Overpaid, underperforming marquee players, steroid scandals, Scott Boras… Major League Baseball isn't exactly the classic summer pastime that Ken Burns made it out to be. So where do fans go when they long for a simpler time when stadiums were smaller, players didn't wear enough body armor to walk straight from the dugout into a joust, and batters actually hustled to beat out that grounder to short? College, of course. There, kids who have benefited from a lifetime of screaming Little League dads finally have their shot at meeting Scott Boras and becoming an overpaid, underperforming marquee player embroiled in a steroid scandal.
MVP06 NCAA Baseball essentially lays college baseball over the standard baseball model, switching out wooden bats for metal ones and trading recognizable professional players for randomly named college hopefuls. It doesn't claim to be anything that it isn't, but it's still an awful lot of fun.
Everything you've come to expect from an EA Sports baseball title is here: In addition to the standard exhibition and tournament modes, players can try to craft a college dynasty, complete with the excitement of answering email, lecturing players on keeping their grades up, and upgrading equipment. Gamers can create their own players, teams, and even their own ballparks, so if you always wanted to play under a bridge with outfield walls set at 150 feet, your dreams are about to come true.
Beyond the game: To experience the coolest extra, start a game around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. By the fifth inning, the skies will be turning purple, and by the middle of the seventh, the lights are on. It adds absolutely nothing to the game, but it's cool.
Worth playing for: The mini-games are awesome, especially the batting challenge, which lets you get used to EA's "load and fire" batting system (which, we hear, was licensed from Club Jenna).
Frustration sets in when: Your third baseman makes a brilliant stop right on the line in a one-run game, and fires the ball to first to pick off the runner, only to send the ball flying up into the stands because the "precision throwing" controls are so. Fucking. Hard. To. Master.
Final judgment: In any sports simulation, the developers need to master a delicate balance between realism and fun, arcade-style gameplay. NCAA Baseball hits it right down the line by offering different skill levels and various computer-assist settings, for players who have trouble with fielding, or picking up a slider.