Legend Bowl (PS5) Review – Madden Tecmo Bowl ’23

    Title: Legend Bowl
    Developer: Super Pixel Games
    Release Date: August 9, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Top Hat Studios
    Genre: Sports

Drawing the line between arcade and simulation for a sports video game can be a tricky affair, and it’s often we get one or the other. There’s certainly a case for simplistic arcade romps, as back in the day, sports games on the SEGA Genesis, namely the NFL games by EA, were all about mass consumer appeal, allowing players of all ages and skill levels to have fun. At the same time, there’s definitely a case for a hyperrealistic sports simulator, accurately capturing the nuances of the real thing with state-of-the-art graphics. Who could forget the technical showcase Madden 2001 provided for the PlayStation 2 back in the day? Maybe there’s a way to bring the best of both worlds together, and that’s where Legend Bowl comes in.

Legend Bowl combines the instant pick-up-and-play appeal of something like Tecmo Bowl with the sheer depth and customization of a big-budget EA Sports release. The core play mechanics become second nature quickly, thanks to the humorous tutorial. Everything is mapped nicely onto the controller, from the various passes and tackles, and landing those big kicks involves a quick charge meter which is surprisingly tricky to nail down just right.

The controls may be simple, but the actual execution of plays and strategies is quite intricate. There’s no shortage of plays here, and this is where the deceptively simple arcade controls blend seamlessly with the detailed layout of the various plays. There is a wealth of plays here, and thankfully the game’s training mode provides ample opportunity for free practice.

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In the absence of online multiplayer, this is largely a couch gaming affair, but even playing against the computer can be a fun way to burn twenty minutes. Better yet, matches can be simulated where the AI takes full control of both sides, and these can be compelling to watch and learn. There’s a tournament mode, too, which offers the quintessential chase for the championship gold.

Legend Bowl isn’t just about what happens on the field, as the major time sink here is the Franchise Mode. Here you are, manager with the almighty clipboard, as you assemble and train the ultimate team. Here it’s about managing the team, complete with player drafts and contractual demands. Working through the multi-week season is engaging thanks to all the attention to detail, whether it’s the weekly news or managing the franchise budget. Money can be spent on various facilities and upgrades, each bringing benefits and bonuses which help players on the field. There’s a lot to lose yourself in, and as far as sports management simulators go, this is one for the fantasy football enthusiast.

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Legend Bowl is all about free customization, and every team, every jersey, and every player can be fully customized. In other words, if you want to fully replicate the latest NFL or even NCAA seasons, this game gives you the canvas to create anything you want. The retro look may be at the forefront, but there is sheer attention to detail in the presentation here. The field action is vivid and lively, and the sound design proves to be immersive and convincing. Simulated match ups are not only great for learning new plays, but they’re also just plain fun to watch thanks to the vibrant presentation.

Speaking of presentation, if you’re a football nerd who is into stats and figures, then Legend Bowl has you covered. The franchise mode lets you dig through season stats, and there are live play-by-play updates just in the pause menu alone. The thing is, the gameplay can be as simple or as intricate as you choose it to be, and so it’s really about giving players a literal football sandbox to lose themselves in.

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While the game does a fantastic job of doing everything from arcade sports to sports management, it can be daunting to get through, depending on your platform of choice. This is an easy choice on PC, and when it comes to the sports management aspect, this is a great game to take on the go on a handheld device. As for a console with a gamepad, things can get a little cumbersome.

The main football action is no doubt fun no matter where you play it, but cycling through all the menus and stats in franchise mode isn’t he most comfortable experience on TV when using a game pad. All things considered, everything is more or less conveniently at your fingertips, even when menu navigation can feel a little daunting at first.

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Legend Bowl is one for the diehard football nerd. Whether you are looking for a quick game with friends or looking to study a screen full of statistics like it was Money Ball, this is a jam-packed football experience crammed full of content, customization, and engaging gameplay. If you’re burnt out on the bigger offerings and their micro-transactions, then Legend Bowl is a sports game with plenty of value.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jahanzeb Khan

Old SEGA games will go up in value... you'll see!