Review: Legend Bowl
Other American Football games came and went, with NFL Head Coach 09 being another standout for me, along with ESPN NFL 2K5 and the yearly releases of Pro Strategy Football and Axis Football.
However, my gridiron gaming obsession has now been satiated with the release of Legend Bowl on consoles. Previously available on PC, its release on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S and One, and Nintendo Switch today has opened up this pixel art deep-simulation American Football game to a whole new audience.
Let’s start with a couple of points which may be putting people off buying upon first looking at the game:
- Pixel art retro graphics
- Not NFL licensed
First of all, neither of those 2 points should make any difference. Graphics don’t make a game enjoyable, the gameplay and immersive world within is far more important…and this has has both of those in bundles. Plus the retro graphics in this look damn fine with plenty of moments that completely surprised me with helmets flying off, mascots on the sidelines and…well, you can discover the rest yourself.
As far as it not being NFL licensed; first of all, have you no imagination at all when it comes to playing games? Secondly, it is highly customisable and the editing options within the game allow you to create whatever you want. It wasn’t long before my beloved Steelers were battling it out in the AFC North and competing for another Super Bowl.
With those 2 issues addressed, let’s dive deeper into Legend Bowl.
There is an incredible franchise mode where you begin by creating your own coach (or use a pre-created one from the league), before picking one of the 32 teams to take charge of…you can customise your coach and players with names, hairstyles, faces, visors, earrings, hats, headbands, gloves, and more, as well as team names, logos, uniforms and colours. You then take them through full 17 week seasons (all while managing the stadium facilities, team rosters and player’s needs, plus facing the heat of the press on the news wire).
It doesn’t end after the final game of the season though, as there’s also a complete off season where you’ll take your team through retirements, free agency, player progression, and a full 7 round draft (where you can easily compare your current roster of players to those in the draft that might be tempting you, taking into account their age, morale, strength, fitness, and many more variables that affect the chemistry of your squad of players).
As you may already have picked up from earlier in this review, I love to play American Football games in “Head Coach” mode, calling the plays from the sidelines and watching the action play out before me (up yours EA for abandoning this mode back in ’09). Thankfully you can play this way in Legend Bowl (thank you Super Pixel Games) as well as the more traditional (and I would assume more popular) way of controlling the players yourself.
Despite not being too familiar with playing out of Head Coach mode, I went through the tutorial to give controlling the players a try, and found it to be easily accessible and very well explained, soon making me jump for joy when I nailed a long pass or nipped in with a defensive pick 6 against a divisional opponent.
There are also a HUGE amount of plays to choose from, which are bundled in different ways (via formation or play type for example) which makes it a breeze to find…all the more appreciated as you’re watching the play clock tick down. Or if you can’t decide on which play to run, you can even let the CPU coach call the play for you.
However you decide to play, Legend Bowl has you covered, made all the more immersive with realistic weather, complete with a time cycle lighting system, clear, cloudy, rain or snow, so you’ll have to adjust your play accordingly. Plus on the field stat overlays, halftime stats, end of game stats, field art, live referees, chain gang, mascots, advertisements, fans and more.
There’s not just the superb franchise mode though, as you can either play a quick exhibition game which allows you to simply select any 2 teams, and face them off as either Human vs CPU, Human vs Human, or just watch CPU vs CPU, as well as bracket style tournaments, where 16 teams try to finish at the top and be the champion. You can even have 3 of your mates around and all 4 of you play together…a feature so sadly missed in many games these days.
As a little aside, when I first got our review copy back in mid-July I came across a strange bug in the game which was very specific to a certain set of circumstances, so I emailed Top Hat Entertainment with all the details. I got an immediate response and then proceeded to swap a series of emails with them detailing the bug further…this was all on a Sunday evening by the way.
The very next day they emailed me a workaround for it, then the day after that they let me know that a patch for it was currently in certification with Xbox. Now THAT’S impressive!
Legend Bowl is highly recommended for anyone with even the slightest interest in American Football and deserves to be played by as many people as possible…make sure that you’re one of them.
Review by Dave from an Xbox code kindly supplied by Top Hat Entertainment.