With the World Series in full swing, there’s really no better time to pick up a baseball game and start hitting some balls. While there are plenty of titles on the market, 2k Play has released a rather unique entry that will definitely appeal to the younger crowd. Nicktoons MLB mashes up America’s favorite past-time with Nickelodeon’s more popular franchises. It’s a combo with a lot of potential, but ultimately it falls short in a couple of key areas.
For all intents and purposes Nicktoons MLB is a stripped down version of The Bigs franchise. The arcade-style gameplay is simplistic and accessible, and there are splashes of over-the-top action. A few core modes lead the way and there’s a decent roster of teams, players, and characters, however, the game doesn’t offer a lasting experience at the end of the day.
For game modes there are: Pick-Up Game, Showdown, Distance Derby, and Tournament.
“Pick-Up Game” is the basic one-shot game experience. Players pick the team, their starting roster of Nickelodeon favorites, their opponent, and stadium. This is fine and dandy if players just want to jump right into the action without a long-term commitment, but it’s rather light on the details and options. The ability to choose how many innings is present, though that only determines game length. “Tournament” is where the meat and potatoes of the game really lies. In this game mode there’s a succession of teams that knocks each other out and you’re trying to be numero uno. It’s not rocket science by any means.
“Showdown” is a versus mode of sorts where players pick either the MLB or Nicktoons teams. It’s essentially an all-star game where cherry picking players is possible and it’s quite easy to create an overpowered roster. “Distance Derby” is basically a homerun derby where players hit targets and race to score the most amount of points. This mode gets old fast and is ultimately disappointing.
With regards to the game modes it would have been nice to see the inclusion of a season or even ability to control some of the lineup of players. Updated rosters are not available and the balance between MLB and Nickelodeon just simply isn’t handled as well as it should be. Then again you’re talking about a significantly younger demographic here, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
As far as the actual gameplay is concerned the controls are fairly tight and easy to use. Pitching is handled by directing the ball with the left analog stick and selecting a pitch with the corresponding button. When getting ready to pitch a meter pops up that determines the quality of pitch by position of the bar. At bat the controls are roughly the same with the left analog stick directing where players hit the ball and buttons that relate to the type of swing. Fielding is a little different in the sense that players have to run, jump, and dive in order to make catches. The four face buttons determine which base a player can throw to. It’s all very straightforward and the game offers tutorials until your accustomed to the controls and want to shut them off.
The core gameplay allows for players to pick up and go, and it’s welcoming for kids who have a friend over, though Xbox Live is only supported for “Friends” and “Achievements” and not actually for play. It would have been nice to have seen more diversity in the gameplay or amongst players, but as it stands there are only some stats, unique Nicktoons moves, and Turbo to spice things up. Turbo is rewarded when players pitch or bat well and it can lead to improved pitching or batting for a single moment.
Six MLB stadiums and six Nickelodeon ones are featured here, which is naturally disappointing in terms of variety. When you combine this with the limited number of available players, limited modes, and simple gameplay, Nicktoons MLB is more a weekend experience than something lasting, even for hardcore fans of Nickelodeon.
Nicktoons MLB isn’t going to impress anyone with its presentation. Character models are far too simple. MLB players are blocky and featureless and Nicktoons characters look more like mascots than cartoons. Textures are flat, animation is stiff, and all around the game just looks mediocre. Sound is hit or miss as well with limited voice work, annoying announcers, and light sound effects.
As fun as it may be to make a baseball team with Aang, Zuko, and Toph, the ends simply don’t justify the means. This is The Bigs light and a stripped down version of any game simply isn’t as fun. While the concept may be rife with potential it’s squandered here and never fully realized. I’d suggest giving Nicktoons MLB a rental.
Nicktoons MLB is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for comic mischief. This game can also be found on: Nintendo DS, Wii.