Little League World Series Baseball 2010
Developer: Now Production
Genre: Arcade Sports
Release Date: 07/13/2010
Annually since 1947, the world’s best little league baseball players have gathered for the Little League Baseball World Series. This event has become an international phenomena, gathering kids from all around to compete to be the best little league team in the world. Now Production must have taken notice of how quickly the Little League World Series was gaining in popularity, and started developing the Little League World Series Baseball franchise since 2008 for the Nintendo Wii, earning nice remarks from our own Matt Yeager. This year, with the third installment, Now Production has moved away from the Wii and instead released Little League World Series Baseball 2010 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 video game consoles.
Will the move from the motion controls of the Nintendo Wii help broaden the game’s potential, or will it strike out looking?
In Little League World Series Baseball 2010, the gamer is presented with a few different modes of play. There is an Exhibition mode – playable with up to three other players, 16 teams, and in 6 different parks – a skills challenge mini-games, and a Tournament mode. Tournament mode is where players are able to take a pre-made or created team through a 20 game season, and up through the Little League World Series to be the best not only in his/her region, but the best in the world. Though the options for creating a team are limited to about ten preset logos and team names, I rather enjoyed watching my girlfriend, my sister, and myself stepping up to the plate, even if it was only their names and body types; it helped to add a personal investment in my little league team, the West Virginia Wizards.
In Tournament mode, the player doesn’t have to worry about pitchers getting fatigued by starting too many games, setting a pitching rotation, keeping players happy, and so on, and instead the focus is merely on the gameplay, batting order, and defensive positioning. Player’s statistics are kept for the team and are more in-depth than I first imagined. From batting average to on base percentage, and ERA to strikeouts, virtually any stat the gamer could want is present, but only for the human controlled team. Stats are also available after every game, and breakdown the performances of each player with full statistics on both teams. Tournament mode was a lot of fun, and kept me yelling at my television screen to try to rile up my team to victory.
The only major qualm from this mode is that virtually every game feels the same in terms of presentation, whether it is the first game of the tournament, or the World Series Championship game, and that was disappointing. After every game, the team is given a number of ability points to boost up the hitting, pitching, running, and/or fielding statistics. I would have liked to see this tied to the in-game performances more because it seemed to be a random distribution of points regardless of how well or poorly the team played during the last game.
Outside of the tournament, where gamers will spend most of his/her time, there is a surprisingly fun skill challenge mode where the gamer competes in different baseball-themed mini-games. For example, there is the Home Run Tourney where the player competes against a friend offline, or the computer, to earn the most points by hitting home runs and popping balloons spread out around the diamond. There is also Around the Horn, which is a version of the popular memorization game called Simon. Players are asked to memorize patterns of pitches and repeat them back for a set number of rounds. Pitching Darts (throw the ball at specific numbers to earn or lose points, whichever the case may be), Batting Frenzy (hit the ball to specific spots on the field to earn points), Pitching Bowling (exactly as it sounds – bowling with baseballs), and Dunk Dugout (a version of the popular water game often seen at carnivals where the player hits certain spots to dunk the mascot) round out the skill challenge mode. What is nice about this is that there are usually different ways to earn points that the player can choose from, essentially making the specific skill challenge a completely different experience. The problem with this, aside from the unexpected difficulty of some of these challenges, is that playing them alone can get boring quickly. This mode is built for multiplayer, and seeing as Little League World Series Baseball 2010 has no online multiplayer options aside from leaderboards, this mode’s use might be limited.
Story/Modes Rating: Good
Now Production has done a nice job with the graphics, even though they haven’t taken full advantage of the high-definition hardware available on the Playstation 3. Instead of moving to a realistic style, Now Production stuck with the bright, cell-shaded, cartoony graphics that they have used in the previous editions on the Wii. The backgrounds have a fair amount of detail, and stay interesting to look at while cracking home runs out of the park. I would have loved to see the crowd react to the baseball itself after I hit foul balls or home runs, but that is a small concern. There are three times of day – afternoon, twilight, night – for the gamer to choose from, and this adds a good visual variety throughout Tournament and Exhibition modes.
There were few ocular hiccups in Little League World Series Baseball 2010, but Now Production did not really take any risks with the graphics either, and stuck to what has worked in the past. This is not a problem, but it doesn’t set the game apart and never took my breath away.
Graphics Rating: Above Average
One thing I started hating more and more as games went on was the commentary. Brent Musberger is in the game, but his commentary is canned, random, repetitive and pointless. He doesn’t even say player names, only their numbers, position, and batting order. This game would have benefitted from a good, upbeat soundtrack during games instead of the Musberger commentary, and it isn’t often I think that way in sports titles.
Aside from the bland, unnecessary commentary, the sound effects are done well. The crack of the metal bat is unmistakable, and the crowd cheers in appropriate places, adding to the family atmosphere of the little league. There are no chants from the crowd, unfortunately, but that leaves the player open to hear the umpire calling strikes, balls, outs, and foul balls. There is some quiet music that plays between innings, but this is so quiet and inconsequential it made me wonder why it was even thrown in. I would have liked to see more of a baseball diamond feel, including chants, music, birds, the weather, and other similar aspects, but what Now Production has included – commentary notwithstanding – is done well.
