Google seems to have honed in on my penchant for slightly off-the-beaten-track kinds of games, often recommending reviews and listicles of games that wouldn’t usually garner a large audience. There’s some gold to be had in these, I think Before Your Eyes came to me in this way, but there’s also an incredible amount of dreck that needs to be filtered out. A lot of it comes from the listicles, those looking to pad out their idea of “Games that’ll make you X” or “You need to play these 5 games to remind you of Y”, throwing anything that tangentially meets their arbitrary criteria. Such is how League of Enthusiastic Losers made its way to me; the premise being that this would be a game that’d make you want to call home. What it is though is a clumsily told game about adults acting like children and not meeting any negative consequences because of it. It’s one of those few games where even a short, sub 1-hour play time feels too long as goes absolutely nowhere.
The trouble for me began with it hitting all the right buttons stylistically; evoking an idea of a game that I’m not sure it ever intended to deliver on. The watercolour visuals, the russian indie-pop backing track and a story premise revolving around 2 people who undertake strange activities in conjunction to their real lives sounds like review-bait if I’ve ever seen it. Of course it’s not particularly fair to judge a game based on what my expectations of it, all of which were built off a single short trailer, so I’ll give it the proper through the wringer treatment it deserves to give you insight as to why it’s nothing to write home about.
Ostensibly this is a walking simulator type game, putting you in control of a couple characters and then guiding you through their interactions without much real input required from you. If you want you can explore the environments a little, but there’s nothing to discover and nothing of value to gain from doing so. No instead you’ll just ride alongside these two, solving a minor puzzle here or there before you rampage through the next dialogue tree and the credits roll. The format isn’t a bad thing of course, see my long and storied history with the genre here, but it lives and dies by the story told and here it feels like it might as well be absent.
PLOT SPOILERS BELOW
The game starts off by hamfistedly introducing the main cast of characters and then revealing them to be in a rather precarious position that they need to find their way out of. So what do two grown fucking adults decide to do in the face of adversity? Go on a treasure hunt, like when they were kids. To be sure it shows them not really finding anything to start off with, but they eventually do stumble across treasure, seemingly fixing all their issues forever more, right? The game then wraps up with a quick synopsis showing that all their friends got everything they wanted and it’s all hunky dory.
I mean…what the actual fuck.
Nothing about the narrative feels deserved, at all. I really have no reason to root for these two guys to make it, nor do I think that they should be able have all their worries fixed by finding untold wealth. More to it, the cast of friends they have aren’t given ample time to develop so we can understand their motivations behind wanting any of the things they end up getting. It’s just…all very childlike in its construction, missing any meaningful development or tension that’d make the ultimate payoff worthy. There’s a bunch of elements here that could be developed into a meaningful narrative: conflict between the two main characters around treasuring hunting rather than finding a real job, their friends not helping them because they have their own lives, etc. but none of those are capitalised on. Instead all that’s developed are surface level details, none of which will leave an emotional impact on you.
PLOT SPOILERS OVER
League of Enthusiastic losers then represents the embodiment of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. I admit, I got sucked in; the aesthetic bait the developer put out getting me hook, line and sinker. I tried to find something to like here but beyond the surface level details, which is all this game seems to be concerned with, I couldn’t find much to enjoy. The games thankfully short runtime meant I wasn’t pushing myself too hard to finish it but even then, I felt like I was reading a high school students creative writing assignment for grading. That’s not something I ever want to do for fun or profit and I’m getting neither of those from this.
League of Enthusiastic Losers is available on PC right now for $16.95. Total play time was 37 minutes.