Not Quite A Win
HIGH Saving a tiny dog (that I can pet) from a tree.
LOW Soulless and monotonous puzzle design.
WTF Grown men going treasure hunting.
Videogames crafted by a ‘team’ of one are becoming ubiquitous as time passes and development as a whole becomes not only more accessible, but also more streamlined. Adding one more to the list, League Of Enthusiastic Losers is yet another single-dev project, warts and all.
In League Of Enthusiastic Losers, I played as Vitya and Volodya, two thirty-something friends sharing a home in Moscow. Vitya is an aspiring writer trying to get his first book published, and for obvious reasons he was easier for me to relate to. Volodya is a plumber/handyman with an imagination that would put most writers to shame. I couldn’t play as Acorn, their dog, but I could pet him, and that in itself makes the game worth checking out.
This is a 2D, ‘slice of life’ title with light puzzles sprinkled in. Dialogue is text-based, and this is where one of its failings rears its head almost immediately — my guess is that Google translate was heavily utilized without much editing done after said translation was made. The fact that the game comes from a solo developer and that English is not their mother tongue must be taken into account, but the result is still problematic. For example, “Vitya has started making wooden toys, bringing joy to neighbor children.” or “When Volodya has just moved away, we have met each other for the first time.”
If a player can overlook the rough script, there is a heartfelt story waiting to be experienced in League of Enthusiastic Losers. Eternal youth, workforce burnout, communal child-rearing, and brotherly love are some of the themes explored in this short but weighty title. The story revolving around the care of children as a community and helping struggling parents to carry the load, in particular, touched me. It seems that communities are becoming fragmented — some would blame technology, others blame the times, but the fact still remains that most of us don’t even know who our neighbors are.
The game sports a post-modern art style that conveys a moving masterpiece reminiscent of Georgy Gulyanov’s earlier work. However, though its appearance is attractive, the gameplay loop is… less than riveting.
Most of my time was spent going left or right and pressing A to advance the story, which is boring but functional. It’s when I was completing LoEL‘s simple puzzles that I ran into a specific problem. Puzzles only entail attaching part A to part B and then attaching part C to part B until all the correct parts are attached to their appropriate positions. The assembling of a bicycle or toy boat stand out as examples. Unfortunately, the onscreen button prompts were often incorrect or simply did not work. This dragged out otherwise-simple sections and twice I had to exit and restart because the buttons didn’t function.
While there’s not much gameplay (and what’s here is below standard), League of Enthusiastic Losers brings a unique artstyle rarely seen in gaming and a solid narrative focused on subjects often overlooked within the gaming industry. I am confident that time will be kind to this one, but it’s a bit too understated to make much of an impact at the moment.
— Patricio do Rosario
Disclosures: This game is published by Yookond and developed by Yookond. It is available on XBO/X/S, Switch and PC. This game copy was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains Mild Language.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles cannot be resized or altered. (See examples above.) There are no audio cues necessary for gameplay. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.