Here in the good old United Kingdom we are brought up on Football, Cricket and Rugby, but certain American sports have become popular over the years with amateur and semi-pro Basketball and American Football teams being created in our major cities. However, Baseball has yet to hit those heights, so it’s safe to say that Baseball games are a pretty hard sell on this side of the pond.
But Super Mega Baseball 2 has launched as a free game on Xbox Games With Gold for May, and is also available on the PS4 and PC, currently with an RRP of £30. Developed and Published by Metalhead Software it is quite obviously the sequel to the 2015 title ‘Super Mega Baseball’.
Super Mega Baseball 2 takes the more cartoony approach to Baseball with it’s artistic style, and lacks the official license to the MLB teams. The devs however have designed a new group of sixteen teams specifically for this game, from the Beewolves to the Wild Pigs, and they are all as professionally designed as any official teams could be. Each of the teams has a playing style with stats to match. For example the Sirloins are classed as Extreme Power Hitters so their power level is completely maxed out, but gives a deficit in their Contact stat. Eight new stadiums have also been created, and the New York styled ‘Apple Field’ has a brilliant background featuring the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge. I really loved the visuals of this game, and there are a raft of customisation options available so you can create all the official teams if you so wish.
You will also find all the usual game modes here, with the options of Exhibition (against CPU or a friend), and Season mode all present. There are also two other modes called Pennant Race – which is an online only multiplayer mode – and Elimination, which is a single player or co-op tournament against the CPU. All the standard customisation settings are here as well, with the ability to set game length, season length, etc. The games difficulty level is set via the ‘Ego’ level, which is a scale from 0 to 100. A high Ego level will mean you’re in for a tough game as your opponents will try harder to beat you! This can be changed at any time and the game will give you the option mid-match should you be thrashing your opposition.
So far so good then, but the real test is how Super Mega Baseball 2 plays. I am no expert in baseball games but I was really satisfied with it. For a sport that is quite complex, the controls and player switching during play is simple enough not to be boring, but not as complicated as you might imagine. Fielding is the best example of this. The CPU does most of the work for you in controlling your fielders. A simple catch will be done for you but the rest relies on some pretty straightforward controls. Diving and jumping for a ball is handled via RT/RB. Once a fielder has the ball they throw to one of the four bases represented by the A,B,X,Y buttons, which perfectly match to the diamond shaped layout of a Baseball field, so it’s perfectly intuitive! Pressing and holding to get the right amount of power will result in a perfect throw to the base. That’s just how simple it is, but it’s very satisfying when you get it right.
Your Pitchers (Bowlers for us Brits) have a number of different pitch types set by the RS. As these different types have a start and end position (right to left, etc) these are managed by setting the start position in an on-screen box and then moving the cursor to the designated end point when the pitch is in progress. The more skilled your pitcher is the more accurate your cursor control is. Batting follows that same principle as you have to line up a cursor to make sure your swing is on target, along with timing that swing to get the best hit on the ball. The most complicated thing I found was the control of your team on the bases, as by default they only run to the next base, unless you intervene and tell them to keep going. You can select individuals and tell just them to run, and this took a while to get used to.
In my last few reviews I have been quite critical of the lack of tutorials in those games, but this is where Super Mega Baseball really shines. The in-game tutorial on your first few games is brilliant and sets you up for a fun experience, especially in a sport that you don’t understand! At any point you can return to this from the main menu to refresh your knowledge. This was helpful to me in the more advanced controls, such as the intricacies around base stealing.
There is also an element of team management within the season and tournament modes. If you are playing well the players get an increased ‘Mojo’ level, and you get an on-screen indication of this during matches. This increases (or decreases) a form statistic. Players can also get tired and injured so you can choose to rest them for a match. Your pitchers can also get tired, and as they have different pitch types you can substitute them during matches to try a different approach against your opponent. There are lots of other stats to your players and teams that I don’t personally understand, but will mean a lot more to fans of the sport. I did learn that the familiar acronym ‘RBI’ means ‘Runs Batted In’ and is a vital statistic in Baseball, so every day is a school day!
I do have some niggles, but these are quite minor. It does take some time to get used to timing your swing when batting, and when a ball is pitched to the opposite side of your batter it seems impossible to hit it. The animation on throwing to a base feels quite slow and on a few occasions I have failed to get the required ‘Out’ because of this. But, one of the most impressive things about the game is the physics, as the ball seems to move where you would expect it to. Mistakes are also made, with occasional dropped catches from the AI controlled fielders, but it rarely feels unfair.
A a complete novice to the sport, and games based on the sport, I am having a blast with Super Mega Baseball 2. It is easy to pick up and learn, and as long as you treat it as an arcade representation of the sport, and not take it too seriously then hopefully you will enjoy it as much I have!
Many Thanks to Xbox and Metalhead Software for supporting Tix!