The co-op gameplay is strictly local and, to be honest, I wouldn't have it any other way. SMB thrives on the couch co-op experience. Laughing about the various players' names and chiding each other when a pitch or swing goes awry are perfect examples of how well the game serves as a vessel for players who simply wish to goof off and enjoy a few beers together. Unfortunately, SMB is still a baseball game, a subset of the sports genre that has never been further from needing a co-op mode. Players who are more serious about their co-op session or require that they be active in all instances of a game may would do well to at least be wary of their purchase.
The game's co-op works such that one player controls the outfield facet of their team, while their partner controls the “duel” facet, i.e. pitching or batting, otherwise known as “baseball”. In essence, this usually means that one player will be less active for half an inning, save for moments when their reflexes are needed for fielding or their decision-making skills are needed for baserunning. Metalhead works valiantly to make sure that no player feels useless, though, and partners switch roles every inning. For what it's worth, none of my play sessions came close to being exercises in boredom, but I can see how games could eventually become tedious, especially if players are embarking on the game's season mode. It's also worth mentioning that it was occasionally jarring for myself and my partners to suddenly be thrown into control of the game, leading to a few instances of confusion about who needed to, for example, stop a baserunner from playing “hug the guy with the ball”.
While the scope of the game is largely beneficial to the developer's ability to hone in on SMB's style, potential buyers should be aware that its price point is indicative of its depth of gameplay options. In fact, the game only sports two modes, Exhibition and Season. In my opinion, those are the only two necessary for a successful arcade sports title, but those seeking a deeper experience may want to look elsewhere. SMB does try to allay these downfalls through full team customization options and a light RPG-esque improvement system for its season mode, so players seeking to eke every last bit of enjoyment out of the game have a good amount of options to do so. I did find that, only a few games into Season mode, I was easily able to outsmart the AI. Luckily, the game allows and encourages players in this predicament to crank up the difficulty mid-season.
Let's face it. Baseball games are still baseball games. Figuring out a way to successfully introduce co-op gameplay into a sport whose bread and butter is the one-on-one pitching duel is a monumental task in and of itself. Although SMB occasionally falters in this area, there are so many things to love about it that I find it tough to not recommend it to anyone aside from those looking for a truly complex baseball experience. The $19.99 price point may be a little high when compared to the gameplay options, but SMB's ability to weave its aesthetic, comedic, and mechanical facets so harmoniously into a fully realized package undeniably sets the standard for arcade-style sports games of this generation.
The Co-Op Experience: Two players alternate infield/outfield roles every inning to take on the AI in both Exhibition and Season modes.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.