I am predominantly a sports gamer, and as such it takes a lot to blow me away. Activision’s Little League World Series 2010 did just that. It blew me away. When I first picked up the game I wasn’t expecting much more than a gloried version of Wii Sports Baseball. In some ways that initial expectation was fairly accurate, but this game far exceeds Wii Sports.
Little League World Series 2010 has a cool look to it, with players seemingly crossed between an Xbox Avatar and a Mii. The on-field animations are as smooth as any simulation baseball game, and the Power Ups and celebrations have a neat anime-style look to them.
I tried hopping right into an exhibition game, man was that a bad idea. For a simple game with only two difficulty settings, Easy and Normal, LLWS2010 is actually a very challenging title. In my first game I was shutout and only had two hits.
Playing through the Training mode is a necessity.
After completing the training mode the game really opened up for me. It teaches you the ins and outs of hitting and pitching, which is important because if you skip the pitching training, you'll never figure out how to throw anything but a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball and a change up. Curveballs, sliders, sinking fastballs and knuckleballs are hidden from you (when looking at the in-game pitch selector) because they require more nuanced controls (i.e. they can only be selected through a default pitched followed by a motion of the left joystick upon release of the power meter). I can't imagine how I would have figured that out without playing through the training.
The gameplay is very simple, to pitch, you simply have to pick a pitch between 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball and a change up, then choose a location by moving the left joystick. Once that is done, just pull down the right trigger until the pitching meter fills to the blue bar. Hitting is just as easy, just hold down the right trigger to pull the bat back, and release when the pitch comes in, the longer you hold the trigger down the more power you get, but hold it down too long and you’ll lose power.
One of the fun parts of this game is the inclusion of GameBreaker-like power ups. You get points for doing things like getting hits or fielding plays, which fill up your Talent Meter. Once the meter fills up by a 1/3rd, 2/3rds or to full, you can use it to boost the current player, pitcher or hitter. If you have a full Talent Meter and your Star Player is on the mound or at bat, you can activate his or her talent, which sets you up for an easy K, or hitting an easy homer. This actually brings a fun bit of strategy as to when you want to use this in the game. If you’re not using your Talent on the Star Player, there is still a chance that you can let up a hit, or make an out, though nothing is guaranteed.
While the game looks like an HD version of a Wii game, this is the first time in the series’ history that its not on the Wii or DS. Little League World Series 2010 is only available on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Despite my enjoyment, there are a few issues I have with the game. The rosters aren’t real, which, if they can’t get NCAA player's names, I’d never expect Little Leaguer’s names. However, there are only 9 players on each team, no bench players, so you might find yourself with a left-handed 2nd baseman from time to time.
While each team only has 9 players, the depth of those players is deep. The players are fully customizable boys and girls (yes, girls are included in this game) (as fully customizable as you can get with an Xbox Avatar-like person). I’m actually a little disappointed I couldn’t bring my avatar into the game - though I am in the process of trying to recreate my 5th grade All-Star team. Another nice touch in player customization is the inclusion of “Official Gear” from Louisville Slugger, Demarini, and Wilson. That stuff always makes the game feel a little more real.
The unsung heros of the title are the touches that make it feel more realistic. Brent Musburger provides some nice commentary, though he does says “My man, what a game this is!” quite often. Also, as players come to bat they have little notes about them such as Favorite Movie, Hobby or Favorite Food (for some reason mine was tater tot casserole, which actually sounds amazing).
The game is a little lacking in player modes, featuring only Tournament, where you to become your area's representative in the Little League World Series, Exhibition, Skill Challenge, which includes some fun mini games like Pitching Darts (shown above) and Training, which gives a good rundown of all the controls. Again, I highly recommend running though Training before playing a Tournament game.
With all the great simulation sports games out now, from MLB 10: The Show, Madden NFL 11, NCAA Football 11 and NHL 11 and NBA 2K11 coming out soon, this is a really great change of pace. I really came into Little League World Series 2010 thinking it would be kind of a fun niche game, and had my mind blown.
Baseball games like MLB 10 and MLB 2K10 can be a lot to take in as a newcomer to baseball simulations. I think for kids, and even just regular people, Little League World Series 2010 is a very good entry point into baseball games. Also, the game is a bit kinder to your wallet at $39.99 instead of the normal $59.99 - which I think was a great move.
I can’t recommend Little League World Series 2010 enough, I think anyone can really have fun with this game and I really believe you should pick it up and give it a whirl.
Little League World Series 2010 is available now on PS3 and Xbox 360.