Sound Rating: Decent
Control and Gameplay
Now Production has kept the focus of Little League World Series Baseball 2010 on the gameplay, and this is a strength for the most part. I found each game to be different from the last when talking only of gameplay, even as the Tournament mode got to the 20th game and beyond. What plays in the game’s favor is that there can be a surprisingly deep amount of gameplay options here, including the use of collectable power-up cards, talents, and star players. Obviously this isn’t MLB 10: The Show, but this is aimed at a different audience, so that is not a bad thing. I found that trying to pitch the same four-seam fastball cost me when it got late in the Tournament mode, and it wasn’t until I changed up my pitch location and type – just like in real world baseball – that I was able to stop the opponents from cranking home runs at will.
This was a rare game where I needed the training mode in order to play better baseball. This is not necessarily a compliment. One reason I needed this was because the controls were not fully listed in the game manual, or in the on-screen control listing. To throw a curveball, for example, the player needs to hit the square button, and move the left analog stick in a certain direction. This is never spelled out anywhere except in training mode, and instead, is left for the player to simply remember which button + direction is a curveball, slider, sinking fastball, screwball, or knuckleball. The only three options displayed on-screen while playing are the four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, and change-up.
Special talents and power-up cards help add depth and strategy to the game. There are multiple situations (such as advancing a base on a close call, making a diving in-field stop, pitching from the outfield to home plate in order to prevent a run, and batting) that hitting the R2 button will activate a special talent. This talent will allow for different mini-games, unbelievable jumps to snatch a ball, home runs, or rocket pitches from deep in left field. Here is a specific example of one of these special talents in action: there is a player running home from third base, trying to score a run, but the catcher gets the ball before the player arrives at home, and is sure to tag that runner out. Instead of giving the catcher an easy out, the player – assuming they have built up his/her talent meter, which is done by completing everyday things like throwing strikes, catching fly balls, and things of that nature – can hit R2 and a mini-game engages where both the catcher and the runner have to pick a direction (up, down, left or right) with the left stick. If the catcher guesses the same direction as the runner, they are out; if not, the runner is safe. This is completely a game of chance, but I found it to be a fun alternative to simply getting an easy out. The use of talents sets Little League World Series Baseball 2010 apart from games like MLB Power Pros, MLB 10: The Show, and Major League Baseball 2K10, but this might not be a good thing for a lot of sports gamers.
The other unique feature to Little League World Series Baseball 2010 is the use of power-up cards. These cards are unlocked by completing different tasks in the game, such as finishing training mode, winning games, pitching so many strikeouts, and the like. Once unlocked, the cards can be played once during a game (Exhibition or Tournament mode, and can be turned off) to access different abilities. For example, one card might improve the batter’s chances of hitting a line drive down the line, while another might give the game an extra inning of play. There are a multitude of different card types to collect, but they will all help boost the team’s ratings in search of a win. These add a good deal of strategy because at the start of each game, the player is forced to select only 5 (or less, depending on the options set) cards that they think will give him/her the best shot at victory. At first, I did not find myself using this option all that much because I was trying to find a more realistic game of basbeall. Once I realized that “realism”Â is not the point in Little League World Series Baseball 2010, I was trying to find the best combination on cards for each game. This is another level of depth to a game that, at first sight, appears to have nothing going on in the strategy department.
The controls can take some time to get used to, as they are different than any baseball game I have played in the past. To bat, the player uses the R2 button. The player can hit a standard shot by tapping R2 at the correct time, or can gain a power swing by holding down R2 as the pitcher winds up, and releasing it as the ball arrives. This took me a bit to get the hang of, but after half a dozen games, and completing the training mode, I was hitting pretty well. Pitching is also done by using the R2 button: the player selects his/her pitch type by hitting triangle, square, or X, selects the pitch location with the left stick, and then starts the pitching meter with R2. Once the meter reaches the “sweet spot”Â, the player lets go and the pitch is thrown. As the pitch heads to the plate, the player can move the left stick to the right or left to tune the pitch: a two-seam fastball becomes a slider or a sinking fastball, and a change-up can become a screwball or a knuckleball. Fielding works the same as most baseball games with the face buttons acting as the bases (X being home, O being first, triangle being second and square being third). Using the L1 button will set the team’s defensive positioning, allowing the player to set up a bunt defense, a double play defense, or a shallow defense, among other options. Once the player gets used to the control system, it works well. The learning curve is not too much to get over, and even younger gamers’ can have fun with the title after a few games.
Little League World Series Baseball 2010 is an arcade, unrealistic baseball game, but that is not to say that there is no depth. Just under the cell-shaded exterior, there is a lot going on. It’s no MLB Power Pros, but nothing is. This is a unique baseball experience that will be appreciated most by younger gamers. Though the controls have a bit of a learning curve, and the instruction manual is virtually useless, there is an excellent in-game training system that can take players from batting 9th in the lineup to batting clean up in just a few games.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good
Modes like the special skills challenge are a great way to get players to put his/her game back in the system day after day, but the lack of an online multiplayer will hinder this. As I said, the skill challenges get boring when playing alone and almost require a second person to be enjoyed for any extended amount of time. Family gamers will have a blast here, though, and I can see families coming back to Little League World Series Baseball 2010 for a while just to play the skill challenges. Most others will probably be finished with it once the Tournament mode has been beaten.
