Torrens steps up to the plate, the sweat of pressure splashing off of her forehead. It’s the ninth inning and the bases are loaded with her team mates, who are all ready to score a run each. If Gina is struck out then the team loses, but if she hits a home run the Beewolves will secure a much needed win this season. The pitcher throws and Gina swings with as much power as possible. It is a solid hit but the ball is heading straight for a fielder. The Beewolves record now extends to 15 losses for the season.
Metalhead Software’s Super Mega Baseball looks like an innocent and friendly baseball game, with its comedic voices and the players’ exaggerated body and head shapes. The game’s façade draws your attention with bright colours that fill the majority of the screen, but all of this covers the fact that Super Mega Baseball is a sports game with quite a bit of depth to it that requires players to pay attention.
Super Mega Baseball has two game modes, these being Exhibition or Season, with the first allowing you to play some local multiplayer where players can team up against the AI. The latter asks you to choose a team and select the season length you want, with this ranging from the shorter fixtures with few games per season up to the long full nine innings matches with lots of games. I decided upon the long season and chose the Beewolves team, who are placed as a balanced team.
There are a total of 12 teams to choose from, with each of them having their own unique starting stats. So while the Beewolves are all rounders the Crocodons are pitching experts, and the Sirloins are great at hitting hard. But these stats rely on the individuals that make up the team, and this is where the true depth of Super Mega Baseball really emerges. You can edit how all team members look, changing their gender, skin colour, and facial features. Each player needs to trained up over the season consistently to turn your team from one that suffers 15 losses to one that can get on a major winning streak that can hit a number of home runs.
To improve the team members you need staff, who are acquired as you go up in level as a player. The player level increase is relative to how well you do each game, with each positive action being rewarded points. The points value is determined by not just the action but also the Ego you’re playing at. Ego is the Super Mega Baseball’s difficulty modifier, ranging from 0 all the way to 99. The higher the ego setting the more difficult the opposition, but with much more valuable rewards.
As you go up levels you get the option to hire staff to focus on different aspects of the game, from fielding, batting, pitching, and even working on player Mojo, aka confidence. When hiring the game shows which players will benefit and how their stats will be affected. Sometimes you have to make some calls, like deciding whether increasing a player’s pitching is worth taking away some of their mojo. It is a really simple system to use and as you play you notice the improvements in the individuals.
Let’s take Gina Torrens from the above story. When I first started the Beewolves season she was an okay hitter, but almost never made it to the first base. After hiring some staff to improve her speed and hitting Torrens is almost guaranteed to get to at least first, and hits a home run on the rare occasion. Every player goes through their own evolution and you see know exactly how to modify you line up to get the best results.
You may have the best team in the game but every pitch and swing is down to your own reaction times. Both actions have similar inputs where a push of X will allow for a general throw or swing, while pushing square brings power into proceedings. Power determines how fast you’ll throw or how hard you’ll hit, with the on-screen indicator running quickly between 0 to 99. Your press and release timing of square determines just how much strength the team member will put into the action.
When pitching you can alternate between different styles including screwballs and curve balls. Again it is a simple system to pick up as you learn to throw pitches that fool the opposing batsmen, with the trick being to alternate the position and type of throw. Batting took a little bit more time to get used to because this time the AI is trying to fool you. On each pitch thrown at you there are a couple of seconds to decide whether the it is a Ball, meaning the pitcher threw incorrectly, or whether you have to hit. You have to aim to where you want to hit but if the timing is off then you’ll either hit a foul ball or something that is a guaranteed catch.
What is missing from Super Mega Baseball is an online mode, which is quite a shame. Some competitive online exhibitions or even mini leagues would have been fun to play, but Metalhead may not have had the resources to spare for it. There are leaderboards though to see how you stack up against the rest of the players around the world. If the series continues then I hope to see online play in future iterations.
Super Mega Baseball is one of the best baseball games out at the moment. Sure it may not be a licensed game like The Show, but the gameplay is as good as the official MLB game. There’s a surprising amount of depth within this game, allowing players to build a team how they wish be it focusing on being strong in bat, or having a strong fielding selection. The game’s Ego system makes it approachable for all players, and the visual style itself is really appealing. The lack of online is a mark against an otherwise fantastic baseball game.
Version tested: PS4