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Major League Baseball 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars

Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: 2K Sports

About Brad Hilderbrand

I've been covering the various facets of gaming for the past five years and have been permanently indentured to WorthPlaying since I borrowed $20K from Rainier to pay off the Russian mob. When I'm not furiously writing reviews, I enjoy RPGs, rhythm games and casual titles that no one else on staff is willing to play. I'm also a staunch supporter of the PS3.

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NDS Review - 'Major League Baseball 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars'

by Brad Hilderbrand on July 11, 2008 @ 12:57 a.m. PDT

MLB 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars is an exciting new baseball title that will put fans into the action like never before, offering fans of all ages a wildly fun experience featuring starting lineups from all 30 MLB clubs, a variety of exhibition and tournament modes, All-Star training mini-games, along with fantasy-themed baseball stadiums.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Deep Fried Entertainment
Release Date: April 15, 2008

The Wii takes a lot of flak for having an abundance of games with waggle for the sake of waggle, but gamers often forget that the Nintendo DS often falls into the same trap, with tons of games that feature touch for the sake of touch. Major League Baseball 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars is precisely this type of experience, with a whole mess of touch controls, and not a single one of them working correctly. What could have been a fun game from a proven sports publisher (2K Sports is still tops in most people's books) turns out to be a counterintuitive mess, not worth the circuit board it was stamped on.

The gimmick behind Fantasy All-Stars is that every aspect of the game is controlled by touch. Batting, fielding, pitching and running are all governed by sliding the stylus around the screen, and not a bit of it works, not even a little. From the second you boot up the game and start playing, everything feels wrong, and that's likely because everything is.

Let's start with batting, the most egregious offender of the broken control system. In order to swing your bat, you hold the stylus at the lower left corner of the screen (lower right for lefties), and then swing upward when the ball comes through the strike zone. Sounds pretty cool, right? Well, it isn't because the layout of the swing is cumbersome and broken, as are the controls that govern power and hit direction. First off, you don't swing in a straight line, but rather in an arc, so for a right-handed batter, you would swing from the lower left corner to the top right, all in what is supposed to be one smooth motion. Again, this wouldn't be a major issue if it weren't for the fact that the power of your hit is also determined by how hard you swing, which is measured by stylus speed. Try a quick experiment, and attempt to draw a smooth arc on a piece of paper the size a DS screen in less than a half second. If you can do it, then congratulations, you can play this game; if you can't, then you'll turn this one off in frustration quite quickly.

Making the whole issue of batting even worse is that there is no consistency. I once thought I had it down as I ripped off three straight hits. Just as I was beginning to soften on the game, I went right back to worthless pop flies and easy grounders, and my frustration for the game came boiling over once again. I have yet to win a game in Fantasy All-Stars, despite a week's worth of trying, all because I can't score any runs.

The fielding controls are also absolute junk, as you steer fielders with the control pad, but throw to bases using the stylus. As you chase down a ball, you have to use your left hand to navigate your player, and then as soon as you pick up the ball, draw a line to the base to which you wish to throw. But it's not that simple, as you must pretend that all throws originate from the pitcher's mound and then draw the appropriate line. So if you want to throw from center field to second base, you have to draw a line upwards on the touch-screen, which just feels wrong in every respect. A note to the developers: The DS has four face buttons, and they just happen to be conveniently arranged in the same shape as the bases on a baseball diamond. Next time, just let me push the X button to throw to second base, instead of having to draw lines all over the screen.

As with all other areas, you also control baserunning with the stylus, and it's just as useless. According to the manual, you control runners by drawing a line from the base they're on to the next one (so diagonal lines from first to second, second to third, third to home), or if you want to advance all runners, make a line from first to third. In yet another case of broken mechanics, the game never seems to register your commands properly, and oftentimes, if you send a runner from second to third, the trailing runner will follow him, getting caught in an unsolvable rundown and resulting in a needless out. Also, I found that a lot of times when I drew a line from first to third, only the runner on first would move, while everyone else just stood there. I didn't get many chances to actually use baserunners since hits were so rare, but the few times I did have men on, I felt like they were only running when they wanted to, and my input was a mere suggestion.

That brings us to pitching, which should be the high point of the touch controls and actually comes the closest to working. Notice I said "comes closest to working," and not "works," because Fantasy All-Stars still manages to fall on its face here. To throw the ball, you must first drag the icon to a spot on the pitcher's mound and hold it there, then perform the action for whatever pitch you want to throw, and guide the ball over the plate at the bottom of the screen. A couple of pitches, like fastballs and curves, are easy to execute, but these are also the pitches the CPU will have the easiest time hitting. The more complicated pitches require absolutely stupid and confusing inputs (curlicues and figure eights among them), and the title only seems to register the right pitch once every three or four attempts. It eventually came to the point where I abandoned strategy and just starting doodling all over the screen to see what kind of pitch I would get. It didn't seem to matter, since my attempts at using strategy had resulted in a lot of fat curveballs right over the heart of the plate, so I figured I may as well see if I could discover something new or at least cause the game to crash. Sadly, it never did, and I had to keep enduring this punishment.

As if the terrible gameplay weren't enough, Fantasy All-Stars is also saddled with hideous visuals and a soundtrack that doesn't even try. The title is meant to evoke the feel of an arcade baseball game (the game even throws in power-ups … that sometimes work correctly) with a wild and wacky art direction. The stadiums aren't your traditional baseball parks, but rather sites like lunar fields and gold mines. Also, the characters aren't drawn to resemble the players they represent, but everyone is so overly caricatured that you can't tell who's up to bat unless you look at the name as they step into the box. I know the DS can't produce details on the same level as new-gen consoles, but it can surely do better than this garbage. Collision detection and clipping issues also abound, as your players will sometimes run through the wall to make a catch, while other times they get hung up on seemingly nonexistent objects that cause the ball to drop behind you and allow extra bases on what should have been a routine fly ball.

The music and sounds are equally lackluster, featuring a sparse, bad soundtrack that seems to kick in whenever it pleases, punctuated by boring umpire calls of balls, strikes and outs. Of course, with a game so terrible in every other respect, I have no right to expect anything different in this department. Putting in amazing music would further highlight just how bad the rest of the title is, so it's probably for the best that Fantasy All-Stars is best enjoyed on mute.

Major League Baseball 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars is an absolute sham of a game, full of broken mechanics and proof that when you carry a gimmick too far, you end up with something that no one wants to play. I'm amazed that this title ever made it to market because I can't imagine a single person in QA or play testing actually having fun with this one. The only reason it's getting a score this high is because it's still technically a game, and it turns on and off, so I can't give it a zero, and while I'd like to think this is the worst game I'll ever play, I'm not counting on it, so I'm saving a 1.0 for a game where I can't even get past the menu screen. Still, there is no reason you should ever buy, rent, or even play Fantasy All-Stars. It's terrible.

Score: 2.0/10


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