The Bigs 2 is one of my favorite baseball games of this console generation. Blending the easy pick-up-and-play controls of RBI Baseball with the over-the-top power-ups of NBA Jam, I've spent hundreds of hours with the game over the past two years. As dedicated fans of the series wait patiently for the announcement of The Bigs 3, there is some good news on the horizon in the form of Nicktoons MLB Baseball.
Yes, you read that correctly, 2K Sports has seamlessly blended The Bigs engine into a game that features both MLB and Nicktoons superstars. Sounds silly for adults, right? Well, I'm here to testify that the game is pretty darn entertaining.
During my presentation, complete with some hands-on time with the Kinect controller option, I very much enjoyed what I witnessed. The story behind the game is basically Space Jam -- an all-star team of Nicktoons decide to take on MLB players in fictional and realistic stadiums. The game features 300 MLB players from all 30 teams, in addition to an unannounced number of Nicktoons who I did not recognize -- I'm sure I will once my son is old enough to begin watching TV. The Nicktoons each have special cartoon abilities when playing, so expect to see any ball thrown by Avatar containing wind effects, or Patrick the Starfish being clumsy as he runs the bases.
Gameplay takes place in one of six MLB stadiums (Dodger Stadium, Wrigley, Fenway and Yankee Stadium are included), or one of six Nicktoons-inspired stadiums (complete with zany cartoon special effects).
Those looking to skip the Nicktoons completely and play as MLB superstars for an entire season are out of luck. In the build I saw, only a Tournament mode was available, and it was confirmed to me that there is no 162-game season or franchise mode.
Now that sounds discouraging for hardcore baseball fans, but Nicktoons is the first MLB-licensed game to feature Kinect support. In my brief hands-on time with the game using Kinect, I can say without a doubt this could be justification for purchase. I was blown away by how intuitive and fun pitching was, and sans a little input lag while hitting, the offensive side of things was just as fun.
While pitching in Nicktoons MLB, the game recognizes you are ready to throw by coming to a realistic pitching "set" (bring ball into glove). Once you are set, you determine what pitch you will throw based on the arm angle at which you throw at. Fastballs are straight overhand, with sliders, screwballs and knuckleballs determined by different arm angles. The version I played was early in development, and I was told in the final version the Kinect controls will track how accurate your angle is, which should allow you to precisely place a ball in or out of different areas of the strike zone. Batting simply has you emulating a batting stance and swinging away.
I may not know who the heck Invader Zim is or why 2K felt it was necessary to make this game instead of The Bigs 3, but it does not take away from the solid Kinect controls and fun of this game at this stage of development. Nicktoons MLB is going to be a hit for those looking for a family friendly baseball title, and don't be surprised to see mom and dad jump in for some game time once the kids are asleep. I look forward to playing more of this one before it releases late in the summer.