After spending some quality time with Activision’s latest baseball title I have to say this is the most deceiving game I have played all year. Not necessarily in a bad way. The cover art comes across as a quick and dirty game to use the license they obviously had for the Little League World Series. Once you actually boot up the game you are introduced to more of a Power Pros style of game that borders more on arcade styling as opposed the more traditional baseball feel. Still after getting past the initial shock of change the game throws at you, there is some real fun to be had here if you can look past the glaring flaws and steep learning curve.
The most prominent feature about LLWS 2010 is the look. If you played Konami’s aforementioned title Power Pros, you have a general idea. The characters are large and over-the-top. They have giant eyes and spiky hair that looks like they were ripped right out of an anime. The colors in the game are also blindingly bright and primary. Still the game looks sharp in HD, and it makes differentiating between characters, teams and other items much simpler. The animations are rather simple, but I do love seeing my batter light up like he is on fire when I use a special move. There is no denying that LLWS is aiming for the arcade feel in almost every category.
This trend continues with the mechanics of every facet in the game. Batting is executed entirely with the right trigger. You can hold it down, and even time it to the pitch for a more precise hit. You can direct your hit with the left analog stick, but it mostly relies on timing. Pitching is even more simplified as your character is limited to a stock set of throws. The same premise works here where you hold the right trigger until the desired power is reached. If you hop through the tutorial you will learn some subtle nuances such as tossing curve and knuckleballs, but in a game a blazing fastball will work just as well, and takes much less effort.
Everything else also feels similar. Making stellar catches usually involves using a special meter and button-timed presses. Fielding is easy when set to auto, but the camera angles make it tricky when you switch to manual. This makes the choice easy for arcade fans, but those that like to play the field manually will be disappointed as it is near impossible to achieve with the shoddy camera angles. Everything you do in the game also earns you points that build up your special meter much like any fighting game. These allow you to unleash bigger hits, faster pitches and even spectacular catches on defense. The game feels entirely simplistic on the surface, but that is just a disguise.
The one thing that will shock you about LLWS is the difficulty within the game. Even playing on easy the computer will not let up. My first game went into three extra innings with no score until I finally managed to sneak a two-run homerun in on them in the bottom of an inning. This game is tough, and it all comes down to learning the intricacies and timing of the batting. Releasing your swing at just the right time is critical to getting runners on base. This goes against the look and even namesake of the title. Most will likely thing this game is aimed at a much younger audience, but they will likely get frustrated with this title long before they master it.
This leaves the game in an interesting position as it appears to be aimed at one audience, while it truly is built for another. Still if you can manage to get past this initial frustration the game really is packed with plenty to see, and tons of fun. In addition to being able to recreate the entire series and play standard quick games, there are also plenty of mini-games to check out. They range from bowling pitching to homerun derby. The challenges are tough, but fun, and you have plenty variations so you won’t get bored for a while. There are also cards to collect that alter the gameplay by giving you advantages before each game. There really is a plethora of content here for the price tag.
Overall I had a lot of fun with LLWS 2010. The game has its share of problems, but if you can get past those the challenge and ease of play really create an enjoyable experience. It feels almost like a nod to the classic days of R.B.I. Baseball on the original NES. The gameplay is simple but still managing to be challenging at the same time. Anyone looking for a more realistic experience will certainly be disappointed, but those like me that go in with no expectations will come away pleasantly surprised.
Review copy provided by publisher.