As a big fan of the NFL, I have played football video games over many years and consoles. As a kid I fondly remember playing games like Tecmo Bowl and the old 2D versions of Madden. While I used to be a big fan of the genre, I have lost interest in it over the last decade or so as all of the games felt the same. This is why Legend Bowl intrigued me when I first saw it. You can tell it took inspiration from the old football video games which I fondly remember. Legend Bowl is a fun retro take on football video games that is quite fun even if it can be a little difficult at times.
Legend Bowl is basically what you would expect it to be. The game is a 2D football game. The game doesn’t have an NFL license so you are forced to play as knock off versions of NFL teams. While it has been a while since I have played a 2D football game, Legend Bowl reminds me a lot of Tecmo Bowl and the old 2D Madden games I played when I was a kid. Even the visuals and gameplay are quite reminiscent. The gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has ever played a 2D football game before. While the mechanics might work slightly different, they are mostly the same as other football games. The two mechanics that are a little different are the kicking and throwing mechanics.
When you choose to throw the ball each receiver is given a button. You press the button corresponding to the receiver that you want to throw the ball to. Once you press the button a meter starts and you need to let go of the button when you have applied the appropriate amount of power to the throw. Add only a little power and the pass will be a lob. Add a lot of power and it will be a fast pass. Don’t hold the button too long though or it will drastically decrease the accuracy of your pass.
Kicking and punting work similar to passing. To begin an arrow will slide back and forth which indicates where you are going to kick the ball. Once you press the kick button a power meter starts. You want to try and stop the meter as close to the end as possible. Don’t go too far though or your accuracy will really suffer.
Its been quite a few years since I have played a football game. I used to be a huge fan of the genre. The games ultimately lost their luster though as every year felt like more of the same with only minor changes. I still have fond memories of playing the old 2D football games when I was a kid though. As soon as I started playing Legend Bowl those memories came right back.
Playing Legend Bowl felt just like those old 2D football games back in the day. There are some differences (both positive and negative), but the overall feeling is the same. The game boils football down to its core to make a really satisfying gameplay experience.
While I am not a huge fan of the throwing mechanics, I thought the game’s controls for the most part were great. The gameplay is quite straightforward where you can mostly jump right in and play. The controls are responsive. There really isn’t much more I could have asked for.
Legend Bowl’s greatest strength is just that it is really fun to play. If you aren’t a fan of football, you obviously aren’t going to like it. If you are looking for a good 2D football game though, Legend Bowl is the game you are looking for.
The gameplay for Legend Bowl is really satisfying. I can’t quite explain why but it is really satisfying when you break a long run down the sidelines or complete a long pass. If you play on a low difficulty or play with a really good team, the games will be really high scoring. Otherwise the games are quite close where you will be fighting until the last minute.
Legend Bowl is fun by yourself, but it is even more enjoyable with friends. The game is local co-op and is a blast to play with others. You can either play together or against each other. I don’t know why, but it is really satisfying being able to lay down a block for your teammate and then see them run down the sideline for a touchdown. If you have someone else to play with/against, I would highly recommend it as it makes the game even more enjoyable.
While I found Legend Bowl’s gameplay to be quite fun, it definitely takes some time to get used to. The throwing and kicking/punting in particular have a learning curve. The bars move really quick where you have a fraction of a second to time it exactly right to apply the maximum power. Don’t go too far or the accuracy penalties will ruin what you were trying to do. Additionally in the passing game you need to figure out whether you want a lob pass or a fast pass to best get it to your receiver.
Legend Bowl gives you a tutorial for the throwing and kicking mechanics which helps. You likely will still struggle at both for a while though. You will have to rely pretty heavily on the run game while you figure out how to consistently throw good passes. Over time you start to get better and kicking and passing, but it is a process that you will struggle with at first.
