It started with a message from our editor. “Review this” he said. “Review what?” we asked. We initially thought it was his sort of thing, until we realised it was erroneously labelled as a football game. Let’s be clear, Legend Bowl is an NFL game in all but name. The cute pixel graphics bely a fierce simulation under the surface. There’s sly little digs at the Madden series peppered throughout, as let’s be honest EA have rested on their laurels eschewing innovation and new features in favour of slowly but surely removing features year on year, while cynically releasing the same game reskinned every year.
We recommend you go with the tutorial at the outset as there’s a few key mechanics that are fundamentally different to the likes of Madden. The biggest departure is the kicking and punting. Only the developer Super Pixel Games aka Javier Martinez has fucked it. Punting isn’t so bad as an errant punt doesn’t have a negative effect on the scoreboard unless you punt really short. Field goals on the other hand require a degree of precision. Only on thirty or so attempts in an actual match we’ve not made one damn kick. Not a single one.
The problem is one of implementation. Firstly, you have to tap a button to aim. The problem is then you have to release the button at the right time or you mess up the kick. Despite playing a load of practice field kicks, we still haven’t nailed it. It makes what is already a pressure situation even worse. So yes, forget field goals in Legend Bowl. They’re horribly implemented. And when games are often decided by a slim margin, the missing points are needed. So you’re often on the back foot.
We can’t believe we’re going into depth about the kicking in a gridiron game, but when a fundamental mechanic is so busted it’s hard to ignore. Give us a classic kicking option rather than this mess. The weird thing about Legend Bowl is that it plays a fair game of football otherwise. Yes, the throwing is bedevilled by a similar mechanic than the kicking in terms of timing being a factor, but it’s felt less acutely.
Additionally, the UI can occasionally be a complete mess. Look at the screenshot below of a goal line play. We can’t properly see the route tree our receivers are due to run ‘cause the damned goalposts are obscuring it. In fact, on the ensuing play, we couldn’t see a defensive end bearing down on our quarterback and we gave up a safety. That is two points for the opposition, and you have to immediately punt the ball away so they have possession and another chance to hang points on you. That damned goalpost obscured our view on this occasion too. Hardly ideal.
Once you accept that kicking is irredeemably broken in Legend Bowl, you might have a modicum of fun. Thankfully we did. Not to mention bagging the trophy for missing a field goal. Bit of a gimme that. It plays a fair game, though the special moves for running might require another runthrough of the tutorial to make them stick. The gameplay will be fairly familiar if you’ve ever played a Madden game or the superior 2K series before EA paid for the exclusive simulation rights and sat on their laurels.
There’s a certain purity here that has been lost in modern sports games. There’s no ultimate team nonsense threaded throughout every game activity for a start. Also, there’s no slavish adherence to include all the latest uniforms and rosters here. Though if you really want you can edit every team to be the same as the team it is inspired by. Legend Bowl assumes you’re in for the long haul you see, so you might well want to get down to editing if you get hooked. There’s a trophy for that too.
One thing that Legend Bowl does have is an extensive franchise mode and the ability to set up custom tournaments. There’s trophies aplenty for achieving various goals throughout the season and winning the SuperLegend Bowl at season’s end. Not to mention improving your stadium facilities as you do so. Somewhat presumptuously, there’s also a trophy for completing thirty years of franchise mode. So perhaps not one for the trophy rinse hunters unless they decide to play this and nothing else. We notice that nobody on a popular trophy tracking site has the trophies for kicking lots of field goals nor winning lots of matches yet. That may be down to the relative newness of Legend Bowl, but it could also be indicative of glitchy trophy tracking.
In conclusion, Legend Bowl is alright. Just alright. The kicking mechanic is a disaster although it plays a fair game of gridiron despite that. If you decide you’re going to play this extensively, you’ll be well served by the franchise mode and tournaments. You might want to swerve it if not.
Legend Bowl is well meaning enough with a fair stab at the Madden games of yore. Just don’t mention the kicking mechanics. They’re awfully implemented and will lead to you being on the back foot in matches rather more often than you’d like. The extensive franchise mode and pixelised gridiron are fun enough, but our frustration at the kicking meant we found Legend Bowl whiffed wide right rather than being on target.