Mario Super Sluggers is a Mario-themed version of the Wii Sports baseball minigame. Alas, unlike that popular game that showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities, Super Sluggers is a promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.

While players gushed about the amazing pitching and hitting in Wii Sports baseball, it was missing two other essential aspects of the sport: fielding and base-running. There's a reason Nintendo probably didn't try to take on those aspects - they're ridiculously difficult to get right. By stripping out those parts, Nintendo saved itself a lot of headaches and freed itself up to focus on the two aspects of baseball that were more conducive to the Wii experience.

But developer Namco Bandai doesn't get a free pass in Sluggers. It had to include fielding and base-running and they really dropped the ball. Sport games developers have struggled with crafting a good defencive interface for years and Sluggers is saddled one of the worst I've ever experienced. Poor design is a root cause but the main culprit is Mario Super Sluggers' control scheme.

Mario Super Sluggers offers you three different control options - you can hold the Wii Remote vertically, which approximates most of Wii Sports Baseball's control scheme complete with semi-automated fielding and running; you can hold the Wii Remote horizontally, which crams far too many actions on to too few buttons; or you can use the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, which throws clunky motion controls into the mix.

The Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo is by far the most palatable, but it doesn't feel right; flicking the remote to throw feels especially unnatural. Why Namco didn't take a page from the Mario Kart playbook and let you use the Classic Controller or the GameCube controller is beyond me.

NEXT PAGE: strike three, you're out!

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Mario Super Sluggers is a Mario-themed version of the Wii Sports baseball minigame. Alas, unlike that popular game that showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities, Super Sluggers is a promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.

Strike three, you're out!

I might have forgiven the game for its terrible controls if the actual game had at least served up an awesome batter-pitcher experience but Mario Super Sluggers fails at this as well. It couldn't even live up to the expectations set by the simplistic Wii Sports Baseball.

You have access to three basic types of pitches and swings - normal, charged, and super. You take a 'normal' hack or pitch by simply flicking the Wii Remote forward; you can charge your throw or swing by quickly flicking the Remote backwards before going forward, and you can super-ize it all by holding A and B while flicking the Remote.

Unfortunately, executing the various throws is almost as confusing as explaining it. Mario Super Sluggers also does a poor job of recognising your input. It'll often fail to notice that you're holding down A and B during a swing, leading to a meek dribbler to third instead of a potential home run.

And how about when you want to surprise your opponent with a quick pitch from the stretch but the game confuses your quick throwing motion for a slow charge? Say what you will about Wii Sports' simplicity, but at least you could count on the right moves being made on your behalf.

NEXT PAGE: Super Mario World (Series)

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

Mario Super Sluggers is a Mario-themed version of the Wii Sports baseball minigame. Alas, unlike that popular game that showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities, Super Sluggers is a promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.

Super Mario World (Series)

The game does get one thing right though: it includes a huge roster of characters to play with, each with their own set of stats. There are 40 different characters to choose from but disappointingly, they're all limited to the Mario universe; those of you expecting to take Samus or Link out onto the field will be let down. You can also include Miis, which is a nice touch.

You field of team of nine and take to the field. You can't pick reserve players though, so you'll have to make substitutions on the field; rather than sit your rubber-armed pitcher after he gets shellacked, you'll have to sub him in at another position.

The roster in Mario Super Sluggers is filled with extremely capable players, which makes choosing your team such a treat. At the very basic level, you've got the four categories that every player is rated on - throwing, running, fielding and hitting. Most of the characters also have at least one super-move, which allows for deceptive pitches, powerful swings, and lightning-fast relays to the infield.

Another factor to consider is team chemistry. Placing compatible characters like Diddy Kong and Donkey Kong next to each other in the lineup and on the field yields some strong returns. At the plate, your friend on-deck can use an item when the batter hits the ball, tossing bombs, bananas, or POW blocks onto the field and creating chaos.

On the field, tightly-knit teammates can pull off some masterful moves, like crazy jump boosts to snag homeruns out of the air.

