This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PC, Switch, and PlayStation 4.
I’m a sucker for games that blend genres and ideas, especially if they’re done well. I’ve already reviewed a game that melded dodgeball and rhythm gameplay together in the form of Super Dodgeball Beats, but what if you took dodgeball and put it into another genre? Perhaps a dodgeball themed Super Smash Brothers? Well, Lethal League Blaze has you covered, but is it actually any good? Let’s find out.
Let’s face it folks, we probably aren’t getting another Jet Set Radio, with Future being 17 years old at this point. But at least Lethal League‘s visuals keep the dream alive. With a cel-shaded, urban yet hip aesthetic, Lethal League is visually the closest thing we’ve had to a Jet Set Radio game in a while. It looks great on its own merits too, especially with its visual variety. Each stage looks unique and the character roster is also uniquely designed, whether it be the unhinged Pac-Man-headed Candyman, or a Judge Dredd-looking ex-cop with a giant set of handcuffs for a weapon. The icing on the cake is the Smackdown Vs Raw-esque impact that you get when you eliminate an opponent with a very quick impact. All-in-all, Lethal League Blaze looks the part.
Surprisingly, Lethal League Blaze has a pretty interesting story. Enclosed in a separate story mode, this mode goes in-depth about the history of the violent and outlawed sport of Lethal League, where kids use anti-gravity tech stolen from police drones to create anti-gravity balls and try and knock each other out with them. Kids these days eh? The story is narrated by the Queen who runs the Lethal League Tournament, and tells the story of several of its competitors and how they came to be in the tournament, such as Candyman being busted out of a mental asylum . It is a story that has more detail than it has any right to have, but gameplay wise it is a bit flawed (more on that later).
Lethal League Blaze is a life-based fighter similar to the Smash Bros series, but instead of punching and kicking your opponents directly, you attack an anti-gravity ball and use its momentum to attack your opponents, hitting them with it to chip away at their health. This gameplay melds tennis, dodgeball, and fighting in a surprisingly unique and engaging way. Timing oncoming hits can lead to tennis-like rallies, and eventually build up the ball’s speed to incredible levels, not only making the ball harder to rally back, but also causing it to do more damage, with balls travelling over 75 MPH (as indicated by a speedometer at the bottom of the HUD) often being a one-hit-kill.
There are multiple ways to hit the ball too, with a straight normal hit bouncing the ball back in the direction you hit it, keeping its momentum, a bunk hit, where you bunk the ball straight up in order to completely mitigate its speed if it gets a bit out of control, and a throw, which takes way more accurate timing, but is super effective, having you catch the ball in mid-air, and throw it back at a much faster speed than when you caught it, although the speed drops back to its pre-throw status when it ricochets off the stage again. The gameplay here is incredibly fun and kinetic because of these elements, with more chaos being caused by power-ups, which usually change the ball into different projectiles or supercharge your character for one absolutely devastating hit.
Sadly though, there isn’t a lot here. While there are a ton of unlockables from replaying the story mode, the actual gameplay doesn’t have the best variety. It doesn’t deviate much from the ‘hit the ball at the opponent’ aspect, except for one mission in the story where you have to hit an opponent’s target a number of times before they hit your target a number of times. The story mode is also quite short, with only a handful of missions, and the number of them is masked as many of the nodes on the story map are just longer cutscenes, so it is over quite quickly. The singleplayer modes also lack substance outside of the story. This is definitely a game that benefits from having a few mates over.
Just like the visuals, the audio presentation is just like Jet Set Radio. With many funky hip-hop beats and catchy tracks, the music fits the game to a T, and is of course nostalgic to Jet Set fans. The sound effects are also pretty damn good, with the impact of high-speed hits being incredibly satisfying.
Lethal League Blaze is a solid game. Its presentation is a lot like Jet Set Radio, with a gorgeous cel-shaded, urban art style and an accompanying soundtrack. The gameplay is incredibly chaotic, and by extension, incredibly fun. The story mode is really interesting, delving into the history of the sport and explaining its existence, but is incredibly short, and the singleplayer suite is also lacking. However, that doesn’t take away from the great gameplay, and while it can get repetitive, Lethal League Blaze would be a blast with mates, and is worth your time.