Super Mega Baseball 2 Review

Super Mega Baseball 2 is a collection of contradictions. With an exaggerated, cartoon art style it suggests a lighthearted, accessible, arcade-like approach to the sport, but underneath there are the deep and endlessly tweakable stats and options common to more hardcore sims. Mega 2 has decent physics and a streamlined approach to pitching and batting, but has some questionable AI when it comes to fielding. Overall, it's a convincing game of baseball, but at least on the Xbox, the multiplayer implementation is inconsistent enough to make the experience a stand up double instead of a home run.

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With any baseball sim, there are basically three areas of concern: how does it look, how does it play, and how deep does it go into the minutiae of the sport under the hood? Super Mega Baseball 2 lacks official MLB licensing, so the developers have invented dozens of teams and players and wisely, they are not -- as far as I can tell -- simply pun-based caricatures of real teams and stars. Instead, the teams all have sort of odd or silly mascots, and the player designs are exaggerated, almost bobble-headed figures which range from charming to slightly grotesque. Refreshingly, the players are gender inclusive, a fancy way of saying that the teams have both male and female players. All the pre-made players can be modded in just about every way possible, both visually and from the standpoint of game-impacting stats. And, of course, one could spend dozens of hours creating teams and even entire leagues from scratch. From jersey logos to sideburn color to hitting power to batting stance, everything is open to customization. It's hard not to be impressed by the level of detail. It's what you'd expect in one of the big league sports games.

While we're talking aesthetics, the nine or so stadiums are sharp looking and filled with thousands of waving fans and everything is infused with color and visual appeal. Less successful are the game's audio components. The music is utterly generic and while the sounds of the game aren't terrible, the announcer's voice is distant and muffled. Lacking any kind of running color commentary or even using the players' names, the immersion factor takes a couple of steps backwards.

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Given the less than realistic appearance of the players, one would be forgiven for expecting a disappointing play experience, but Super Mega Baseball 2 delivers a pretty authentic-feeling baseball game. While both hitting and pitching are simpler and somewhat less exacting than found in the more realistic licensed counterparts, they still require skill, timing and a savvy reading of offensive and defensive options. Each pitcher and batter has his -- or her -- set of skills and during the course of a game, players' confidence and mood will change depending on their success throughout the game, a cool little wrinkle to the stats. Difficulty (called "Ego") can be adjusted and readjusted over a 100 point scale and even individually modified for opposing players of different ages and skill levels. It's hard not to think that Super Mega Baseball 2 might be the perfect baseball sim for introducing younger gamers to the sport.

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As in most baseball sims, the player can take direct control of individual fielders, which in the case of Super Mega Baseball 2 helps balance the sometimes incompetent AI, prone to ignoring a deep fly ball or showing a surprising lack of grounder-chasing hustle without player intervention. While some of these AI issues would be moot when playing against another human, the game's semi-reliable and convoluted multiplayer options make this more difficult than it should be. Between server disconnections, frame and animation drops, crashing menus and lack of clarity, jumping into even a simple exhibition game can be fun-killing, time-wasting exercise in frustration. Things might be more solid on the PC, but multiplayer definitely needs some patchwork on the XB1.

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Although not everyone will love its visual style, players looking for a decent baseball experience -- especially on the Xbox One -- should definitely give Super Mega Baseball 2 a few innings. It isn't without some issues, but overall it manages to capture the rhythm and fun of the sport in a pretty addictive way. Those looking for stats to tweak and players to manage will feel right at home. Unlike many hardcore sports sims, Super Mega Baseball 2 is welcoming and immediately accessible, hiding its layers of optional complexity out of sight.