At first glance, Major League Eating: The Game looks as low-rent as the real-life sport that spawned it. Two contestants go gut-to-gut, cramming food in their mouths until the timer runs out. Farts and burp-offs offer a chance to get ahead, and a "reversal of fortune" means an automatic, nauseating default.
It looks like a joke—until you try it. Starring the greatest real-life, er, athletes in the league, the game combines a handful of techniques into a challenge that takes skill and strategy. Grabbing the food with the Wii-mote is the easy part: Fast eating requires you to find a groove between cramming it in your mouth, quickly and accurately chomping every bite, and swishing your stomach to keep it all down. Add the random attacks and power-ups, and you'll struggle to match your opponents. Each new athlete and dish has different properties to vary the challenge, and if you make it to the top and actually trounce the sport's star, Takeru Kobayashi, you won't care about the cheap graphics or crass gags: The victory tastes too sweet.
Beyond the game: This summer has seen a run of butt jokes in surprisingly good indie games. Be sure to check out Jimmy's Lost His Toilet Paper, from the award-winning maker of Crayon Physics Deluxe, or dig the sphinctastic sound design of the platformer Puzzle Farter.
Worth playing for: The computer opponents, while tough, grow repetitious after a couple of hours, but playing with a friend online or off can extend the game's life.
Frustration sets in when: The breakout mini-games—a "burp-off" and an explosive game of hot potato—may give you a leg up in the match, but they intrude on the core game. Likewise, a magic buff that lets you instantly catch up to your opponent feels like cheating when you jump from a distant second to a sudden tie.
Final judgment: A bare-bones but well-balanced tribute to America's greatest, grossest underdog of a sport.