Little League World Series Baseball 2009 Hands-On

Slather some pine tar on your Wii remote, it's baseball season.


Of all the things we can do with video games, few are more rewarding than making good on failed childhood dreams. For many of us, that dream was making it to the Little League World Series, but whether you couldn't hit a fastball to save your life or got too distracted by the dandelions in left field, you likely didn't make it to that most prestigious of youth baseball tournaments. Thankfully, there's Little League World Series Baseball 2009 for the Wii, a family-oriented game that combines simple motion controls and a whimsically over-the-top approach to the sport.

In real baseball, fire is generally a cause for concern. Not here.
In real baseball, fire is generally a cause for concern. Not here.

With the official Little League World Series license right there in the title, you'll find an emphasis on guiding a team of little ones through a rigorous tournament against other squads from across the United States and the entire world. You can create your own custom team, a process that can be as simple as picking a name and logo or as deep as designing uniforms and choosing a batting stance for all your players. For an added touch of authenticity, your quest for the title will be played out in a number of real-world stadiums, most notably Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania--the site of the real tournament.

The youth-oriented focus of Little League World Series extends to those playing the game, as well. The game uses a few control schemes, though none of them are nearly as advanced as sim baseball games. There's a scheme where all you do is waggle the Wii Remote, which goes for pitching, hitting, and defense--you'll never press a single button. But the control scheme we used was a little more advanced. It required use of both the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and to provide a few examples, it lets you modify pitches by holding various buttons down, go for a fly or grounder by adjusting the angle of your swing, and choose which base to throw to with the analog stick. All in all, it was a simple, responsive scheme that felt like Wii Sports baseball with an added layer of depth.

One feature that adds some unpredictability to each game is the talent meter, which is a gauge that fills up faster the better you perform. This meter is basically a way for your team's star player to perform a superhuman feat. In our game, we filled the gauge to the max and activated it once our star hitter came to the plate with two men on. He then proceeded to slow down time, do a backflip as the pitch came his way, and smash the ball into the far-off distance for a gargantuan three-run homer. These game-changing moments should help the losing team cut away at big deficits in a hurry, but at the same time there doesn't seem to be anything preventing the winner from using them to extend a lead even further.

LLWS has a very eccentric presentation.
LLWS has a very eccentric presentation.

Outside the scope of individual games, LLWS includes a number of odds and ends in the form of minigames and collectibles. Minigames are a way for you to refine your skills in challenges that test your abilities in various facets of the game. The ones we played were Around the Horn, a Simon Says-type game where you have to match increasingly long series of throws around the diamond, and Dunk Dugout, where you need to make a precise pitch to dunk the game's cuddly mascot into a water tank. As a way of keeping track of your various achievements throughout the game, you can also collect things like trophies, bobbleheads, and player cards.

Little League World Series Baseball 2009 looks like one of those sports games the Wii was designed for: light, simple, and charming. You can expect to see the game released in June.

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