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Mario and the gang are at it again, only this time they’ve taken to the diamond instead of the clay courts. With baseball as your game and Mario as your guide, you just know you’re in for a riot of a time. Does it deliver? The answer is clearly Thwomp-grey.

Well, it’s not Mario Tennis good, but it’s still fun. The controls are obviously very simple, with only fast, normal and slow pitches to pick from and no aiming nessesary at the plate, this is baseball at it’s most basic. You can charge up your pitch or swing using a meter in the corner of the screen. Of course there’s the obvious Power moves like Mario’s Fireball Fastball and Donkey Kong’s Bannana Hit. Each major player has a Power move both while pitching and while hitting. The minor players who are there just to fill out the rosters just have powered-up versions of their normal moves. An excellent decision in the game’s design is that the slow pitch looks just like the fast pitch when the pitcher throws it, as it shares the same elaborate windup. This makes hitting tougher because you’ve got to guess if it’s going to come in fast or be really slow. This is more a part of gameplay when playing human players, but the computer uses it on occasion.

The adventure mode is the weakest part, I think. You have to pick your team captain from a choice of four and then wander this Mario Party-esque game board, talking to characters, buying power ups and playing the other teams, trying to power up your team to take on Bowser. The dialog is really poor during this segment, to the point you’d rather just turn the system off and make the disk a handy do-it-yourself cup coaster (it’d better be a small cup…). The point of this is to unlock new characters and complete stupid tasks with your characters to unlock their “Star” mode where they’re much more skilled. All in all, I don’t think it’s worth all the fuss.

What’s a Mario game without minigames? This one includes a target practice batting mini game, and pitching speed control mini game, and a fun Homerun Derby. Unfortunately, you’re only competing against your own best score. The Toybox arena is a fun twist, where four players take turns batting, pitching, and fielding in an arena adorned with panels that do several things, like award singles, doubles or triples, make the batter out, or start up slot machine reels to randomly award coins. The object is to rack up coins, and you can do that by getting hits, catching the ball, or striking the batter out. You can only get from the field to the plate by picking up or catching the ball before the screen goes back to the batter a short time after it stops rolling. Considering it’s really just you and another player in that huge field, positioning is key and sometimes a good batter can keep the ball lose for a good number of at-bats.

The fields in the game range from the very traditional Mario Stadium to the odd character-themed parks. For example, Peach’s stadium includes floating blocks that you can hit and bushes that slow the ball down, and DK’s features a river, Claptraps, and rolling barrels. Some of these are fun, but they can all have a profound effect on the game, and sometimes you don’t want to lose a game because a whirlwind pushed your homerun try to a fielder instead of a fan. You want to hit that last at-bat homer and win the game.

In all, if you like Mario and you like baseball, you’ll find some fun here. It has the basics of the game down pat and includes the wild and crazy Mario sports improvements we’ve come to love. I’d recommend this game to anyone, flaws and all.

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