There’s no doubt that sports games have lost the simplicity that made them so accessible back in the days of the Genesis and Super Nintendo, when player models were nothing more than 2D sprites on the screen. In those days the expectation for a realistic depiction of the sport was minimal. That has changed recently and has sadly left the younger generation of gamers without much of a footing in the sports world. That’s where Little League World Series 2010 (LLWS 2010) comes into the picture with its simple gameplay and easy-to-learn feature set. There’s no doubt that it’s lacking in many of the hardcore baseball areas, but as a casual title meant for newcomers to the sport, I think there just might be enough to warrant your time.
The two most complicated elements for the MLB 2K series – hitting and pitching – have been simplified significantly in LLWS 2010. They both hinge on you holding and releasing the right trigger at a certain time. For hitting, holding the right trigger starts a simple power meter that, if timed just right, will get you maximum power when you release the trigger. Pitching works in an almost identical way, but has been handcuffed further by the fact that every pitcher has the same offering of three pitches and you can only move the pitch’s location right or left. Fielding is automated, your only worry being to throw the ball to the correct base and making sure to wiggle the right analog stick to light a fire under your players’ butts (read: make them run faster). If you can’t tell by now, the gameplay in Little League World Series is extraordinarily simple with only the most basic of actions left up to the player. In other words, if you’ve never touched a baseball game before, this one is for you.
Adding a bit of spice to the mix is the inclusion of power ups and talent cards. Talent cards can be played at any time during the game to give your players certain abilities or detracting from the abilities of the opposing team. You can earn a binder full of more than 50 cards, five of which can be assigned to any one game. These cards do things like lessen the speed of the other team, increase your hitting power, and make your team run faster as well as other abilities. You can see that the development team knew that the gameplay needed some spicing up, but the talent cards don’t quite take the step needed to keep things feeling fresh after several hours of play.
The artificial intelligence could also use a bit of work, especially since the game relies on the AI of your teammates for so many crucial actions. Too often players will make bad decisions when running the bases and there’s an interesting issue when the opposing team hits the ball slowly down the first base line and pulls the first baseman from his post.
Another downer is the general lack of innovation since the game launched on Wii back in 2008. Many of the same mechanics make their way into the Xbox 360 version with little changes to speak of. At the very least the developers should have added online multiplayer support. Sadly all you get is leaderboard integration and the same offering of mini-games to play locally that we saw on Wii. That doesn’t take away from the fact that kids will find something to enjoy, but they could’ve done more to differentiate the two packages.
The only area that has seen a bump when making the transition to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is the visuals. They’ve been nicely bumped up into the HD era and enjoy more detail, brighter colors and a framerate that holds strong throughout. Granted, nothing you’re going to see should push the system, but that hasn’t stopped other games in the past from experiencing technical issues for no real reason.
Little League World Series 2010 is a simple game that doesn’t warrant a look if you already played the Wii version from more than a year ago. If you didn’t check out the Wii rendition, perhaps this will bring some fun for you and your little tikes. So long as they’re sitting right next to you, as there’s no online play at all. The game’s biggest strength is its ability to deliver fast, fun and, most importantly, simple baseball that’s been cobbled together under the veil of a simple Little League World Series setup. If you’ve found your baseball experiences stymied by overly complex controls and modes, Little League World Series 2010 might just be worth a look.