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Nicktoons MLB Video Game Review (Xbox 360)

Nicktoons MLB (Xbox 360)

If the presence of Spongebob
Squarepants on the cover doesn’t give it away, Nicktoons MLB is not the game
for people seeking a deep and realistic baseball experience. But it does do a
good job of what it sets out to do, provide a fun and easy to learn
pick-up-and-play baseball game with a bit of Nickelodeon Flair.

 

Stats:


  • 1 to 2 players
  • Controller and Kinect support 
  • No co-op or online modes
  • Tournament Mode
  • Play as 23 Nicktoons or dozens of
    MLB stars
  • 6 Nicktoon-Themed and 6 real-world
    stadiums 
  • Authentic Nick Voice Actors like Tom
    Kenny

 

 

Story, Setting and Characters:


Nicktoons MLB pits one team of
popular Nicktoons, both current stars and past favorites, against a number of
MLB stars in both real stadiums and wacky Nicktoons inspired ones. Why? Don’t
ask, no reason is given, there’s no story mode and not even the manual tries to
explain it. It just does.

I’m no expert on the MLB players,
but this is a cartoon website so I’m assuming that like me you’re more
interested in the Nicktoons. Though the Nicktoons team seems a little
outnumbered considering how much of the Major League they’re up against, their
roster is hefty and I love some of the choices they made for the team.

There’s a good representation of
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fanboy and Chum Chum, Tuff Puppy, Jimmy Neutron and
Spongebob Squarepants characters, and also some unexpected surprises in Zim and
Gaz from Invader Zim and Ren and Stimpy, Powdered Toast Man and The Yak from
Ren and Stimpy. And Danny Phantom, by his lonesome self, makes an appearance. I
guess Timmy Turner doesn’t like baseball. It was also weird that Squidward
didn’t join the Spongebob characters, but Larry Lobster made the cut.

The MLB stadiums look all right,
they’re not exactly photo-realistic but they are serviceable. The Nicktoons
stadiums are fun playgrounds, though. You get to play in the Air Temple
Courtyard from Avatar, a Ghost Zone stadium inspired by Danny Phantom, Frosty
Freeze Field from Fanboy and Chum Chum, Irken Field from Invader Zim, Yolkus
Stadium from Jimmy Neutron, and The Poseidome from Spongebob Squarepants. Each
field has its own interactive objects that you can damage with home runs, but
they don’t change the gameplay much. I also loved that they even had little
Nickelodeon touches in the MLB stadiums, like “Chum is Fum” signs and
advertisements for Log.

Gameplay and Options:


The game has a limited number of
modes. There’s a simple tournament, a Pickup Game mode for a quick two player
game or game against the computer, a Showdown mode for pitting an all-star
Nicktoon team against an all-star MLB team, and a juiced up home run derby
where the goal is to destroy targets in the stands. As far as I can tell, the pickup
game is the only game that lets you have a mixed Nicktoon/MLB team, so if
you’ve got Sandy Cheeks and Albert Pujols in your fantasy league team, it’s
your only option.

There are also some merciful
customization options. I was happy to see that you can choose to play three
inning games instead of nine. The innings go quickly, but the tournament is
rather long and winning two nine inning games against each team to advance
could get to be a chore.

Gameplay is also nicely oriented to
make it easy for players who aren’t hardcore baseball game fans or younger
players to pick up the game. You start by choosing your team based on some
simplified pitching, hitting, fielding and other stats. You really need to
choose carefully, some players like The Yak can rip the leather off the ball,
but with Spongebob you’re going to count yourself lucky to get a single.
Getting the right pitcher is important, too, Nesmith seems to be designed for
it and he really dominates.

You can play the game with the
regular controller or the Kinect. I don’t have a Kinect, so I wasn’t able to
check out those controls, but they appear to be miming pitching and batting
motions. It looks a little complicated.

The controller controls, however,
are very simple. Pitching is about using a cursor to find the spot in a
batter’s strike zone you want to throw to, then holding down a face button
matched to a pitch to fill a meter and try to time the perfect, fastest pitch.
The strike zone is important, there’s a hot zone area where the batter is most
effective and can hit a home run when you pitch there, but that area rewards
you by filling a turbo meter if you can get one by them with a perfect pitch.
And there’s an area where they’re more likely to miss but you get next to no
turbo, so you always have to weigh the risk with every pitch.

Batting is just about timing a swing
and choosing to bunt, hit normally or go for the bleachers. If the pitcher
throws into the good part of your strike zone, you can hit farther, so it’s a
good time to pull out the smash.

Fielding and base-running are
simplified, but a little fiddly and hard to manage and follow. You’ll look at the radar
screen that shows your runners’ positions way more than your main screen. I had a
hard time getting people right under the ball and it was easy to make some
stupid mistakes because I couldn’t tell exactly what was going on. You can also
steal bases or pick off base runners, I had a hard time getting the pick off to
work.

