making it easier to spot an open receiver. So, kudos to the team for addressing that concern of many.
From a playbook standpoint, there’s almost every time of play you can expect to see on both offense and defense. Unfortunately, there’s no onside kicking available just yet. Sticking with kicking, though, it’s a challenging part of the game that’s really good when you get the hang of the mechanic.
A Nostalgic Feel
Visually, the art is pristine. The pixel art looks incredible no matter the screen size you play on, and each team feels unique enough despite “looking” similar. There’s also nice details found on the field that many, including myself, appreciate. Things like seeing the referees running up and down the field, camera crews on the sideline, players losing their helmets, and even on-field measurements make the atmosphere enjoyable when in game.
For your modes, you have the option to do exhibition games, local multiplayer, training camp, tournament and a career. The first two modes are straight forward whereas the career mode has a little bit more meat on the bones.
In the career, you create your coach, pick your team, and play through a season with the goal of winning a championship. There’s in-season stat tracking as well as the ability to build up facilities. Updating the facilities can lead to boosts in income, happiness, or skills for your team. That said, it’s currently limited to just one season with the option for multiple years coming in a future update.
Tournament mode is a simple single elimination bracket where you take a team through four games to try and win a championship. And Training Camp is where you go to hone your skills.
There’s also no online multiplayer which is a major lift for any small independent developer to implement due to both financial and technical requirements to achieve. However, thanks to Steam’s Remote Play feature, there’s hope that it could be easier to implement through that model if it’s something they choose to work towards.
Presentation wise, the game has text box play-by-play similar to that of the old Madden games from the 16-bit era. There’s a down and yardage marker on the field each play, you can view your play art, and the score overlay is clean at the bottom of the screen. There’s even an attribute box before the play, allowing you to see the skills of your players.
The game plays north-south rather than side-to-side like games of the past. Personally, I prefer the camera as it is.
The game features a full league of custom teams from the San Diego Seagulls to the Buffalo Steel. Each team has its own pros and cons, and it’s fun to try each team out in order to get a feel for which ones you like most. You can also edit each team’s roster, colors, and lineups at your discretion.
Lastly, if modding is your thing, there are NCAA and NFL mods available to add real teams, logos, and rosters to the game. But it’s not something that’s needed to really enjoy the game.
Legend Bowl Early Access Verdict
To put it simply, Legend Bowl is a damn fun game. The game may lack some mode depth that some fans want, but the gameplay, as it stands now, is as fun as any football game on the market. Martinez and his team have done a great job making a game that looks like the classics from the late 80s/early 90s while making it feel modern enough for current day gamers.
Even with it still in development, there’s so much already there on the field that make it worth picking up today.
*NOTE: A copy of Legend Bowl was provided to SGO for the purpose of this review. A final scored version will be available when the game is out of early access*