The platforming genre is one of my favorites. Platformers demand great reflexes and precise controls — two things that touchscreens tend to be bad at supporting. Despite this, some clever developers have made amazing iOS platformers defy the apparent limitations of touchscreen input. One such developer is Ravenous Games, whose League of Evil series contains perhaps the most hardcore platforming on the entire App Store. The series is renowned for its tight controls and relentless difficulty. A third entry in the series, League of Evil 3 brings even more devilishly good platforming to iOS.
For those new to the series, League of Evil puts you in control of the Agent, a beefy cyborg with a penchant for punching scientists in the face. He can double jump, slide on walls, wall jump, and attack. Attacking unleashes a ferocious punch or kick that makes enemies explode into chunks on impact. It also has the side effect of making the Agent dash forward and can be used in midair for extra mobility. Your task is to move through a level that’s littered with bad guys, turrets, and all kinds of nasty obstacles like spikes, saw blades, and hammers. The end of a level is marked by a lone scientist and you complete the level by blowing him to smithereens with a single punch.
The controls are pared down to just four virtual buttons: left, right, attack, and jump. Controlling the Agent is almost always delightful, thanks to some of the most responsive virtual controls I’ve ever used. I say “almost always” just because they’re still virtual controls and you’re bound to mispress them occasionally.
The first League of Evil featured pixel art and chiptune music. It had a cool vibe, but the look and sound were completely overhauled for League of Evil 2. Pixels and bleeps were traded in for high resolution art and music. I’m a sucker for the retro style, but I have to admit that it was a great makeover — retina-quality cartoon graphics and a full-bodied soundtrack infused the game with a huge dose of personality. It wasn’t all roses with the sequel though, as LoE2 suffered from repetitive gameplay and strangely dropped a couple of cool features that were present in the first game.
An incredibly solid foundation has been built by the first two games and League of Evil 3 polishes it to a shine with some minor but very important tweaks. New animations make everything feel smoother (the scientists now cower in fear as you approach them, a nice touch that makes you feel even more badass), subtle lighting effects and detailed backgrounds add depth to the levels, the sound effects have been updated (jumping actually sounds like jumping now), and the music is richer and more exciting. LoE3 brings back the original features that were cut in the second game, a small collection of insanely difficult “Impossible Missions” and the extremely cool “Ghosts” option that causes all of your failed attempts to replay at the same time you are trying to complete a level. The ghosts make it easier to find the strategies that are best for your completion time, as you can determine at a glance if you are ahead of or behind your previous attempts.
It’s an interesting trend that each game in the series has fewer levels than the last. This installment weighs in at “just” 85 levels compared to LoE2′s 103 and LoE1′s massive 169. This is a story of quality versus quantity though. LoE3′s level design is the best yet. The levels no longer feel tedious or repetitive like they did halfway through LoE2 and they aren’t short like they are in LoE1. It’s a safe bet that LoE3 is going to give you more gameplay than the others, both because its levels are longer and because the difficulty has been amped up. The difficulty kicks in right away, I died nearly 50 times on the sixth level and over 100 times on the thirteenth. Compare that to the much gentler curve of LoE2, which allows me to three-star the first 20 levels in one or two tries each. You’re going to die a lot. A useful “Auto-Retry” option can be enabled to automatically jump right back into the action after dying instead of having to press “Retry” every time.
Indeed, LoE3′s levels are also the hardest yet — but it remains an excellent iOS game. The difference between a good hardcore platformer and a bad one is who you blame when you die. The tight control scheme and fair (though demonic) level design ensures it feels like your fault every single time. That is, except on the very rare occasion that the game lags. Unfortunately, even with nothing else running on my iPhone 4S, the game did lag two or three times every hour. This almost always leads to immediate death, as timing is critical to landing on skinny platforms while dodging saw blades and fireballs. I imagine the game will run without a hiccup on newer devices, but I’d be cautious buying it for anything older than the 4S.
The final major addition to the game is a replay system courtesy of Everyplay. When you complete a level, you are given the option to save the replay. Using Everyplay is super easy. The game already has your video ready to go, you just have to confirm that you want to upload it. If it’s your first time, you’ll need to enter your birthdate, and choose a username. Simply press “Upload” and then go to everyplay.com/yourusername to see every video you’ve ever posted. There are also options to trim the video, add voiceover, and upload to other social media sites. It’s a pretty cool service that makes it easy for any gamer to share gameplay footage with the internet.
If you have already played the League of Evil series, you basically know what to expect. It’s all of that with a lot more polish, better level design, and replay sharing. If you’re new, the most important thing I can stress is how hard this game is. You have to learn to laugh at your umpteenth death or else you might wind up throwing your device out of frustration.