- Released: 2018
- Played on: Xbox One
- Also available on: PC, PS4
- Time to get into: 10 Minutes
- Time to complete: 32 Hours
- Multiplayer: Yes, local and online
Underneath the cartoon graphics, the silly names and the irreverent humour, Super Mega Baseball 2 is a surprisingly realistic, deep and full-featured take on baseball. It makes little or no effort to be anything but fun on the surface and relies on the gameplay to keep you coming back. It’s a bet worth taking: Super Mega Baseball 2 is easy to pick up but hard to master, so every time you smoke one more home-run out of the ground it makes the preceding struggle totally worth it. Any fans of sports games should check it out.
Scratching the itch
The presentation of Super Mega Baseball 2 is decidedly on the indie side. Which is fine, it is an indie game, at a lower price than most sports titles. But this means you get no licensed teams, no team management aspects, no pages and pages of stats etc etc. If you can’t live without these more realistic aspects in a sports game, you should move on now. Those who can look past this though get rewarded by an amusing sense of humour to proceedings, which means that the lack of these typical sports game staples doesn’t not make the game lesser, merely different. Super Mega Baseball 2 is a great laugh as it steadfastly refuses to take itself too seriously at any point. Whether it’s the silly team names (for example the Nemesis, the Crocodons or my personal favourite: the Overdogs!), the exaggerated cartoon-esque player models or the little animations like players sneezing or throwing their bats upon striking out, Super Mega Baseball 2 makes sure you’re having far too much fun to notice the relative lack of features. Not that there is a lack of things to do. Single player has full-length (and customisable) season and elimination modes and the online multiplayer, called the Pennant Race, is excellently built and runs just as well as offline matches.
The gameplay backs up these things solidly. Given the presentation, Super Mega Baseball 2 is surprisingly faithful to it’s sport when it comes to the gameplay. I don’t have a particularly intimate knowledge of baseball, but everything I do know is fully built-in here. Let’s look at batting, pitching and fielding in turn. Batting is much as you would expect: you have various different kinds of swings but its always a matter of timing so the key is reading each different kind of ball out of the pitcher’s hand. Particularly as you raise the difficulty level, if you want to get home-runs then picking when to swing and nailing the timing is vital. The feedback the game gives you with your batter’s movements, as well as some on-screen tips, is great for helping you dial in your timing. The single best part of the game is when you’ve been getting your timing close-but-not-quite-right and have ended up with runners at every base and then Boom! – you nail one straight out of the ground for a Grand Slam. Huge joy. The pitching and fielding parts may, naturally, lack that exhilaration but the game is still great and a pleasure to play. Pitching ultimately comes down to trying to ruin the batter’s timing by mixing up your speeds and angles as much as possible. When you do get hit into the field one of the things I really liked was that you have a separate button out of X, Y, B and A for each of the bases on the diamond. It’s simple but very effective, much like everything in Super Mega Baseball 2. All of this is wrapped into a dynamic called ‘mojo’, which is similar to form or confidence ratings in other titles. Getting hit can cause your pitcher’s mojo to fall whereas smashing home-runs will causes your batters mojo to rise. These changes have an effect on the player’s stats and on their stamina. What’s really interesting is that they each carry their mojo over a period of time. If your starting pitcher gets hit a lot in one game, they will probably not be able to start the next one, or if a batter has a bad run you might need to drop them down the order whilst they pick up their confidence. It’s an interesting system that helps stop each match feeling the same.
There are some parts that miss the mark, for me. Most obvious is the auto-catching in the field. Whether it’s you or the opposition that hits the ball in the air, once you know it is going to be caught, the game almost stops whilst the ball comes down. Some kind of catching meter, or at least a timed button-press, would be straight forward and make a huge difference. Although I was happy to have every catch for my players guaranteed, it is annoying when you have hit it high in the air and have to wait 2 or 3 seconds to inevitably be out. I also didn’t enjoy the difficulty settings. In Super Mega Baseball 2 it’s called ‘ego’, and you set it out of 99. I imagine most of the time small changes, between say 30 and 35, don’t make a significant difference but I did find that it’s clearly not that smooth. Playing with an ego level of 40 or less I would absolutely dominate the opposition, whereas as soon as I moved it up to 45, I would really struggle. It wasn’t necessarily the difference between winning and losing but it was certainly the difference between being out of sight by the end of the 1st inning or having the game still in the balance in the 9th. It’s a shame but not a showstopper – I ended up just playing online primarily instead.
For any baseball fan who doesn’t need all the real life players, stats etc, Super Mega Baseball 2 is a must play. For sports fans in general it is well worth a look as the gameplay is great and keeps you wanting more. With all of this you get a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humour to keep the smile on your face! Good fun.