Legend Bowl review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Top Hat Studios
Developer: Super Pixel Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No

I feel like the 12-year-old version of me would’ve loved Legend Bowl. I mean, it basically answers the question, “What if you could play a modern version of Madden on the SNES?” As someone who sank untold hours into sports games way back when – including, in some cases, tracking my own stats when the games weren’t quite that advanced yet – seeing a game like Legend Bowl would’ve blown my mind.

Unfortunately, playing Legend Bowl today – rather than in 1993 – is a lot less exciting. While it’s certainly neat to see a game that looks like it could’ve been released on the SNES or Genesis with this much depth, at the same time, that’s pretty much the entire hook. Unless you have a specific nostalgia for seeing blocky football players with limited mobility in a slow-moving game, it’s hard to see why you’d rather play this than, you know, actual Madden.

First and foremost, this is because the on-field action leaves a lot to be desired. Passing, in particular, is terrible. The throwing metre is incredibly fickle, and it takes a long time to figure out the sweet spot between lobbing floaty passes into the sidelines and hurling laser-like spirals well over the heads of receivers and defenders alike (and even when you find that sweet spot, it’s still 50-50 whether you’ll actually complete a pass).

On top of that, the players have zero mobility and zero awareness: you’re not going to see any incredible catches here, nor any crazy rushes down the field, since no one can move that smoothly. Similarly, if a ball gets deflected in the air, it’ll eventually just fall to the ground – it doesn’t matter if you have a bunch of defenders nearby, no one seems to have the inclination to catch those balls. Eventually, once you figure out the quirks of the game, you’ll be able to put in some decent performances, but it takes a lot of work to get to that point.

It also doesn’t help that games seem to drag on forever. Even if you go into the settings and try to speed things up, the game clock ticks away slowly, meaning there’s no such thing as a quick game of Legend Bowl. That also means that you’re stuck watching mediocre football for far longer than you’d usually spend in a game – and quite frankly, the increased exposure doesn’t make Legend Bowl any more enjoyable.

It’s also worth noting that the above issues are present even when the game works as it should – which is not always a sure thing. I had to give up on the tutorial, for example, when the game flat out refused to recognize some of my controller inputs. Even worse, in one game the opposing team snapped the ball to their punter, who then simply spun in a circle while all the other players – teammates and opponents alike – swirled around him. While it was kind of funny to see all the players start collapsing around him as their stamina metres got depleted, after ten minutes of nothing happening I finally had to quit the game and start over.

The terrible performance – both intended and not – is a real shame, since, as noted above, Legend Bowl actually delivers off the field. You can dig into franchise mode, rebuilding a team from the bottom up or helping a winner stay atop the standings through free agency, careful drafting, and player development. You can edit players and uniforms. While there’s not quite as much to do here as there is in the latest version of Madden, it’s not like there’s a massive gap, either.

It’s a pity, then, that the football part of Legend Bowl is so underwhelming. The ideas here are good, and the developers deserve credit for making a game that feels both modern and retro at the same time, but if you’re looking for a football game where you’ll actually want to play the on-field game, this isn’t it.

Top Hat Studios provided us with a Legend Bowl PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+