These Nicktoons couldn't manage to hit a homerun.
Baseball games are released in some capacity nearly every year. By continuing to do what has been done in the past without changing any part of the formula, Nicktoons MLB 3D remains just another one of those baseball games. With a license like Nicktoons, I imagined the game might utilize unique abilities and skills during gameplay. However, the game fell flat and only delivered a simple, somewhat flawed baseball experience.
Nicktoons MLB 3D welcomes you with a vast amount of game modes, though each does essentially the same thing. Quick Play throws you into a game with both a random team and a random field, Single Game allows you to choose the two aforementioned criteria, Showdown pits Nicktoon characters against professional MLB players, Season mode takes you through an entire MLB season, and Tournament mode allows you to play in a basic tournament. Each of these modes has a slightly different composition of set-up involved, but they are essentially no different from one another when you get to the game. It’s nice that the game allows you to choose from so many different situational types, but I wish the modes at least offered some significant variety of gameplay.
The gameplay is the same in any of the game modes you select. Your team may be composed of different people, but their minor stat deviations are negligible. When your team bats you can either bunt, swing, or swing harder. Bunting guarantees a hit, while the other two operations require a bit of timing, a mechanic that consistently felt awkward. I had to press the button to begin the swing much earlier than I would expect. Normally, this wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but since the swings themselves move so slowly, it was harder to get the timing down.
On the bases, you can choose to lead and steal, generally a risky move in regular baseball and something I didn’t find myself doing often. When running the bases, I discovered an easy exploit. When caught between bases while the opposing team had the ball, I could simply dash one way until they threw it and then turn around. If I continued this pattern, I could always make it back to home plate to score a run on a hit that normally would only amount to a single. While the game is targeted at a younger audience, who most likely wouldn’t take advantage of this simple little fault in the game, the existence and ease of use of such an exploit could nevertheless undermine any intended challenge.
The other part of the game involves pitching and fielding. You have a selection of four different kinds of pitches, which you aim anywhere inside the batter’s area. Pitching a strike in any particular batter’s sweet spot earns you turbo points, a mechanic that differentiates that differentiates the game from real baseball. You use turbo to pitch faster, hit balls harder, and run faster. I frequently used turbo to help me get strikes when I needed them to secure those last outs. The capacity to making pitching a baseball a little less mindless made turbo a personally welcome tweak for me.
When fielding the ball, your characters seem to move slowly. If the ball lands in a location where your players are not currently at, the camera automatically zooms in on that spot, making it difficult to discern the position of the ball in relation to a fielder. When you also can’t see the character you currently have selected, it is difficult to make him go where you want. The opposing team frequently hit doubles because I could not effectively find the ball in the outfield.
While the game lacks a bit in the variety of its gameplay, it does feature numerous playable characters, with a roster of 25 different Nicktoons as well 175 actual MLB players. Each Nickelodeon character has some phrase they utter at various times that stays true to their source material. Creating a team composed of old favorites, like Ren & Stimpy, and newer additions to the Nick universe, like characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender, was a goofy, pleasant experience.
Nicktoons MLB 3D also comes with a few mini-games: Distance Derby, where you simply hit homeruns to add up distance; Rock ‘N Roll, in which you aim hits at rolling boulders in order to crush them before they destroy brick walls on the field; and Frosty Freeze Toss, which is actually an AR game. I couldn’t get the printed AR card in the instruction manual to work, but the one packaged with my original 3DS did. The game involves trying to knock over cups. It was a ton of fun moving around the card in order to get the best angle to tumble the tower, and using the AR feature of my 3DS again was very nice.
The 3D effect present during the game is fine, but doesn’t really add much. The game’s 3D character models adequately represent each animated character, and everything visually fits the tone. The baseball diamonds representing a character's world are a nice touch, and are much more detailed than a standard baseball diamond.
The game also has a built-in achievement system, in which you collect cards by completing various tasks. Tasks can be as simple as winning a game of baseball, and as complex as pitching a no-hitter in a nine-inning game. You can unlock a ton of different cards, and it was actually a nice surprise when I would finish a game and find out I had received some.
Nicktoons MLB 3D works as a simple baseball game. If you want a more complex and complete sport experience, there are probably better substitutes. While the target audience for this game probably won’t be affected by its faults, and there are some nice features, the core gameplay quickly becomes repetitive. Nicktoons MLB 3D doesn’t reinvent the baseball formula, but only does what others games have done, with the addition of interesting cartoon characters.