Sounds like a normal baseball game
so far, but this is a Nicktoons game, so everything gets a little extra juice.
Good play fills a turbo meter, which allows you to throw super pitches, hit
moonshots that destroy parts of the stadium, and barrel through the bases
faster. Your characters can make amazing, impossible leaps to catch balls.
Fireworks go off when you do something cool and special effects trails show on
the ball. It makes for an amped-up sports experience that reminded me a bit of
the old NBA Jam game.

I also appreciated the quick pace of
the gameplay, and that the developers didn’t shy away from the physicality of
baseball. Even the Nicktoons really go for it and will slide for a plate or bowl someone over coming into home.

One drawback is that the game seems
a little unbalanced to focus on pitching. Your best bet is to try to just pitch
as close as you can to Nolan Ryan-stye no-hitters, because it’s harder to field
and it’s harder to have a shootout and try to outscore the other team.
No-hitter blowouts aren’t that exciting. It kills the longevity of the game a bit, because once you’ve mastered pitching you get pretty hard to beat.

Graphics:


The graphics in the game won’t blow
you away. The stadiums are mostly just serviceable, they aren’t super-detailed.
The human players aren’t top of the line realistic, either, but I think their
slight cartooniness works for this game, because more realistic players would
have looked jarring next to the Nicktoons.

I was very worried about how the
Nicktoons would look. I kind of thought they might come off looking like people
in mascot costumes. There is a little bit of that with some of the characters,
but for the most part they manage not to be too creepy and they don’t look like
dead-eyed monsters. Well, Powdered Toast Man looks super creepy, but he’s
supposed to. It helps that they have nice-looking animations, especially the
Airbenders, but they don’t seem to have a lot of them. The 10th time
you see Stimpy fart and fall down after coming in to home you’ll start to skip
it.

Sound:


Sound is a bit of a mixed bag. The
Nicktoons all have voice clips that they play when they do things, but again
there’s not enough variety to sustain a tournament and you’ll get tired of
hearing Spongebob say “I’m a dirty boy.” I’m not the guy to tell you if they’re
all the authentic voice actors, but they sound really good to me. Spongebob is
definitely Tom Kenny, though, and Stimpy is totally not Billy West.

The announcing booth features Perch
Perkins from Spongebob for play-by-play and Gir from Invader Zim for some
really weird color commentary. Gir is hilarious, but he says the same things
over and over and they’re all random Gir-isms like “Wanna watch the scary
monkey show?” that have nothing to do with what’s happening in the game,
although he does say a couple of vaguely baseball-related things like “Why Mr. Baseball Man?
Whyyyyy?” Perch Perkins acts amused by Gir but never understands anything he
says, he just focuses on funny, sports cliche play-by-play and does a decent job of
it. Sometimes his AI calls a play too early, though, and the things he says are
inaccurate.

The rest of the sound design is also
good, with some nice stadium sounds and sound effects. Where the game really
falls down is the music, when you first start it up you’re assaulted with some
awful generic rock, and there aren’t any memorable Nicktoon tunes even in their
own stadiums.

Extras:


This isn’t a game with a lot of
extras. You can collect virtual trading cards of Nicktoons characters in the
game and related to those in the game for winning games and doing other tasks.
It gives you some incentive to play well, but the cards themselves are disappointing,
with monochrome art and a little bit of text about the characters. The funniest
thing is the commitment to the game world the cards for the players who are on
the Nicktoons Team show. They talk about their baseball skills.

Otherwise the presentation is very
basic. When you win the tournament there’s not even a trophy ceremony, just a
text box that say you win the tournament. Also, this game is plagued with lots
of loading times, but one bright spot is that there are lots of nice loading screens
done in a delightful style, reminiscent of Nickelodeon Magazine, that show Nick
characters hanging out at the ballpark. They feature characters from Nick’s
history, even slightly less well-known ones like George Liquor and The Angry
Beavers. One final bonus is a small packet of Topps baseball cards in the
packaging, which features both MLB and Nicktoons characters.

Overall:


So, is it worth it? It’s probably
more worth it to cartoon fans than baseball fans. And it’s definitely more
worth it to people who want a quick casual experience than a game they’ll spend
a lot of time on, I played it for one evening and felt like I’d seen most of
what it had to offer, the only thing left being bumping up the difficulty mode.

But this is far from garbage
licensed shovelware. It sets out to provide a a casual fun time with a few
laughs along the way and it does, kind of like most of the Nicktoons
themselves. Not exactly a grand slam, but definitely not a strikeout. 


  Graphics:
7.0
 

Play Control: 8.0 

Gameplay: 7.0 

Authenticity to Licenses: 9.5 

Sound: 8.0 

Overall: 8.0 (of 10) 


 

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