Platformers: that forgotten genre that gave us hours of fun and some of the most iconic gaming characters. Now it's almost extinct and only the last survivors continue to delight fans on Flash websites. Fortunately, iOS gamers can experience once again all the magic of the 80s with all those chunky 8-bit graphics and synth sound effects.
League of Evil [iTunes Link] by Ravenous Games is a high score platformer where you save the planet from a group of scientists with evil plans. You play as some sort of bionic special agent with impressive jumping abilities and no weapon other than your fists. The tracks of each scientist left will take you to worlds splint in snack-size levels full of traps and hidden areas.
Strip Super Mario from all the superficial extras, concentrate on your jumping and try to complete a level as fast as you can. The developer pays an honest homage to the double jump (or mid-air jump) used in many platformers making it crucial to progress in the game.
There's no time to kill enemies or stop to explore areas. The ultimate goal is finding the scientist and with all those traps and enemies shooting at you, it will sure get challenging.
The level design seems bland when you start, but you soon realise it's terribly clever. Everything is positioned exactly for you to jump off the wall holding your breath and make it under that spinning hammer after ten good minutes planing the perfect timing. Despite the initial struggles, the first 60 levels can be finished by humans and just require some tapping agility.
The controls scheme is equally simple, moving forward and backwards with your left thumb and keeping the actions for the right one. I found the buttons slightly small for my taste, but maybe I'm just trying to justify how pathetic I am at some levels. The graphics scale up pretty well on the iPad, but there's no way you can play it comfortably and with enough precision.
League of Evil is inspired by the classics, but recreates the formula with the casual gamer in mind. You can complete most levels in less than 15 seconds, although you'll probably won't get it right the first time. Just think the amount of times you restart a level in Angry Birds - this follows the same replay idea.
Scores are based on a three star rating (App Store standard these days) and there's always a hidden briefcase as a bonus. As you become more proficient, it's a good idea to return to previous levels and improve your score. This can also be an effective relief when you have finished bitting all your nails and tried to pass one damn level over 50 times.
League of Evil joins the ranks of Hook Champ and Canabalt in every retro gamer library. Born as a Flash game, I admire the design value, music and the excellent adaptation for the iPhone. I loved its simplicity, the humble approach mid-air jumping and physics in general. With all the content included, there is no excuse not to try it if you are a nostalgic like me.