Little League World Series Baseball 2010
Posted 2 years ago By - Zach R.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing two great ball games, MLB 10 The Show and MLB 2K10. While both titles tend to focus on offering fairly accurate simulations of America’s favorite pastime, they’re both a little intense when it comes to the stat-heavy, ultra-realistic features. Sure, that’s great for the older fans out there who want to keep things as close to real as they can get, but what about the younger baseball fans who just want to have some fun?
Activision and developer Now Productions are coming to their rescue with Little League World Series Baseball 2010 - a charming, more casually focused title. Sure, it may lack the big names of the MLB, but it brings a simple, colorful take on baseball. Visually, while the aforementioned sims look to represent every aspect of a real baseball game, right down to the last blade of grass, Little League looks to give kids a vibrant treat, with anime-stylized players and bright green fields. Furthermore, the art design provides environments that are round, cartoony, and colorful, and couples them with fun additions like blocky fonts and trailers on a well hit ball.
Even though the visuals represent a cheery world, the audio still tends to go for the typical sports broadcast, thanks to commentary by Gary Thorne and Brent Musberger. The depth of the commentary is a huge contrast to that of the MLB counterparts. However, considering just how unique the visuals are, it feels like a missed opportunity to not have tried something a little different. It’s not that the commentary is bad; for a game without big name players in it, it’s pretty decent, but it’s also somewhat out of place and just a tad repetitive.
With a title like this, there are bound to be those who think the game can’t possibly offer anything for the more mature gamer. In this case, that’s not entirely true. Little League succeeds in nailing some key aspects of the sport, the most important being the ability to think strategically, albeit not always in the way one would expect from a ball game. The strategic thinking comes not only in the form of knowing when to sacrifice bunt or shift field positions, but through the use of cards that are designed to give distinct advantages when played correctly. These cards are essentially power-ups that players can opt to use during the course of a game. Each card is only able to be used once, so working out the best time to use them is paramount to success. Have a player that consistently pops the ball up to the left field? Use the Dizzy Spell card to keep outfielders from running it down temporarily, allowing a weak batter the chance to make a base hit. However, there’s nothing here that’s fool-proof, meaning that a perfect formula to using cards may never be found. An opposing team’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to counter your cards with their own may mean there is still quite a challenge if to winning the pennant.
In addition to the cards, there’s a feature that allows you the ability to activate a talent, which essentially provides a boost to a player that allows them to hit further, pitch faster, or field better. Building the talent meter requires completing plays successfully by a fielder making good contact with the ball, a pitcher throwing strikes and so on. Once filled, with the push of a button the player will essentially “catch fire”, allowing them to bring the heat. Ignite a star player and pitching three perfect strikes that are virtually unhittable or smashing a home run are almost assured. Of course, there’s also the ability play a straight up game, but the gimmicks on offer here are really what sets LLWS apart from the MLB games. Without them, the game is just a sim that can’t compete with the big boys.
Of course, Little League shouldn’t be expected to compete with the Show and the MLB 2K series, but there are fundamentals that need to be addressed for future titles in the series. While the game can be fun for a period of time, players will quickly find the controls slightly problematic. Batting itself doesn’t have much of an issue, though player control is quite limited when it comes to aiming shots. Holding up on the left stick to pop the ball up, or down to send out a grounder is effective, but truly controlling where the ball goes feels floaty and unresponsive. Holding the left stick to the left should in essence make the ball lean that way if the shot is timed properly. That said, nine times out of ten the ball would fly far right, regardless of how accurate the swing was. Granted, the target market are probably more concerned with actually hitting, but those of us who have played other baseball games may be put off a bit by this.
Pitching and fielding are slightly more difficult to forgive. With pitching, the controls are relatively simple, and there are only three types of pitches available: four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs, and the change-up. By holding the trigger and waiting for the meter to reach its peak, players can toss off pitches with relative ease. Tweaking pitches, however, is a pain. Part of the problem is rooted in reaction time, because the catcher takes more than a little persuading to move his glove around the strike zone. At times, it took pushing the left stick several times to get the catcher to finally move his glove to the right area. Then, there’s altering the pitches themselves. This is supposed to work by jiggling the thumbstick back and forth, but the game ultimately ignores any attempt to modify the pitch. Perhaps its the inherent awkwardness of the control-scheme that hampers the pitch mechanics, but most players will settle for tossing four-seamers ad nauseum to avoid the headache.
When it comes to fielding, the mechanics themselves are definitely solid, especially compared to pitching. Jamming the right thumbstick back and forth to make your fielders run faster is a little old-school, but it’s workable, and tapping a button to make a spectacular diving catch is simple and satisfying. That said, the camera makes things a lot more difficult than they need to be by shifting angles just enough to disorient, allowing for more than a few errors. This is especially frustrating when it comes to grounders that require you to manually control the player. For example, your player may end up running the opposite direction from where the the ball was hit due to an unfortunate side-angled outfield shot camera switch. There were also more than a few instances on the field that my player stopped short of nabbing a pop-fly, in spite of having plenty of time to get under it. As flys are usually handled by auto-controlled AI, they are handled by controlling the player speed with the right stick. Sometimes, however, he will just stop short of where the ball is going to land. Opting to take control of players manually, gives a slight delay in the response during the moments where AI hands over control, making an easy double for batters instead of an even easier out for the defense.
The game modes are what is pretty much to be expected for this collection. On offer is a lengthy tournament mode, an exhibition mode, and the opportunity to play several mini games. While the mini games can be fun in short bursts, the issues that are prevalent in the main game are still present here, making it difficult to recommend playing through most of them more than once. The game does feature online leaderboards, but the lack of ability to complete online at all kills some of the replay value a bit. Multiplayer allows for up to four players offline, which is great, but those looking to join friends online will have to hold out hope that next year’s offering will include this functionality.
In spite of its flaws, Little League World Series 2010 is an enjoyable game. It’s just not one that discerning sports game enthusiasts or ball game players are going to be able to enjoy with the same level of satisfaction that the younger target audience will. The problems aren’t gamebreakers, by any means, but overall presentation could certainly stand a bit more polish. That said, if you have an avid ball fan in your house that finds the current MLB offerings a bit too daunting, Little League is a fine alternative that may offer a more fresh and fun approach.
+ Visuals are well done
+ Offline co-op is nicely done
+ Core gameplay is good...
- Pitching controls can be awkward
- Camera is a major issue when fielding
- Only online leaderboards, no online play
- Minigames suffer due to inaccuracies of the controls
- No risks taken with commentary, feels out of place
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Release Date : 2010/07/20
System : PlayStation 3
Publisher : Activision
Developer : NOW Production
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10