MLB 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars

Most of us didn’t realize that publisher 2K Sports actually put out an MLB 2K7 baseball game last season on the DS – and by the looks of it, 2K would like those who did know to forget that ever happened. This spring, they’ve scrapped any attempts at a hardball sim in favor of a kid-friendly, stylus-driven baseball game, rebranding the franchise as MLB 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars. We got our mitts on a preview copy and took a few swings to see what’s in store when it hits retail shelves this April.

It doesn’t take more than the one pitch to notice that any semblance of seriousness is tossed out the window. Ballplayers are wildly cartoony versions of their real-life selves, doing somersaults up to the plate and bounding around the outfield like the overgrown kids we wished they all were. You also won’t find any legit stadiums here either, as we staged a matchup between the NL and AL All-Stars in Alcatraz, sans fans but bordered with barbed wire-topped prison walls. Other venues available included a moon base, a farm, and an old railway station, each with their own unique dimensions and accoutrements. Clearly there’s a different vibe this season.

Pitching and hitting are based solely on the stylus, as you can make your hurler go through all kinds of wild gyrations before he tosses the ball. Simply twirl the stylus to and fro on the touch pad and you can make your throws spin, duck, and dive like a spitball dripped in Vaseline. Hitting also relies on your touch-screen savvy, as you need to match your timing and placement of the swing with the arrival of the ball. This ain’t your father’s video baseball game, that’s for sure.

Power-ups pepper the experience, featuring scads of unique options to alter the action on the diamond. Tossing a splitter will actually cause the pitch to burst in two on its way to the plate; as a hitter, you can counter this by temporarily turning that same batted ball into a chicken that’s, um, extremely hard to catch up with. There are plenty of others to choose from, including lighting a fielder temporarily on fire or encasing a batter in ice, adding a strategic (and sometimes extremely painful) flavor to the mix.

If some of this sounds pretty similar to the old Mario Baseball games, we’d have to agree – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, combining real major leaguer ballplayers with fun, kid-friendly gameplay is a surer bet for the DS than doing another sim this season. 2K Sports is aiming at the right target this time around. We’ll soon see whether or not MLB 2K8 Fantasy All-Stars hits the mark.

Mar 26, 2008