It's nearly one o'clock in the morning. My eyes are red and bleary, my knuckles white from frustrated squeezing. I choke down another explosion of profanity and start the level again. My fingers tap out the familiar refrain, dancing over League of Evil 3's simple and precise controls.

Left, jump, punch, wait, jump, punch.

I die again, flinching as my muscular secret agent is sliced into chunks of gory flesh by the blades of a spinning saw. Every failure is like a kick in the gut, an extra ounce of weight dropped onto my already-tired fingers.

But not for a second do I think about giving up and going to bed. Even after the 50th catastrophically bloody ending I don't quit. I scream inwardly, knowing full well why I died and how I could have avoided it. And I take a deep breath. And I start again.

League play

If the first two League of Evil games were hard, this one is like concrete-reinforced hatred. It laughs in the face of your failure, peppering its levels with suddenly deadly traps that are only too pleased to strip the brief smile of success from your face.

The controls are the same as ever. Two arrows move you left and right, with two buttons on the opposite side of the screen controlling your jumps and your attacks. There are double-jumps and wall climbs to perfect, but they're all easily handled with the responsive and smooth controls.

It feels like Ravenous Games is finally confident enough with those controls to pour all of its scorn and anguish into designing the levels. Where before there was some hand-holding, now you're expected to be pixel-perfect from the start.

This has two effects. Firstly, it makes for a much longer experience, and secondly, it makes every success feel like completing a game. To begin with, just getting to the end of a level is a Herculean effort.

Each of the 80-plus levels is about traversing an obstacle course of guards, spikes, saws, and fireball-spewing robots, all of which can kill you with a single touch.

At the end of every level there's a scientist, whom you have to punch to death. Watching his tiny body turn into blobs of flesh is your cathartic reward for reaching him.

Evil intent

The first set of levels look familiar. They're set in the same drab warehouses that featured in the first two games, and while the new cartoon graphics are gorgeous, you can't help but feel like Ravenous Games would have been better putting something new first.

Once you're through those 20 levels, though, the game spreads its wings, taking in an undersea base, an ancient temple, and an underground cave system full of hot lava. But most people aren't going to get a chance to see those.

There are some razor-edged difficulty spikes here, and a lot of people are going to abandon the game because of them. It's understandable, but those who stick around are in for one of the most polished platforming experiences the App Store has to offer.

Yes, it's back-breakingly difficult, but that makes your successes all the richer. There are few games that have you howling cheers of victory to an empty living room in the early hours of the morning, and League of Evil 3 is one of them.

And once those cheers have died down you'll move on to the next level. Because you're a sucker for punishment, and because League of Evil is really rather brilliant.

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