Baseball With A Twist: At its core, Mario Super Sluggers is a baseball video game, an update of the popular Mario Superstar Baseball for the GameCube. You pitch, you hit, and you field. The only difference at times is that instead of Jeter and A-Rod, you do it with Luigi, Mario and Wario. When you get doubled up by a wizard with a robe and scepter in his hand throwing to Koopa Troopa, you know you are having a weird day. Fun, but definitely weird.
Wii-Mote Waving: This is a big reason why you own a Wii, because you're tired of mashing buttons and want to waggle your bat in the batter's box and rear back on your back leg and throw a heater. Everything in the game can be executed fairly easily with the Wii-Mote and nunchuk controls. The longtime problem of baserunning in video games may finally have been solved by the setup here, where you just have to point the analog stick on the nunchuk toward the next base and press "A" to advance a runner. Stealing is done the same way and is refreshingly easy to accomplish.
More Than Just Baseball: There is an RPG/puzzle-solving adventure game mixed in between ballgames that is surprisingly addictive. Adding teammates can be as simple as wandering around a theme park island and talking to them, but to get the better players such as Donkey Kong and Princess Peach, you have to defeat mini-bosses in challenges that can border on difficult and in a variety of stadiums that each present their own unique challenges -- such as Princess Peach's ice rink ballpark.
Cast of Characters: More than 40 playable Nintendo characters can be unlocked, ranging from the iconic (Donkey Kong) to the obscure (Shy Guy). Customize your starting nine according to the skills of each
character: If you want speed on the bases, pencil Yoshi into your lineup. Your ace pitcher is Princess Peach, with Princess Baby Peach and her wicked curveball in relief (don't ask). And if you want to call in the reinforcements, you can import your own Mii into the action as well.
It's A Challenge: This game isn't really for kids ... I mean, it's hard. I recommend going through all the drills before getting into the single-player mode. There's a lot of stuff to remember, from the different pitches to throw to the various swings and the fielding options (buddy jumps and quick-snap throws are especially cool), to say nothing of the "special" controls such as shooting turtle shells at opposing fielders and activating your Star Power. Yeah, like I said, it's weird.
A quick look at a "Babies vs. Kongs" game on Mario Super Sluggers:
Things We'd Change
No Online Play: You heard that right -- even with a wireless hookup to the Wii you can't get an online game going, so if you don't have any friends to come over and play against you might want to consider passing on this title.
Batter Up: Hitting isn't exactly fine-tuned here, which can be especially frustrating when one of the drills calls for an opposite-field hit. That ends up being guesswork more than anything else. And hitting loopy changeups can be incredibly difficult.
Glove Love?: Fielding isn't awful, but it's hard to see where your fielders are until the ball gets close, and by then it's often too late to make a play.
The baseball videogame landscape is full of so many uninspired and longwinded sims that this addition is more than a little refreshing. While it's not the definitive baseball title Wii owners have been waiting for, Mario Super Sluggers has the depth and fun factor to keep you busy for a while.
Mashing Success: The most accomplished professional boxers possess a rare blend of speed, power, and agility. The most accomplished Facebreaker boxers prefer to rely on their ability to distort your facial features beyond dental record recognition. It's relatively simple: mash buttons, mash faces. The goal of EA's sub-brand Freestyle was to make sports games more accessible to a wider audience and Facebreaker, Freestyle's first release, will appeal to everyone with thumbs.
Kombat Ready: This game is not lacking in cartoonish brutality. The last step would be to add a "Finish him" voiceover and the ability to remove spinal chords. (Oh well, there's always the sequel.) The secret lies in the Breaker Meter. Pull off two consecutive jabs or body blows and your Meter will fill one level. Depending on how long your flurry of punches lasts, your Breaker Meter will help you unleash anything from a Haybreaker (a standard uppercut) to a FaceBreaker (a match-ending vulgar display of power). Just be sure to time your attacks accordingly. If you get hit before you release your breaker, you'll be caught on the wrong end of a beat down with your meter on empty.
X's and Blows: Boxing is still called the Sweet Science for a reason, and amidst all of the broken ribs and bloody noses you'll need to employ some strategy to get past the preliminary title belts. Dodging your opponent's punches is almost as vital as landing yours. The best way to turn the momentum of a bout is to parry. Catch your opponent's glove with one hand and smash his exposed chin with your free fist. The knockout blows provide the excitement, but you can't get to the final punch without a plan.
Sofa King: According to the instruction booklet, the "Couch Royale" mode will "ruin all of your friendships." Anywhere from two to six players can enter a tournament and face off for living room supremacy. Once you've created a character to compete in "Couch Royale," you can track vanity stats, like fastest knockout, amongst your group of friends. If you pull off a FaceBreaker against one of your buddies, you get to mount his character's head like a game hunter. And that's about the time the friendship ends.
Take It Online: While "Brawl For It All," the game's primary single player mode, is lacking in replay value, you can keep the game fresh online. Set up a league to run tournaments or pad your stats to so you can take on similarly skilled pugilists in a ranked match.
Check out Kimbo Slice's Facebreaker ad:
Things We'd Change
Uncle!: Nothing feels better than jumping all over your rival with flying fists until they're practically begging for the bell to ring. But when you're on the receiving end of such a beat down, it grows increasingly frustrating. Like, scream-obscenities-at-the-TV-and-throw-your-controller-down-in-disgust frustrating. The fact is, no matter how much you play this game, you'll regularly run into a Breaker Meter-sapping combo from your opponent, and all the button mashing in the world won't get you out of it. Just be prepared to dust off the ol' "This controller needs to be charged" excuse.
Cramping Our Style: If you're lucky enough to make all that mashing count for something, it won't be without its punishment. After about three bouts, you'll find yourself feeling some ill-effects in your hand muscles. Make it past the first two belts in "Brawl For It All" mode, and you'll need someone to tie your shoes for a week. Most new boxing games rely on the toggle sticks these days, and it would've been nice to see a little variety in the control set-up.
Looks Can Kill: We judge our video games the same way we judge our Maxim cover models, and unfortunately, Facebreaker has some blemishes. The gameplay is clearly the focus here, but the looks should keep up with the next-generation systems. Unfortunately, the boxers look like they were plucked from a PlayStation 2 title right before they jumped into the ring.
Face Off: Not sure if you've noticed yet, but a big part of this game revolves around your face, and the various degrees to which it's been broken. EA wanted to take it a step further and let you import your own face into the game, either by downloading pictures or by using the USB camera. A nice idea, but the face builder's mechanics come up short. The system asks you to click on various areas on your face to identify them, and when the final results appear, your mother would have a hard time identifying your mug, let alone loving it.
This hyper-violent rock 'em sock 'em title will rope you in immediately with simple controls and embellished fisticuffs. The game's biggest strike is depth, so if you want to combat boredom, invite friends over for mini-tournaments or go online for challenges. Outlandish and cartoony, Facebreaker is everything it wants to be.