Review by SneakTheSnake
Don't take me out to this ballgame.
In a game where funny cartoon characters are crossing over their respective series to play ball with famous players from the MLB, something about the game should be refined. Something should be sleek. Something should be funny. Nicktoons MLB manages the second one, based on its surprisingly good exterior, but the rest of the game really misses the mark big time.
All of your favorite Nicktoons characters are taking a day off, or something, to take in some baseball. In addition to some rather recent Nicktoons characters like Danny Phantom and Spongebob, there are others joining the fray like Ren, Stimpy and Powdered Toast Man. I'm excited that some characters from the 90's toons are here, but they're probably pretty obscure references to this generation's children. Anyway, they and some of the locales from their respective series have been plucked out of context and have been put into a fairly sterile baseball game.
This is baseball boiled down to its simplest points. As the pitcher, players pick their pitch of choice using the D-pad on the Wii remote and then jerk the remote in order to pitch the ball. From what I've seen, the AI is overwhelmingly accurate at throwing whatever and wherever you (try to) have your baseball go. After the batter hits the ball, control switches to the outfield, where you select which one should scoop up the ball and to which base the ball should be thrown to. It's rather boring, and I don't think that's just the nature of baseball talking. The pace could really have been sped up here.
What I think is toughest to do in this game is batting. Batting is all over the place; getting a hit seems, in Nicktoons MLB, to be almost purely happenstance. I would have preferred near one-to-one connection between your avatar and your movements as the batter ala Wii Sports but, alas, we get one simple batting animation to go off of. Between pitching and hitting, the actual baseball that's going on is difficult to control.
Nicktoons MLB features plenty of options, particularly in the multiplayer settings. This is great for young families in which a few kids can pick their favorite characters and play some ball but, in the end, it's likely much more enjoyable to go out and play ball outside. The enticement of Nicktoons characters squaring it off against real-life baseball idols wears thin, as there's little relation here in the controls between real-life baseball and the way it's simulated here.
This game isn't an attractive one, either. Beyond the surprisingly well-done menus and thorough sets of options, there is a reskinned Playstation 2 game to make up the rest of the game's aesthetics. Character models are goofy, off-scale, off-model or, in the case of Ren's bulbous eyes or Powdered Toast Man's face, quite unpleasant to look at. The stadiums themselves don't fare much better; cardboard cutout crowds are placed against some drab and uninteresting textures for the terrain. Among the toons are listless ghosts in baseball uniforms that I suppose must represent the real-life players; their empty expressions, unenthusiastic movements and pale skin make me think that Danny Phantom recruited a bunch of his ghost buddies to take the field.
While the music fits the bill for an adrenalin-pumping round of America's pastime, the rest of the sound doesn't put me in the mood to play. The main announcer is fine, if not a bit grating, but his color commentator is Gir from Invader Zim. His cult status among fans is solidified here, as his non-sequiturs are sure to be ringers among fans, but they were starting to drive me up a wall in this game. The announcer's and Gir's comments seem arbitrarily mixed together, which makes the whole drivel you hear while you play beyond annoying. The soundalikes for older Nicktoons characters (no Billy West for this game) don't do the characters much justice, either.
Even for children, this game's main demographic, this game is tough to recommend. Between the ridiculous baseball mechanics here, the weird graphics and annoying sound, there is likely very little here for even children to like. I give the game points for its novel concept, and the game can exude some charm of the classic baseball or Nicktoons vibes, but crossovers like these tend to lose the originality and individual "spirits", as it were, of the source materials on which they're based. This makes for a mediocre representation of Nicktoons and baseball, and I don't think it would satisfy fans on either side.
Rating: 1.5 - Bad
Product Release: Nicktoons MLB (US, 09/13/11)
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