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Game Review

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell; It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell; It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat; For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

The grass is starting to green. The temps are beginning to rise as dandelion seeds long for a handy breeze. Ernest Lawrence Thayer's famous poem, Casey at the Bat, is making its annual trek into the collective subconscious. And video gamers are turning their thoughts from RPG battles and online quests to a favorite team of nine tossing about a well-stitched ball.

Major League Baseball 2K10 is available for most game consoles—from PS3 to DS. We chose the Wii version just to see how those motion-sensing controllers might fit into the bat-swinging rotation. Will game day be sunny or cloudy? Let's check out the basic gameplay before I turn myself into a weatherman.

Hey, Batter, Batter, Wii!
Getting started, players choose from any of five game modes. Season and Franchise are the modes set up for "let's take my team to the top" players. Season lets you choose your favorite team and, well, take it through a season of games. If your Wii wrist isn't up to a full 162-game season, you can shorten things to as few as 10 games. And in this mode you also have control over the inclusion of such variables as injuries, player fatigue and rain delays.

Franchise mode fleshes the general manager side of things out a bit more. You get customizing control of the 40-man roster, drafts and trades, and have a hand in minor league scouting and payroll compensation.

Tournament mode lets you choose two to 16 teams to mix and match in a series of competitions that determine if you or one of your MLB 2K10 playing buddies are the king of the ball-playing heap. Home Run Derby gives you a choice of muscle-flexing big hitters and pits you against the league's finest, all swinging for the fences. And Situation mode is for those players who want to see if they have what it takes to come through in a bottom-of-the-ninth-bases-loaded-with-two-outs kind of clutch.

As far as the pitching side of things is concerned, the motion-sensing Wii remote delivers pretty consistent fun. Players choose a pitch type with the attached nunchuk, pick a strike zone location with the remote and then with a flick of the wrist, let 'er fly when a bull's-eye shrinks to the optimum sweet spot. Some may long for a much more realistic pitch motion, but at least the little wrist flick reduces fears of hurtling the remote into the TV screen.

Taking the action from the mound to the field is a nicely intuitive transition. Choosing a fielder, getting to the ball and picking what plate to throw to is as simple as quickly nudging an analog stick and punching a button. Smooth and easy.

Stri-i-i-ke … One?
Once your ballplayer steps up to the batter's box, however, you encounter an unexpected curve ball. And I don't mean that darting pitch delivered by the AI lurking on the mound. Getting into the rhythm of swinging the Wii remote and making contact with the digital ball can be nothing short of frustrating. Although the game suggests that a harder swing will impact your success, it only seems to impact your chance at a case of Wii-derived tennis elbow. And the game's rather mundane and flat graphics don't help a batter's judgment one bit. Take it from the mighty Casey, a consistent whiff at the plate can steal all the joy out of Mudville.

Not that the crowd ever seems to mind too much. They don't hurl cuss words at the men on the field. Nor do ballplayers end up in a dugout brawl. So I can't be too tough on this peanuts and Cracker Jacks sim. Here's my forecast, then: sunny to partly cloudy with a bit of a wind coming from the north. But no real rain at all.

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