Joystiq hands-on: Major League Eating: The Game (WiiWare)

Major League Eating: The Game initially seemed to be a weak concept for a licensed title. Is eating actually a game? How do you turn one tenuous "sport" into a tenuous videogame?

Mastiff has met that challenge by embellishing on competitive eating, spinning the contests into a fantasy world of power-ups, attacks, and other tested game elements. I'm still doubtful that I'll play Major League Eating: The Game after its release, but I think it'll appeal to other people, especially kids. Any title in which your 3D character loses after 3D vomiting has a built-in audience somewhere.
Three basic control schemes shovel food into one of nine real-life eating-champion's mouths. Some foods -- hot dogs, pizza, burritos, and others -- use a drinking gesture to raise the Wii Remote towards your mouth. (I was warned not to actually put it in my mouth. Good advice.) Wings, corn, and other similar foods use a typewriter, back-and-forth motion as if you were eating corn-on-the-cob. And another class of foods, including shrimp, sushi, and jalapenos use a quick wrist-flick to toss them in your mouth.

But once the food is in your mouth, you have to chew. A mouth-meter fills up with bits of food in certain areas, while gamers have to time a moving set of teeth to bite down at the right moment. The B-trigger handles this chomping, with each bit of food requiring a few chews before automatically being swallowed. But if you miss the timing -- as I often did -- the teeth smash together or into your tongue. The character has to stop chewing for a few moments to recover from the injury.

Gamers win by eating more than the AI or human opponent in two minutes. But if the characters throw up, it's all over. As you eat, a stomach meter Barf-O-Meter (seriously) charts how settled your digestive system feels. If it starts gurgling up, some Wiimote shaking settles it back down.

A further level of gameplay adds attack and defense to the mix. Both characters reach for the same plate of food, and a power-up icon occasionally appears over the next morsel. If you grab and eat it, you'll store up an attack that can be launched with a button press.

Most of these are literally offensive, sending a gas attack, burp, fire breath, or other volley at the opponent. One power-up acts as a shield, deflecting these back to the other side. If an attack succeeds, the recipient's Barf-O-Meter rises, potentially tipping them over the edge and into disqualification.

Online WiFi matches and leaderboards make Major League Eating: The Game feel even more complete. I don't think virtual eating contests are for me, but with the gameplay mechanics and creative, gross-out situations, I think it should find an audience. It's a whole new kind of "shovelware." Price and release date weren't available as this post went live.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.