Baseball games geared for kids account for a growing trend in gaming. 2K Sports has the excellent “MLB Power Pros” out now (for the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2) and will release “MLB Superstars” this fall.
Next up to the plate: “Mario Super Sluggers,” which uses the Wii remote to swing the bat and to throw pitches. The game features more than 40 familiar Nintendo characters and in some modes, you can play with your customized Mii characters.
There's a story mode, called Baseball Kingdom, where you have to defeat different characters with different skills in a variety of challenges; beat them, and they'll join your team. For example, if you hit Mario's fireball often enough, well, you'll “beat” him and add him – and the wicked pitch – to your arsenal. Multiplayer modes can handle up to four players.
I preferred “Power Pros'” kid-like take on real baseball, with its real players and realistic gameplay. But I was curious to see how my kids would take to this game. Turns out they prefer “Power Pros,” too.
“Super Sluggers” didn't keep even my 4-year-old's attention for very long. He wanted “Power Pros” back in the Wii immediately, and he played until his daily time limit was up. (I give them 30 minutes per day of TV or gaming. Since they were helping Daddy with work, I gave them an extra half-hour on Thursday night.)
My main complaint about “Super Sluggers” is the top-down view. It's not the best, and it is utilized too frequently.
Otherwise, there's nothing wrong with “Super Sluggers,” per se. The game plays well, and some of the characters' abilities can add some interesting elements. Luigi, for instance, can make a small tornado come up in the infield that renders hitting nearly impossible.
But if I were buying a game in this genre, it would “Power Pros” by a mile.
News and notes
I'm thinking that THQ's “ ‘Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?': Make the Grade” will be a hit when the game reaches stores this fall. It's based on the cult-hit Fox game show that returns to TV on Friday night. In the game version, there will be 6,000 questions in 23 subjects, including music, geography, vocabulary and health. You can play in head-to-head mode or see who can answer the fastest in “flashcards” mode. There's a spelling bee challenge, and a “homeroom” mode that closely mirrors the TV show. I think this will be a family treat.
The new “Guitar Hero World Tour,” due this fall, will feature several of the most influential instrument and equipment brands in the music industry. As you play the game, you'll be able to earn sponsorships and gear from AMPEG, Audio-Techica and many others. The new “Guitar Hero” also will allow gamers to take their virtual bands to digitally re-created stages at Amoeba Music and Live Nation's House of Blues Sunset Strip.
2K Sports' “NHL 2K9” will be available Sept. 9 and offers new superstar moves, Zamboni competitions (huh?) and six-on-six online play. A new Wii version also will debut, allowing gamers to use the Wii-mote as a hockey stick. Get a free demo now on Xbox Live and the PlayStation network.
Wrestling fans, “TNA Impact!” finally hits stores next week for PS3, PS2, Wii and 360. The game will feature the six-sided ring and star wrestlers like Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe and Booker T.
Warner Bros.' “Guinness Book of World Records: The Videogame,” due in October for Nintendo Wii and DS, will allow gamers to try to break 35 different Guinness records.
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; firstname.lastname@example.org.