Legend Bowl Review: Retro Football is Back!

How does the passion project of an indie developer stack up?

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Jack Freeman

The title screen of King Javo’s new game Legend Bowl

Jack Freeman, Co-Editor in Chief

Legend Bowl is a 2D American football game focused on arcade action and skill-based gameplay with a retro quirk. Solo indie developer King Javo released the game.

Starting with the gameplay, I’m happy to report Legend Bowl does a fantastic job.

The arcade action has players’ helmets flying off after hard hits and plentiful scoring. However, a significant change and innovation contribute the most to the fantastic gameplay: the passing system.

Unlike other football games, where you press the button for the receiver you want, Legend Bowl has you hold down the receiver’s button and time the pass. A low power pass can be inaccurate while putting too much power can lead to an overthrow. 

This system is nothing short of genius on the part of King Javo. In most games, bad throws can be random, which is infuriating, but in Legend Bowl, the only person I blame for a bad pass is myself.

However, the gameplay has some problems, mostly from artificial intelligence just making bad decisions. The running backs frequently run into their offensive linemen, and the quarterbacks are hit or miss. There is also no real catch rating, which can make catching feel random at times.

My last critique of the gameplay comes on tipped passes. In my experience, the ball stays in the air for a long time. It just doesn’t fit my liking, and I feel cheated out of an excellent defensive play when I tip the ball, which proceeds to fly five yards down the field, only for another receiver to catch it.

Jack Freeman

My favorite part of this game is its style. Everything from the menus to the individual players looks spectacular. The music accompanying the game takes me right back to Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo Entertainment System and gets my head bopping to the rhythm as soon as I hear it. I also adore the team options in this game. Everything from logos to locations fit wonderfully and bring a smile to my face every time I see them. 

You can also customize the teams in Legend Bowl to your heart’s content. Everything about the teams can be changed from the city, name, and even your away jersey’s stripes. I love this feature, as it allows me to build my football universe. 

I would be remiss not to mention the weather types. Each one can bring a different atmosphere to the game and looks fantastic. 

The newspaper career mode featuring the head coach hiring of the Pittsburgh Pigeons (Jack Freeman)

Another factor that makes Legend Bowl a fantastic game for me is the attention to detail. King Javo didn’t take any days off in this department. Whether it be the chain gang changing the down marker every play to the unique text boxes after every play, the attention to detail is stunning.

No better is this attention to detail shown than in Career Mode. As soon as you begin, a newspaper greets you with the latest news from around the league, with your hiring being the top story. Little additions like facility management and a playoff picture add a level of immersion missing from other titles.

The only thing I dislike about Career Mode is the lack of content. Since the game is in early access, the mode only lasts one season. While King Javo has stated that features like free agency and a draft are on their way, it’s still disappointing to be without them for the time being. 

Unfortunately, the game has bugs aplenty. I had a bug where I switched my quarterback mid-game, and the game couldn’t find a holder for the field goal. That left me unable to finish the game, and I had to quit.

Luckily, the bugs like the one above tend not to hinder the experiences too much. Since it is early access, I’ll give King Javo some leeway in fixing these bugs before the launch of the game.

Overall, Legend Bowl is the most fun I’ve had with a football game in some time. The gameplay innovations, masterfully-crafted sprite work, and attention to detail are unmatched in this industry. With the developer promising to add more and more content, this game is more than worth the price.

The game is in early access, as of publication, and is $19.99 on Steam.

Note: King Javo provided the Paw Print with a Review Code for Legend Bowl