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Published: Saturday, 10/4/2008

Game review: Mario and the Gang hit the field

BY TOM FISHER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The air is getting that autumn chill and the World Series is right around the corner. It s a perfect time for a little Nintendo, and baseball has never been so Mario. That s right Mario and the gang grab their mitts and hit the field in Mario Super Sluggers.

As usual Super Mario has taken a sport and thrown in a little pizzazz, a pinch of arcade play and viola, baseball a la Mario.

Super Sluggers is a revamp of the GameCube predecessor, Mario Superstar Baseball with a new Wii control scheme. It s been a little watered down but the same style of play is there. Graphically it isn t much better than Superstars. There is some minor upgrading on the stadiums and the models are much better but overall it wasn t a huge difference.

Modes of competition include Challenge, Exhibition, Minigames and Toys Field. In Challenge mode you pick a roster and take your team to the championship, playing a few minigames along the way to gain better abilities.

This mode is great for single players but for quick games and Wii parties the best fun is in the Exhibition mode, a single game between two players or the Minigames where you test your baseball skills carnival-game style. Toy Field is more of a multiplayer game where you hit, catch, and collect coins. There is also a Records Room to view the top scores and a Practice mode to get some training, although the simple game play and on-screen tutorials make the practice unnecessary even for a beginner.

You can choose a roster of players randomly or manually, including any Mii s you have on your system. I thought it was kind of fun to watch my Mii interact with the famous characters from Nintendoland. Once teams are chosen you decide where to position the players and the game begins.

The home screen is Baseball Island where some of the characters have their own fields. All the stadiums except Mario s have obstacles that you must avoid when in the outfield, like toxic flowers and water gushing manholes. The game play is straight up on Mario s home turf, however, which is great for those of us who want to concentrate on baseball.

Veteran Wii players will notice the similarities in control style to the baseball game in Wii Sports. Tilt the Wiimote back to wind up the pitch and forward to throw. Swing it back to cock your bat and forward to swing at the ball. Runners automatically advance the bases.

In Super Sluggers however you have the added effects of error items. These are turtles, bombs and other items shot from cannons to keep the outfielders from making a play on the ball. These add a little flair to the game and can be a lot of fun when you re aiming them at your opponent. The welcome wears off, however, when he blasts you in return.

Another nice feature is the buddy system. Buddy actions can be performed when two characters are near each other and have chemistry, denoted by a musical note next to each player. These include combo plays where you can toss the ball to your buddy and he immediately tosses it to the correct base for a double play or teaming up to launch skyward, snatching a ball just before it goes over the wall (awesome when you can do it).

There are a couple of strikes against Slugger.

One is the cameras. It felt like it took them a while to catch up to a fly ball and its expected landing. I found myself unable to get to the destination on time. This was much more apparent in the minigame Gem Catch. Also when you re batting, the screen seems to be a bit too crowded. With the different gauges and data all around the batter it felt more like being in a batting cage than on a diamond. I also had little control over the bat during hits. That s what makes the Barrel Blast minigame too hard. All the barrels enter the field on the extreme left of the diamond and I can t seem to hit that way. Overall however the game had more ups than downs.

Super Sluggers is rated E for Everyone. It is obviously great for children, giving the cartoon style that always accompanies our super plumber but teens and adults will find a lot in the extras and control setup to keep them entertained. If you like the Wii Sports version of baseball and you re a Mario fan this will definitely be a homerun for you.

For the rest it will be fun to pull out from time to time a nice hit, it s just not a grand slam.



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