Nowadays, the criterion distinguishing a great baseball game from a good one is the degree to which the game imitates all of the little plays and broadcast nuances that make baseball such a compelling sport to watch. To that extent, Major League Baseball 2K6 is merely a good baseball game, because while it is a deep and feature-rich baseball simulation, it doesn't deliver the same variety of flashy plays and dynamic cutaways that the truly great sims do. That said, if what you're looking for is a portable baseball game that portrays the nuts and bolts of the sport really well, and you can forgive the stoic atmosphere, then MLB 2K6 for the PlayStation Portable is a solid choice.
From a technical standpoint, the graphics aren't all that bad. Texture quality is hit or miss, such that player faces and stadium signs appear to be out of focus, but player bodies, the field, and the rest of the stadium look crisp. Stadium dimensions, decorations, and player bodies are accurate too, for the most part. Play animations and the transitions between them are sufficiently fluid, which marks a significant improvement over the jerky animations found in the console versions of the game. Spectators in the PSP game look like nondescript flat cutouts, but they do at least stand up and wave.
Unfortunately, while the graphics are decent from a purely technical perspective, the atmosphere they help to convey is lifeless. Aside from the standard dive play and a couple of acrobatic turns, there aren't any flashy plays. You'll also see the same play animations for routine plays happen over and over again. Broadcast-style replays and cutaways are limited to home runs, strikeouts, and a shot that shows players walking off the field between innings. Incredibly, the number of broadcast-style cutaways has been reduced in the PSP game, such that there aren't any batter walk-ups or post-strikeout reaction shots. Nine times out of 10, the game transitions right back to the catcher's viewpoint after the play. During online games, there aren't any replays or cutaways at all. Compared to other baseball video games, the presentation here is absolutely conservative.
It doesn't help that there isn't much audio to speak of. Umpires don't call balls, strikes, or outs. There are just two sound effects in the game, one for when the bat strikes the ball and another for when the ball lands in the glove. Crowd noise is nonexistent, aside from a vague din that rises and falls based on the spectators' excitement level. The only aspect of the audio that had any effort put into it is the running play-by-play commentary, which features the voices of ESPN's Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. Miller's play-calling is descriptive, and Morgan never seems to run out of opinions or stories. They're not always accurate or timely, but they are a joy to listen to.
To some extent, MLB 2K6 makes up for its lethargic portrayal of the sport by providing a full range of play modes and serving up a gameplay experience that's deep and satisfying. The 10 different offline play modes are quick game, season, franchise, GM career, World Baseball Classic, playoffs, home run derby, home run derby career, manager showdown, and situation. Aspiring general managers will enjoy the GM and franchise modes. All of the necessary aspects have been implemented, such as trades, drafts, minor-league rosters, lineups, and pitching rotations. MLB 2K6 also factors player fatigue into day-to-day performance and lets you specify how much time off a player gets as a percentage of his overall playing time. If you have a wireless access point nearby, you can take advantage of the game's online mode, which lets you play exhibition and home run derby matchups against other players. Unfortunately, the PSP game's online mode doesn't include tournament or league play like the console versions do.
The hitting, fielding, and baserunning interfaces aren't as intricate as the control schemes found in other baseball games, but they get the job done anyway. To swing the bat, you simply have to position the sweet spot of the swing with the analog stick and then press the X button to take your hack. If there are base runners on, you can queue up stolen-base attempts before the pitch and send or retreat runners once the ball is in play. Should you want a base runner to leg out a hit, rapidly tapping the indicated button will cause the runner to run faster. On defense, you use the analog nub to move the active fielder and press any of the four main buttons to throw to any of the bases or home plate. Diving catches and wall climbs can be performed by pressing the X button when the fielder is near the ball. From the pause menu, you can access various managerial functions, such as substitutions, pitcher warm-ups, and mound visits.