Super Mega Baseball marks the first release from Canadian developer Metalhead Software. Currently only available on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 as a cross-buy release, the $19.99 baseball title offers a marvellous distraction from the rigmarole of everyday life. As an arcade game, it's not going to put you in the Yankees roster and allow you to live out a power fantasy – but it's arguably just as enjoyable.
Indeed, this isn't a traditional MLB baseball game with all of the pro teams and all-stars that fans love, but rather a goofier experience. With made-up squads characterised more by how they play than how big their payrolls are, as well as fictional players with some, er, less than traditional names, the game dishes out fun by the bucketload. In fact, it harkens back to older sports titles; this is all about fast, fun sessions.
That's not to say that it completely overlooks the technical aspects of the sport, however – and it arguably has a more intuitive control scheme than its counterparts. You can swing your bat with buttons, but it feels best when you use the right-analogue stick to draw back and bat. A lot of the fielding is handled automatically, so that streamlines the entire process – but you are responsible for micro-managing jumping and diving.
If it all sounds too easy, don't worry – the game has an impressive roster of difficulty options, allowing you to customise almost every facet of the experience, from player agency on-field to how complicated the pitching process is. Even more interestingly, the game has a robust balancing system, which tunes the package's complexity to the competency of the player. In short: this allows the title to cater to all different abilities.
Modes are similarly streamlined, but not in a bad way. Outside of the bog-standard Exhibition Mode (one-off matches) and Season Play, there's not a whole to sink your teeth into. However, each selection has a surprising level of depth, with the latter in particular offering plenty of stat tracking data, among other more basic inclusions like rosters and depth charts. It's all considerately implemented, and well designed.
Not quite as successful is the art direction. The stadiums – of which there are plenty – have some stunning backdrops, but the players are less memorable. These adopt a more cartoon appearance, with giant torsos propped up by tiny legs, and gigantic heads bobbling about on top. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this style, but it's a bit too common, and doesn't really enable the title to stand out.
The audio is similarly flat – in fact, this is arguably the weakest aspect of the entire title. The soundtrack consists of lots of guitar, and is tolerable in isolation – but the umpire's voice is grating from the very first second. Doing his best Christian Bale as Batman impression, these unnecessary growls will leave you wanting to smash the voice actor over the head with your own real-life baseball bat.
The only other real issue with the title is that it's just not suited to long play sessions. It's great for quick games here and there, but if you're looking for something that's going to keep you occupied for hours on end, then you'd be better off looking elsewhere. Come at it with a pick-up-and-play mentality, though, and you'll get more than your money's worth over time, as this is best enjoyed in bitesized chunks.
Super Mega Baseball definitely hits a homerun. The title's arcade leanings may not make it especially suitable for long play sessions, and the umpire may be more irritating than Phillie Phanatic, but it really excels in short bursts. With sound mechanics and some great difficulty tuning options, this should appeal to everyone – whether you're a baseball fan or not.