Mascot and crossover sports titles that attempt to simultaneously pander and garner interest from children and sports fans alike aren’t always a winning combination. In fact, Nintendo has cornered that particular market for years with an endless supply of Mario-themed sport titles, and now the Nicktoons characters have invaded the MLB with the release of Nicktoons MLB 3D on the 3DS. It looks like their position is still firmly cemented what with the frustrating mechanics and iffy framerate this particular licensed sports game attempts to pass off as a finalized product.
2K Play has done something admittedly interesting here, combining a full line of options that are typically only seen in full-fledged console releases (Season, Tournament, and Quick Play modes are all present) with a roster of both toons and legitimate Major League Baseball players. And these rosters aren’t just extracted from previous years’ – they’re all up to date, much to the delight of tried-and-true baseball fans in my household. And the Nicktoons chosen to star within are some of the best choices that could have been made: the appearance of Invader Zim alongside stalwart favorites such as Ren and Stimpy was an interesting one, as well as their behaviors in-game. The lines of dialogue recorded for each character are snort-worthy, especially for fans of their respective cartoons, though they do repeat themselves far too often.
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What should have been a walk in the park when it comes to getting things right is blown completely out of proportion: the batting. If you’re a fan even if only in passing of digital sports, heading up to bat is likely one of the aspects you enjoy most. And it’s a fair assumption to say that most children who would be interested in purchasing this game are in it for the batting. When you’re ready to swing and hit, you find yourself hitting air more often than not, due to a bizarre disconnect between the moment the ball connects with the bat and when you actually press the corresponding button. When you can’t perform adequately in the realm of batting, the entire game of baseball becomes little more than an exercise in futility, and completely ruins the Home Run Derby game mode – a lucky few home runs are appreciated when you can get them, but no player should have to rely on luck to perform well in a game about skill.
In addition to the strange issues with batting and timing, Nicktoons MLB 3D strikes out once more in terms of overall presentation and the game’s performance. Even when players are sitting at the menu sizing up characters and choosing a mode of play, stutters shake the game to its foundation, as if the 3DS itself is having trouble processing the minimal graphics presented here. When right in the middle of a baseball game and both your batting and base-running is hindered, it’s easy to see children throwing this game down in frustration – and adults doing the same.
It’s easy to see 2K Games wanted to create something that would appeal to both a younger and more seasoned audience with Nicktoons MLB 3D, but they forgot to keep it simple – work on the mechanics first, then work outwardly to ensure both quality and gimmickry go hand in hand. You simply can’t have both, and that’s why despite being one of the only baseball titles available for Nintendo’s 3D handheld, it’s difficult to recommend.