Little League World Series Baseball 2022 Accessibility
Little League World Series Baseball 2022 is a great entry point to baseball gaming for those who may be interested and unfamiliar. However, barriers such as QTEs and with controls can make for an unfortunate experience.
- Customizable game modes
- Very little dialogue*
- Useful icons for team understanding
- Frequent quick-time events
- *No subtitles except for on-screen callouts
- Fastballs require faster reflexes
- Tutorials aren't presented well
Little League World Series Baseball 2022 marks the return of family-friendly baseball gaming with the well-known tournament license that we have not seen since 2010. The title is an easy-to-pick-up-and-play experience and is a stark contrast to the realistic and in-depth nature of MLB The Show 22 released earlier this year. Little League World Series Baseball 2022 provides a decently customizable, arcade-style gameplay loop that is very fun and sticks to many of the fundamentals of baseball, but how is it for accessibility?
First Boot and Settings
When the game is first launched, the bright colors and cartoon art style are immediately apparent. The UI is largely blue and purple, with yellow highlights. The informative white text can be high contrast, but text, where highlights are, can be hard to read with white on green. Once highlighted, that text becomes dark making it more legible. There are also button prompt reminders throughout the menu system. Something that caught my eye immediately is that each gameplay mode in the main menu has the maximum number of players listed. This makes it easier to understand the offerings of each mode of play.
The settings menu includes video, audio, and gameplay sections that require the triggers to cycle through. Video settings include sliders for adjusting the contrast and brightness of the screen. The audio section consists of sliders for master, music, SFX, and announcer volumes — each adjustable in increments of 10%. Game difficulty is also set with a slider that is adjustable in increments of 10%.
Similar to what was implemented in the Super Mega Baseball series, there is a helpful description of the difficulty from Casual to Hard shown along with the percentage. Batter and pitcher options can be set independently and both include horizontal and vertical aim invert toggles as well as horizontal and vertical aim sensitivity sliders.
Controller vibration can be set in increments of 25% or turned off entirely with some feedback being available in the options menu to provide an example. Customizable controls are not available, but the overall scheme is fairly simple with button prompt reminders throughout the game, including gameplay itself.
On the main menu, there is a section entitled The Grove which houses a unique compilation of game features. A challenge system is available that rewards players with stickers for completing a number of different types of tasks across game modes. Stickers can then be used to boost your players in various ways. Conveniently, there is a list that spells out the requirements for each challenge in The Grove. Completing these is not necessary for gameplay progression, but some boosts may provide useful upgrades.
For a game with this type of aesthetic, there is a surprising amount of customization that can have implications for visual accessibility. Editing can be done at both the team and individual player levels. A player’s equipment, stance for batting and pitching, and handedness can be adjusted. This allows users to determine how they move on the screen, or even where they are positioned when batting. These adjustments could make visualizing incoming pitches easier for some people. Jersey colors can be customized using a wide range of vibrant options. Most jersey types have two main colors, so players can see what combination of colors and contrast works best for them.
Another major aspect of The Grove where Little League World Series Baseball 2022 deals with accessibility is the tutorial section. Different mechanics are broken up into topics here, helping with understanding various areas. The way they are presented is relatively accessible, despite a few shortcomings.
Each section has several tabs that go over things encountered during gameplay with the left stick being used to cycle through tabs. The writing is primarily bold and white set against a purple background with still screenshots of gameplay that depict what the text is demonstrating. In some cases, there are parts of the image highlighted and other parts dimmed out to emphasize an area of the screenshot displayed.
For some of the tutorials that showcase mechanics and parts of the UI that involve movement in gameplay, a small looping video would have been useful. Additionally, it would have been very helpful to include a voiceover of the text. In my experience, it was a bit challenging to take what I saw in the slides and be able to translate it to live gameplay.
There are a number of different mechanics implemented in various phases of the game, such as pitching, hitting, and fielding. The majority of mechanics will be familiar to players who have played baseball games before, but as a whole, the reliance on timing may be a barrier to some.
Pitching requires using a timing meter to stop a white marker when it is in the green zone for excellent accuracy. The zones surrounding it are red, orange, and yellow shown as a gradient. When the meter is successfully stopped in the green zone, the resulting pitch will have no negative impact on a pitcher’s stamina.
Much like other baseball titles, prior to selecting what type of pitch is desired, the left stick must be held in the direction you would like to aim, which can be an issue. The controller will vibrate to provide extra feedback when you are aiming outside of the strike zone. If the stick is not held at the time of selecting a pitch type with a face button, the reticle, which consists of a bright white dashed circle, will default to the middle of the strike zone. The natural movement of the pitch can help to vary aiming if holding the stick and pushing the button simultaneously is difficult for the player.