Speaking of difficulty, I personally would say that it is Legend Bowl’s greatest weakness. Maybe it is just me, but this seems to be an issue with most football games. Legend Bowl has a number of difficulty settings which range from really easy to really hard. Unfortunately the differences between the ranks are too great in my opinion. One level is too easy and the next is too hard. Basically you need to be willing to either play against a team that you clearly outmatch, or one that you will have a hard time defeating.
This isn’t helped by the fact that the level of your team makes a big difference in the game. Don’t pick one of the bad teams if you want to win on anything other than the lowest difficulty levels. Good teams should obviously be better in the game. The difference between good and bad teams are pretty significant though. Speed in particular can be killer as a really fast player is likely going to dominate the game.
While most of your time will be spent playing actual football, I wanted to quickly talk about Legend Bowl’s franchise mode. I had some mixed feelings about it. On the positive side I like the front office side. You will earn money from each game which you can spend on upgrades for your stadium. These upgrades can generate you more money, increase your players’ skills, and/or help prevent injuries or improve recovery. You only have a limited amount of money and space though so you need to pick which are most useful. This is an interesting addition to franchise mode which gives you a way to tweak your team. Additionally the draft is fun as you get to play out the entire draft.
What I found confusing about the franchise mode was free agency and player acquisition. This doesn’t work like you would typically expect. During the season every so often some of your players will ask for a raise due to their morale being low. If you don’t give them the raise they ask for, you end up trading them for a worse player on another team. Outside of the draft this seems to be the only way to change your roster. At the end of the season you are presented with a number of your players whose contracts are up. You can only pick some of your players to keep and you have to let the rest of them go. This is an interesting take on free agency, but I personally would have preferred that the game just utilized normal free agency, trades, etc.
For the most part I think Legend Bowl does a good job with the presentation and visuals. Since the game does not have a NFL license, there are no official NFL teams in the game. Instead each team has an off-brand replacement team. While it would have been nice if the game had the NFL teams, the game did the best it could as an indie game would never be able to afford the NFL license. Some of the teams are quite close to their NFL counterparts and the game lets you alter the look of each team’s jersey if you want to make them look even more like your favorite NFL team.
The game is completely 2D so it won’t compare visually to the latest Madden. I do appreciate the game’s visual style though. I think it does a good job creating a modern twist on old 2D football games. Along with the soundtrack the game does a really good job recreating the earliest football games.
At the end of the day Legend Bowl is pretty much what I expected it to be. It is obvious that the game took inspiration from games such as Tecmo Bowl and the old 2D Madden games. It does a really good job recreating a bygone era of football games. The gameplay is easy to get into and the controls are responsive. It is really fun playing with someone else as well. It can be quite satisfying when you break out a long run or pass for a touchdown.
The main issues with Legend Bowl come from the difficulty and some of the mechanics. The passing and kicking are a little different than your typical football game leading to a learning curve. After a while you do adjust to them though. Otherwise the game’s difficulty can vary quite a bit. It is pretty hard to find the right difficulty as it will usually either be too easy or too difficult. The difference in team skill has a big impact on the outcome of games. It will be quite hard to win a game if your team is worse than your opponent.
My recommendation for Legend Bowl is pretty simple. If you aren’t interested in a 2D football game, the game is not going to be for you. If you are looking for a fun polished 2D football game though, I think you will enjoy Legend Bowl and should consider picking it up.
Release Date: PC – September 2nd, 2021, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series X|S – August 9th, 2023 | Systems: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Developer: Super Pixel Games | Publisher: Super Pixel Games | ESRB Rating: Teen for Blood, Violence, Suggestive Themes, Drug Reference
Genres: Indie, Sports
Official Website: https://superpixelgames.com/
- Fun take on retro 2D football games.
- Good controls and satisfying gameplay.
- The throwing and kicking mechanics take some time to get used to.
- The difficulty can vary quite a bit from quite easy to quite difficult.
Recommendation: For fans of football that are looking for a retro inspired 2D football game.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Super Pixel Games for the review copy of Legend Bowl used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.