Reviewed: August 11, 2009
Released: July 7, 2009
The Wii’s unique motion control has definitely sparked a revolution in video gaming. More and more we are seeing a new field of games that are utilizing gesture-based input to do everything from smashing blocks, sword-fighting evil ninjas, and even frying bacon and flipping pancakes. But where the controller has made its biggest impression is in the world of sports, where gamers are quickly coming to expect reality-based immersion in their sports gaming. The newest in the lineage of gesture-based sporting games comes to us in the form of The Bigs 2.
The Bigs is the spiritual successor to the arcade style baseball franchise, MLB Slugfest. While not as over-the-top as Midway’s screwball-infused title, 2K Sports’ Bigs goes for a slightly more realistic approach to its turbo-fueled hardball – favoring authentic pitching and high-energy action over the cartoon physics and bathroom humor of Slugfest. That’s not so say that there was anything wrong with Slugfest – in fact, Midway’s franchise still rates at the top of my favorites list. But by bridging the arcade antics of Slugfest with the meticulous simulation of 2K Sports’ own MLB 2K franchise, The Bigs hits a happy medium that will leave most hardball enthusiasts smiling.
Motion-based control makes its way into nearly every facet of Bigs – pitching, batting, throwing, and special fielding moves are all controlled by flicking the Wii remote in combination with one of the remote (or nunchuk) buttons. And let me tell you, after playing countless hours of Wii Sports baseball, MLB Power Pro Baseball, and the various other MLB and Little League games I have reviewed for GCM – The Bigs implementation of motion control is some of the best on the market.
The batting mechanism is pretty straightforward – aim the nunchuk analog stick in he strike zone and swing the Wii remote in time with the pitch. Thankfully, the game seems to adjust the height of the swing to meet the pitch (for the most part), so precision aiming is not a necessity and the hitting falls more upon timing. This results in a lot of bat contact, which is something no red-blooded hardball fan should frown upon.
Pitching is performed with a three-step process that has the gamer selecting the pitch location with the nunchuk analog stick, selecting the desired pitch using the Wii remote’s directional pad, and then throwing the ball with a fluid up and down flick of the Wii remote, setting power and accuracy. The overall sensation is actually quite rewarding, as precision gesturing results in increasingly precise pitching. To keep gamers from leaning too heavily on golden pitches, the game does a good job of mixing up gameplay by dropping the availability of overused pitch types and fatiguing pitchers that throw too many high power balls.
Ball handling on the field is handled very similar to the pitching, except that instead of the D-Pad controlling the pitch selection it now selects the target base for throwing – down for home, right for first, up for second, and left for third. Making a play on base is as simple as choosing a base and flicking the remote. If a quick throw is needed, a simple press of the B button adds a bit of heat.
While the ball throwing is implemented well, the game stumbles a bit in the outfield player control. Outfielders are nearly crippled in that it is often difficult to line up under pop flies, any accidental waggle of the Wii remote results in unwanted player diving, and the overly silly follow-the-cursor mini games for wall and line drive catches make the simplest of catches difficult for the gamer, but not for the AI opponents. Hmmphh.
But no matter how difficult The Bigs’ fielding is, it is only a fraction of the difficulty that lies in the base running. Not that this should come as a surprise – I have yet to find a baseball game that has been able to tackle the monumental task of implementing an intuitive base running mechanic in their game. Considering how confusing the logic behind base running is – what with forced base running, run-backs for pop flies, overthrowing, bunting, leading off, stealing, sliding, and run-downs – I am not sure there is a computer that could formulate the thoughts that go through a third base coach’s mind for all of the different scenarios. The result is always a mess with regard to base running control, and its almost unfair of me to get overly critical on The Bigs other than to say that the base running is no worse than in any other hardball game.
The Bigs does a pretty good job with the visuals. Again bridging the cartoony aesthetic of Slugfest with the realistic modeling of MLB 2K, The Bigs has a very action oriented look without ever coming across as goofy. The player animations are solid all around, with some really great flourishes here and there, like when they climb a wall to pick off a run, or when they zing out a double play around second. The stadiums look fantastic, even if the crowds are cookie-cutter filler models.
The audio department is fairly impressive as well – featuring all the requisite sights and sounds of the ballpark, and play-by-play commentary that is a little less corny than the likes of Slugfest.
The game features a nice stable of modes for quick play, season, a story-based Become A Legend Mode, and even has its share of mini-games including a derby-influenced Home Run Pinball. Granted, none of this stuff is all that original – but the fact that it is implemented so well with the Wii controls makes it definitely worth the price of admission.
I have been a fan of the Slugfest titles from the very beginning, but always wished the games were a bit less ridiculous. The Bigs 2 is that game I was looking for – one that amps up the action without going overboard. This might not be the MLB game for hardball purists, but I will bet that most everyday Wii gamers will find a ton of enjoyment swatting flies in The Bigs 2.