A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Not only are the implicit message of the game positive ones, like "get exercise," "play outside," and "be a good sport," but those types of messages are literally written across the screen during load times.
Positive Role Models
Some of the characters can be a bit braggy when they win, but on the whole these kids are all good sports who appreciate good physical exercise and play baseball not just to win, but because it is fun. It's also nice that the cast of the game is so diverse -- in terms of gender, ethnicity, and even body type.
Ease of Play
The controls are very simple, but the difficulty level could have been taken down a notch on Easy level. An Easy difficulty level should be for kids who need a major handicap, but the Easy mode here, doesn't seem all too different from the Normal mode.
Violence & Scariness
The game features power-ups that include flaming bats and balls, but they don't hurt anybody they come in contact with. A freeze-ball power-up momentarily locks a fielder in a block of ice. In the Hot Potato mini-game, the timer ticks down until the ball "explodes," but despite the use of that word, the only thing the ball does is pop high into the air with a poofing sound.
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Products & Purchases
An advertisement flyer for a new sports drink is included in the packaging.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Backyard Sports: Sandlot Sluggers is more than just a cute, family-friendly baseball game -- it's a celebration of playing outdoors. And it's so well designed that it actually stands a chance of meeting its goal and inspiring your kids to head outdoors and get some exercise. The DS version is the least complicated, and the Wii and X360 versions both offer 4-player mini-games and a special "Family Co-op" mode where a younger player can help or get help from another player.
Is It Any Good?
There was nothing wrong with the Backyard Sports series; all of its previous games were pretty great. Yet somehow, Sandlot Sluggers feels like a major improvement. Aside from the obvious benefits of having prettier graphics and smoother play control, you've also now got a bunch of fun multiplayer mini-games, a pair of commentators who provide coaching tips and useful information in addition to their color commentary, super-charged power-ups that take the game far from the realm of reality (but which come in very handy) and the awesome story mode. What you lose in this Backyard Sports entry is the childlike versions of real MLB players, but you won't miss them at all (and they never really looked like the professional players, anyway). This game has two goals which seem to be at odds with one another -- to be a fun video game, and to get kids to drop their controllers and go outside to play. Somehow, it all seems to work.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.