This leads to some interesting strategic options: when you've got to move a failing pitcher to right field, do you risk losing the valuable teammate bond, or do you shift the entire team around to keep that intact, even if the player's stats don't fit the position quite as well?

NEXT PAGE: extra innings

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Mario Super Sluggers is a Mario-themed version of the Wii Sports baseball minigame. Alas, unlike that popular game that showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities, Super Sluggers is a promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.

Extra innings

Unfortunately, the items and skill-moves sort of break the game; they're almost too powerful at times and are just plain antithetical to the game of baseball. Sure, all Mario sports games have a plethora of crazy items and moves you'd never see on ESPN, but the good ones, like Mario Strikers Charged, allowed for great players to combat them with adept usage of ordinary moves.

In Mario Super Sluggers, some of the moves, especially the super-swings, are almost always guaranteed to produce a hit, and the wall jumps will almost always rob your opponent of a homer. While you can turn off items, the special moves remain a sore spot and make the game almost too over the top.

Thankfully, that's less of an issue in Mario Super Sluggers' extra modes which feature faint glimpses of hope amongst the main Exhibition mode's failures. The Challenge mode, where you unlock the lion's share of the game's characters and stadiums, offers a lot of potential. It plays out much like a point and click adventure/RPG hybrid.

As Mario, you visit the various stadia on Baseball Island, recruiting teammates and switching between other allied captains to put together a team strong enough to take on Bowser and his son. Exploring the many stages is actually quite fun, as you've got to switch between captains to find the right one for whatever obstacle lays ahead, and the many recruits have well-written dialogue that will push you forward in spite of the constant slew of boring "Scout Mission" tutorial-style games that you have to complete.

The end result is that you'll play about 40 variations of "hit the ball there" or "throw this pitch" and play about 8 innings of baseball in order to unlock everything in the game. Some variance in the gameplay would have helped complement the mode's surprisingly enjoyable exploration and narrative.

NEXT PAGE: pick up your toys

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

Mario Super Sluggers is a Mario-themed version of the Wii Sports baseball minigame. Alas, unlike that popular game that showed off the Wii Remote's capabilities, Super Sluggers is a promising prospect that falls just short of making it to the big leagues.

Pick up your toys

And then there's the minigames that offer up a Mario Party-like experience: there are a couple of crazy four-player events that range from hitting a baseball onto a pinball field with your opponents serving as the bumpers, running on a canvas with a paintbrush, and throwing pitches at randomly appearing ghosts. While a few of the minigames have some charm, most are random, chaotic affairs that are overloaded with rules that have little to do with baseball.

The Toy Box mode fares much better: it's a fleshed-out minigame that features quite a few facets from the game of baseball while still including the crazy Mario Sports charm. One player hits a randomly selected pitch and receives points depending on where the ball lands. The other three must pick up the ball within a short period of time, with the person in possession of the ball being the next batter (if nobody has the ball, the hitter bats again).

With the fielders beating each other up, and the batter having the ability to use an item, the action in Toy Box mode is fun and fast, with little in the way of awkward controls or broken balance. It makes you wonder why Namco-Bandai didn't try to spread that gameplay ethic to the rest of the game.

Visit PC Advisor's dedicated Games website to download hundreds of the latest titles, to read gaming news and reviews and to pick up tips and discuss your favourite games in the popular PC Advisor Games forum

Dave Rudden writes for GamePro.com

Mario Super Sluggers: Specs

  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo Wii

OUR VERDICT

Mario Super Sluggers does take good advantage of the Mario licence but it fails with faulty controls and poorly implemented concepts. It's an uneven and often times frustrating title that doesn't come close to matching the zany over-the-top fun of other Mario sports titles such as Strikers Charged or the simplistic fun of Wii Sports Baseball. Mario fanatics will probably find reasons to like it but anyone expecting a bigger and better version of the awesome Wii Sports minigame will no doubt be disappointed.

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