In the course of playing Rusty's Real Deal Baseball, I fed an 8-year-old dog a handful of chocolate glazed donuts, signed him up for cooking classes, and got sassed by one of his young pups.

Also, I played a bit of baseball.

At least, I think I did.

At some point a bat certainly connected with a ball, but somewhere in-between taking whacks at a giant stack of colour-coded tires and carving my own bat from scratch I realised that both baseball and Rusty's Real Deal Baseball go a lot deeper than I ever thought possible.

Hitting the ball only makes it angrier

Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is a collection of ten themed mini-games that break baseball down into its individual components - hitting, fielding, carving a bat on a lathe, etc. - all in the name of providing short, fun play sessions that are on par with what you'd expect from Mii Sports.

It's also, as you might have heard, a free-to-play game.

This is true, sure, but only in the strictest sense. Rusty's is a free download, but it's impossible to milk more than five to ten minutes of playing time out of its demo without buying a mini-game.

Each of these is available separately at the cost of $4, which sets Rusty's up for an asking price of $40 - but, happily, it's here that Rusty's plays its strongest hand.

You're encouraged to haggle for the price of each game - and you're actively discouraged from paying the full price.

This might sound confusing but, thankfully, you're tutored in the art of sweet-talking Rusty by one of pups.

Here you learn that donuts and listening to the hangdog shop owner complain about his miserable life are your keys to success.

Just let me buy the game

Play enough mini-games and you'll earn items that Rusty needs to solve his life's problems, along with discount tickets to drive the price of other mini-games down further.

You'll use these both to chip away at the prices of each game and, when all's said and done, Rusty's will cost you about $16 for everything it offers.

But what that number doesn't represent, however, is how amazingly clever Rusty's makes you feel along the way.

Learning when to butter Rusty up and when to let him go on about his failed marriage are vital to getting the best possible price out of the pooch - and there's something satisfying about reaching the lowest price possible for a game even if, deep down inside, you know you're just paying Nintendo its set asking price.

The mini-games themselves offer a tremendous amount of variety and fun.

The first game, 'Bat & Switch', is a basic hitting drill while Quick Catch Fielding trains your glove and reflexes.

Both of these skills are refined in later games, with the coloured tires of 'Drop & Pop' being a great example of how Nintendo can make something as routine as swinging a baseball bat seem fun and exciting.

Happily, Nintendo also decided to showcase what the 3DS is physically capable of with Rusty's, as you'll need to use the gyroscope in 'The Aim Game', then take to the touchscreen and test your umpiring skills in 'Make the Call'.

Each game - except 'Bat Master' - offers 25 basic challenges, 25 advanced challenges, and two endless modes for you to play through - which makes them solid values at their $1.50 - $2 price tags.

You might not be able to spend a solid hour playing any of them straight, but you'll be surprised how quickly Rusty's pups chime in to tell you that you've been playing for half an hour uninterrupted.

Never trust a dog with a combover

Equally surprising is how well Nintendo employs satire to tie the dark comedy of Rusty's life story together with the silly and episodic nature of the standalone mini-games.

From the very minute you fire-up your in-game "Nontendo 4DS", you'll realise Nintendo isn't taking itself too seriously with Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball.

But there's an equal amount of genuinely funny, elbow-in-the-side jokes about the free-to-play model and gaming in general tossed in alongside its self deprecation.

Historically, Nintendo has approached free-to-play games with all the enthusiasm that a games journalist approaches a legitimate office job, but if Rusty's Real Deal Baseball is any indication of how Nintendo plans to handle free-to-play in the future, then 3DS owners can breath a collective sigh of relief.

Rusty's isn't the most traditional free-to-play game out there, however, and you'll need to extend Nintendo a fair amount of trust with each microtransaction as you can't actually try all the games before you buy them.

But if you give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt, the individual pieces of Rusty's quickly come together to create a funny, casual-friendly game with a surprisingly deep amount of content.