Collecting power-up cards is a great reason to come back to the game, and is something that family gamers and core gamers would be interested in doing because it adds a lot to the depth of the game. The majority of these cards can be unlocked after completing the Tournament mode, however, so finalizing the player’s deck of cards would not take much more than about 8-10 hours of gameplay. Speaking of collecting, there are also trophies to collect (aside from the Playstation Network trophies) by completing different challenges. There is virtually no incentive to try and earn all these, however, and frankly, collecting all the different regional division trophies does not appeal to me at all, and will only entice completionists.
With a single player skill challenge that bores quickly and the absence of an online multiplayer, only those interested in offline multiplayer, collecting power-up cards and completing his/her trophy collection will find a lot of replayability here. The Tournament mode itself is a good reason to come back – to try and win the Little League World Series – but once will be enough for most gamers.
Replayability Rating: Below Average
I am a 24-year old gamer who spends the majority of my gaming time playing sports titles, and I found the Normal mode of Little League World Series Baseball 2010 to be quite difficult. I chalk up the blowouts to the fact that I was still learning the controls, but was discouraged after I had lost my first four games. I switched the difficulty to Easy and started having a blast with the game, smashing home runs often, and pitching four-seam fastballs down the center of the plate while the batter just stared at me. I would definitely recommend that most players start off on Easy to learn the controls, and then move up to Normal mode if they feel adequate. With only two difficulties, I expected the game to be easy, but that was not the case at all.
As Tournament mode progressed, and I got past the regional field, I noticed the games getting more and more difficult, with wins being harder to earn. This continued up through the World Series finals, just as it should. Aside from the stunning difficulty of Normal mode when I first started the game, the balance held up strongly through Tournament mode. Players that want to earn his/her victories in the world of little league baseball will have the most fun, but those that are easily frustrated will want to keep things on Easy for a while.
Balance Rating: Above Average
Baseball is baseball, and whether it is major league, minor league, or little league, it still follows relatively the same rules. This can be said for baseball, football, hockey, basketball, soccer, cricket, whatever; if it’s a sport-based video game, originality takes a backseat in terms of what the developer focuses on. With that said, though, Now Productions has done a nice job setting Little League World Series Baseball 2010 apart from other series in its genre such as Backyard Baseball, MLB: The Show or MLB Power Pros by adding in talents and power-up cards. The Tournament mode is a great feature that uses the Little League World Series formula – unique to this series – but that is not enough to label this is as an “original”Â game.
Originality Rating: Poor
While I never yearned to play Little League World Series Baseball 2010 while I was sitting in bed, or out at the bookstore, I still found the game difficult to turn off after I started. I measure this up to the fact that each game can be played in about fifteen minutes time. The quick pace of the little league game can get addicting after only a couple, and then two games becomes six, and six becomes ten in what seems like only a matter of minutes. The only time this applies, however, is when playing in Tournament mode and the goal is to become the best in the world. There’s something about sports games, and becoming the best, that always keep me coming back for more, and Little League World Series Baseball 2010 did just that.
Addictiveness Rating: Above Average
Little League World Series Baseball 2010 will appeal to the kids who play the sport, and those interested in playing in the future. It is aimed at younger gamers, and that is who will appreciate it the most. I remember when I worked at Gamestop and Little League World Series Baseball 2008 had just come out; the store had a load of kids every week asking about the game. Of course, the game was on the Wii then, and there are, in general, more young gamers playing the Wii than the Playstation 3. I’m afraid that Now Productions’ decision to release the game only on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 will negatively affect their sales, hurting the game’s appeal factor.
Appeal Factor Rating: Pretty Poor
I’m a very competitive person, and I love playing sports games because they get my adrenaline pumping. I get hooked on them and want to play them until I win whatever championship is available. Little League World Series Baseball 2010 gave this same excitement, even though it is obviously aimed at younger gamers. It was a lot of fun to use to the different special talents, try to figure out the best power-up card combinations, and try to set the perfect line-up. There is a lot to be said for a game that gets me yelling to my girlfriend in excitement over the last play I completed, and that is what Little League World Series Baseball 2010 managed to pull off.
Miscellaneous Rating: Good
Graphics: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Pretty Poor
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Little League World Series Baseball 2010 is a nice addition to the baseball line-up for the year, and is the best option for young players. Anyone looking for a realistic baseball simulation will want to look toward MLB 10: The Show or Major League Baseball 2K10, but those looking for a fun, different approach to the game, filled with unrealistic circus catches, mini-games, and skill challenges will enjoy Little League World Series Baseball 2010. Now Productions doesn’t seem to take many chances, or stray away from the original engine they have built up on the Wii with previous iterations of the series, and that keeps the game from excelling in any one area. What it does give the gamer, however, is a solid, fun baseball experience that I feel confident in recommending at its bargain, $40 price tag.