Yan, the developer, made League of Enthusiastic Losers (LOEL) by himself, and it definitely has charm. It’s impressive how he brought a peaceful mood to a game where characters face dire situations. LOEL evokes tranquility, but its mediocre gameplay and weak narrative hurt what could have been a fantastic gaming experience.
Story – The Hardships of Adulting
In LOEL, you meet Vitya and Volodya, two dudes in their late thirties living in Moscow. Volodya is an aspiring author, while Vitya is a maintenance worker. The contrast between their personalities is prominent, as Vitya is optimistic and Volodya is somber.
Nothing is going right for these roommates! The childhood friends struggle to make ends meet, and now they’re behind on rent. After a heated argument with their landlord, the roommates have a week to cough up the money, or they’ll suffer eviction. Join Vitya and Volodya on this adventure by yookond as they try to make the best out of a terrible mess.
It pains me to say the story didn’t resonate with me as much as I had hoped. I wanted to love it since Yan showed such dedication to the game. However, a few reasons kept me from doing so. I’ll explain below, but beware of the spoilers ahead.
My main issue is with the plot. By that, I mean the main characters make some logical decisions, but one choice is so illogical that the storyline takes a hit.
For example, Volodya becomes self-conscious after Vitya’s friends talk about their successes. The writer’s insecurities get the best of him, so the roommates leave the party early. Volodya’s feelings of inadequacy are understandable and make him relatable to players.
The plot weakens when the roommates search for treasure, hoping to hit the jackpot to pay rent. Most would scramble looking for realistic solutions at a time like this. That’s the reasonable thing to do after all, right? Nope. Apparently, looking for treasure to pay bills is a rational option to Vitya and Volodya. The absurdity of this plot point lowers their relatability.
You could argue that treasure hunting is a distraction from adulthood. In fact, the two reminisce about their youths throughout the game. The roommates’ dilemma is so overwhelming, they long for their simpler childhood days. That mentality is understandable too, though I doubt treasure hunting is worth the risk of losing your apartment.
The dialogue was also a hit or miss—but mostly misses. A lot of the story gets lost in translation since the game is originally in Russian. As a result, some sentences are robotic and stiff or grammatically incorrect, making a few sentimental moments lose their impact.
The conclusion to LOEL is extremely abrupt too. A game’s story typically builds up and you can guess when it’s about to end. In contrast, the ending of LOEL hits you suddenly, making it feel forced and rushed.
Although LOEL has flaws in its story development and dialogue, little things make this brief adventure likable. Vitya’s positive outlook on life, in particular, is truly admirable. As mentioned before, Vitya has a cheerful personality, but it’s amazing how he never loses hope during this stressful time. The anxiety would crumble others, but this maintenance worker is a trooper.
In addition to that, the creator is good at pulling your heartstrings. I felt sorry for the kid who struggled in school because his mom was too busy to help with his homework. Volodya’s melancholic comments made me more sympathetic towards their situation as well.
Gameplay – Relaxing at Best, Faulty at Worst
You’ll spend most of your time walking around as Vitya or Volodya interacting with others and the environment. There’s something relaxing about the mundane activities of everyday life, like going to work and sitting outside to enjoy the fresh air.
The controls are generally straightforward since you’re primarily using the left stick and A or B to play. You’ll trigger a mini-game every once in a while, and that’s when the gameplay feels wonky.
The bulk of mini-games consist of moving pieces and putting objects together. You use ZR to select items and the right stick to move them to their designated spots. ZR rarely registered on the first click, so I had to press it multiple times to pick up an item. Therefore, these mini-games felt tedious.
Awkward transitions negatively impact timed mini-games the most. In short, the transitioning process feels a little disorienting. One minute you’re talking to someone, then a loading screen suddenly pops up and you’re in a mini-game. I lost time in some of them because it took me a second to understand what was happening. If the transitions were smoother, I wouldn’t have fumbled much.
The timed mini-games are too short as well. The events change the pacing of the game, which is refreshing. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to truly enjoy them since they’re over in seconds.
Graphics – Picture Perfect
LOEL’s graphics are among the most appealing in indie gaming. They remind me of a children’s book rather than a video game. The art style is hand-painted, showing subtle brush strokes and smears in the environment.
Yan expands on his artistic talent by incorporating pencil-drawn objects too! For example, the cursor and Volodya’s glasses have pencil outlines. The consistency of the hand-crafted aesthetic is such a joy. It even shows in minor details, like the dialogue backgrounds.
Yan also plays with pastel colors in a captivating way. The mingling of the soft tones feeds into the game’s cozy atmosphere. Vast sky views add to the story and bring a pleasant aura to the game. Moreover, wide shots give depth to conversations, making serious moments feel more profound. The artistry in LOEL differs from what I’m used to, and it’s delightful.
My only complaint is about Volodya’s walk. The writer awkwardly lags with every step he takes. It’s extremely noticeable when the roommates walk side-by-side, given how polished Vitya’s animation is.
Sound – Top Notch
Don’t expect epic music from LOEL. Its soundtrack is soothing overall, complimenting the laid-back nature of the game.
The music that plays while Vitya and Volodya stroll is one of my favorite songs from the game. It’s minimalistic, but wonderfully matches the simplicity of walking. An upbeat song plays at a party, and it still fits the game’s chill atmosphere with its bouncy rhythm. It’s remarkable how the music encapsulates everyday activities in various ways.
The piano demands your attention throughout LOEL, but string instruments diversify the music every once in a while. You only hear a few notes from them, but the way the soft plucking gradually increases adds more flavor to the magnificent soundtrack.
Aside from the music, there are quality sound effects. You can hear birds chirping and cars bustling from your apartment in the morning. It perfectly mimics the busy streets of a large city.
League of Enthusiastic Losers was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.