Something very interesting that the developers decided to use is the idea that pitch selection impacts the speed of the meter which determines accuracy. For example, if you throw a fastball, the meter will be much faster than if you throw a curveball. In my experience, the meter begins very quickly after selecting a pitch type, so this is definitely something to keep in mind from both a visual and mobility perspective.
Batting is done with a single button press for a regular swing, but bunting requires using the right trigger. Similar to pitching, there is a reticle that can be moved with the left stick to aim your swing. Personally, I found that it conveniently adjusts to the approximate location of where a pitch is coming in. Even though there are no options to adjust the camera, I found that tracking the incoming ball is easier than it is in more simulation-style games, given the high contrast and art style.
There are no subtitles for dialogue available, but there is extremely little dialogue overall and nothing that really contributes to the gameplay. There is one thing that stands out though as far as text feedback. Umpires call balls and strikes auditorily, but there is also a very large, bright word that comes across the middle of the screen to tell the player what the previous pitch was when both pitching and hitting.
When it comes to Little League World Series Baseball 2022 and accessibility for the controls, for baserunners and fielding there’s a lot in common. This is helpful for the simplification of systems. Controlling an individual baserunner or throwing to a base involves pressing the corresponding face button (i.e. 1st base would be Circle on PlayStation and so on around the diamond). To steal a base, simply press the face button of the base where the runner currently is and this can be canceled by pressing the button a second time before the pitch is thrown. Holding the face button will stop a runner and pressing the button twice will move the given runner back to the previous base. For me, this was a little confusing to keep track of while batting but it is not overly crucial to master these systems to have a successful game.
When on the field, there is a white circle under the feet of the player-controlled fielder, who will automatically be the one closest to where a batted ball is headed. I found that my fielders would automatically go to the position of the ball. This is slightly contradictory to the tutorial, which stated that catches would be automatic, but the user would have to get the fielder into position.
Regardless of whether you are on offense or defense, there is constantly a mini-map showing the real-time position of baserunners. Each base and baseline has a different color to show movement and there is also auditory feedback when a runner reaches a base safely. Additionally, runners will get icons over their head to show if they must advance or tag up and they will do this automatically. These icons are very useful when making decisions in the field.
QTEs and Super Abilities
The largest barrier to accessibility in Little League World Series Baseball 2022 is the fact that QTEs are implemented at critical points of gameplay during all phases of the game. This can mean anything from a close play at a base to attempting to rob a home run as an outfielder. There are four different styles of QTEs that seem to randomly come into play in these situations. They can include rapid, timed, and sequential button presses.
Alongside the QTEs, the other major aspect of the game that gives it an over-the-top arcade feel is Super Abilities. These are power-ups that can be triggered after filling up a meter for your team. The meter fills up naturally during gameplay for things such as hits or plays in the field, among others. Once the meter is full, the UI will display that a Super Ability is ready for use which is initiated with the left bumper.
Each team has a certain ability and you can see which teams have what in the tutorial. Conveniently, it will only show that ability is ready to use during the correct portion of gameplay for the team that you are playing as.
Power-ups include things such as slowing down time and getting increased bat power. The only ability that requires multiple button presses is when you want to assign it to a given base runner, in which case you would need to push the left bumper along with the corresponding face button of the runner.
The game modes offered include both single and multiplayer options. Quick Play is taken extremely literally in this title, meaning that when you select this on the main menu, you are immediately loaded into a game with default settings and randomized teams. Exhibition mode lets you adjust different aspects of the game, including the number of innings from 3-10, turning off or adjusting the frequency of Super Abilities, or even turning off or adjusting the frequency of QTEs, among other settings.
On a whole, players can decide whether or not they want the arcade elements of the game present. You can then select from a number of stadiums and pick the time of day. These selections have a profound impact on how the gameplay looks and certain setups may be easier for players to see than others. You can also select your teams in exhibition games, allowing you to have your preferred colors.
As far as modes with multiple games, there are Tournaments and Championships. Tournament mode is customizable the same as exhibition and allows for up to four players.
Championship mode is single player and the perimeters cannot be adjusted away from the default, so QTEs and power-ups will be used. This mode takes you through the same progression as the Little League World Series, including games at the well-known Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. You can save these playthroughs and continue later.
Little League World Series Baseball 2022 is a great entry point to baseball gaming for those who may be interested and unfamiliar or those who may have struggled with more realistic adaptations. Additionally, it can be welcoming to gamers of all ages.
Little League World Series Baseball 2022 lacks a number of accessibility considerations, and the requirement of QTEs in certain modes is unfortunate. However, it is possible to progress through the game even while struggling with the barriers. Given the scarcity of arcade-style sports games in recent years, this is a refreshing take on America’s pastime.
A review copy of Little League World Series Baseball 2022 was provided by the developer / publisher.