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Little League World Series Baseball 2008 (Wii) artwork

Little League World Series Baseball 2008 (Wii) review

"Not every game that promises optimization for Wii has been able to deliver anything noteworthy, but Little League World Series 2008 happens to be one of those rare success stories. It's not likely to win over hardcore baseball fanatics, but for those who simply want some fun gaming sessions with friends, family members or a mixture of the two, Activision's latest definitely warrants a rental or even a purchase."

Little League World Series 2008 was designed specifically for Wii, from the ground up. Activision is proud of that fact, enough so that there's a little notice to that effect on the front--and back--of the packaging. What does that mean for you, though? Nintendo gamers have been promised similar things in the past, after all, and the end results were generally less than admirable. How does the latest such title fare? Pretty well, actually.

First, of course, you need to accept that the game isn't made for people in love with the MLBPA license. That belongs to 2K Sports for awhile yet, so Activision went with what was left: the Little League! It's actually not a bad approach. Wii is, after all, a system that a lot of family members are likely to play together. With only marginal effort, I can imagine a father and his two boys sitting down to play a round of this together while Mom hangs back in the kitchen and bakes cookies. Or something. Maybe she'll even join the men of the household and school them with some sweet pitches. We are in the 21st century, after all. Picture your own family having fun in front of the television set, run with that image and you probably have a pretty good idea how things will go.

The reason I feel confident in saying such things is that Little League World Series 2008 really does live up to its potential. “Designed and Developed First for Wii” means that somewhere during the development cycle, people said “Hey, let's make sure that this actually controls properly and doesn't feel like it was intended for PlayStation 2 release.” Translation? The wiggle and the waggle actually complement the gameplay instead of feeling like a gimmick!

If you're on defense, you'll be able to swipe forward to initiate a pitch, then do so again in time with the on-screen animation to make sure that the throw goes where it should and with appropriate haste. Pressing and holding either the 'A' or 'B' button allows you to craft a fastball or a curve, while a flick of the wrist mid-swing will affect things even more favorably. Thus you can switch things up pretty easily and without telegraphing your moves to any human opponents who might lurking on the couch to your side.

When it comes time to hit, you also have good control. You can hold the bat out to bunt, but what's the fun in that? The real joy comes from managing swings, which register your general curve so that you can hit toward the sky, produce a slider along the ground or just a straight shot just above shoulder level so that the fielders are less likely to sweep in for an easy catch. The speed of your swipe also affects the control you have over the ball when it connects with your bat. Less precise power strokes mean a home run is more likely, but also spell disaster if the ball falls just short of the back fence and delights a fielder with an easy victory. Try not to let that happen.

If you're part of a group of friends or family members and all going at this at once, you'll probably want to give yourself some space. This isn't to say that near-karate is required to execute each move, but you definitely do want some room and you probably shouldn't play if your arm is recovering from a sprain. I tend to get a little sore if I let my gaming sessions go on for too long. I can envision little kids giving each other fat lips if they get too into the game and don't watch where they're swinging the Wii Remote. A little caution eliminates this problem, of course, but I thought it best to give you fair warning.

Not every action in the game actually requires grandiose swings or otherwise puts your furniture in danger. Fielding acrobatics and quicker sprints between bases both can be engineered by shaking the Wii Remote swiftly from side to side, while relaying the ball in toward the bases necessitates no more than a simple swing (like an overhand throw) while holding the direction on the d-pad that corresponds to the base where you'd like to heave the ball. It's for the most part pretty natural, once you get used to the idea that play requires more than just tapping at the d-pad now and then. The increased activity is likely to serve two useful functions: 1) it will keep younger gamers more engaged; 2) it'll keep them exercised.

Other stand-out elements of Little League World Series 2008 are the concepts of 'talents' and 'star players.' Each team has the latter, an all-around great player who is more likely to perform in a spectacular fashion than his or her teammates. This is especially true when 'talents' come into play. Basically, what that means is that as you work your way through a game and manage to strike out batters or to swing for the fences when your turn comes at the plate, you gain points. These go toward levels on a meter and you can press buttons together when you want to take advantage of your experience. As a pitcher, you might throw incredible curve balls. As a fielder you might dash up the distant wall and swoop out to catch a ball that otherwise would've been a home run. And of course, as a batter you're likely to send the glorious white orb into the stratosphere.

Talents can take some getting used to at first, but you'll quickly become adept at utilizing them and you'll develop strategies to get the most out of them. They're quite malleable to your style of play. Don't worry that all of this will be overwhelming, either; the game includes a built-in tutorial that's far more effective than the simple manual. The former walks you through every phase of the main game and patiently guides you through the process of pitching, fielding, batting and using your special abilities. You can later access it whenever you like and skip directly to relevant lessons, too, so it's handy but not intrusive.

As far as game modes and such go, the selection is sufficient. You can play against the computer or a friend, or you can jump into a short season and work your way through the championships. There are several options along those lines, plus a 'skill challenge' mode that lets you participate in neat diversions like a home run derby or a contest to see who can place the ball most closely to key targets. These are a nice challenge after you've tired of the main game and will keep you amused for an extra few hours, as will the 'club house' feature (which works a lot like in-game Achievements to give you special goals to aim for in subsequent play sessions).

Not every game that promises optimization for Wii has been able to deliver anything noteworthy, but Little League World Series 2008 happens to be one of those rare success stories. It's not likely to win over hardcore baseball fanatics, but for those who simply want some fun gaming sessions with friends, family members or a mixture of the two, Activision's latest definitely warrants a rental or even a purchase. We're a long way from arriving at any casual gaming nirvana, but games like this are a nice step in that direction.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (August 16, 2008)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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