Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
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Too often, gamers think that only massively complicated story-based games can be considered "great." Baseball Slugger: Home Run Race 3d is a welcome reminder that a simple but well executed game mechanic can make a game "great," even if on the surface it's just a basic arcade game.
As its name would suggest, Baseball Slugger is a home run derby, and it contains three main game modes: classic, arcade, and online matchup. Classic is for those baseball purists; only home runs count, and any other hits, strikes, or foul balls are outs. The goal is to hit as many home run as possible before getting ten outs. There is one difference between classic mode and such traditional affairs as the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby: the pitcher doesn't just lob melons waiting to be jacked, they actually pitch things such curve balls, change ups, and sliders. Without this the game would be way too easy and this adds a nice challenge. Arcade mode is much more unique. In arcade mode, only strikes and foul balls count as outs. For regular hits, you get a score based on the distance of the hit. For home runs, you get a score based on distance plus a bonus home run score that increases as you rack up more consecutive home runs. There are also score bonuses for hitting a scoreboard or a pole. In addition, poles divide the stands into three zones. Hitting home runs in each of the zones gives you a nice bonus, and you enter into "called shot" mode. You will be told which zone to hit a home run to, and if you manage to aim right, you'll get a hefty bonus. This continues until you miss. In addition to regular pitches the pitcher throws, they will also throw seven different types of special pitches. Some are extremely hard to hit, and some will give you some type of score boost. As in classic mode, the game ends after ten outs. Both classic and arcade mode have online scoreboards. While both classic and arcade mode are fun, the best part of Baseball Slugger is the online matchup.
Matchup works much like arcade mode, except that at the top of the screen there are two score bars, one for you, and one for your opponent. Hitting home runs and earning bonuses and such fills your bar. Whoever fills their bar first wins. There is also an inset of your opponent hitting at the top right of the screen. There is an extensive ranking system, and you the number of points you gain or lose is based on the difference in rank between you and your opponent. There are four channels to play in, one is a free channel that anyone can play in, and three are exclusive based on rank. The channels have pitchers of different difficulties based on required rank. You have the option of being automatically matched up with the next available opponent or specifically playing someone. The automatic matchup is usually very quick, but in case it isn't, you have the option of playing in arcade mode while you wait, a nice touch, and when you are matched up, your arcade progress is automatically saved. I do wish however, that there was more of a lobby so that you can select from a list of available opponents, because even with the channels, it is possible to be matched up with someone much worse than you rankings-wise, which means risking a lot of points. Because the opponent inset is “faked” to certain degree, only very small packets of data are sent over the connection, making it possible to play over Wifi, 3g, or even Edge with virtually no lag.
There is also an extensive equipment system. There are many upgrade categories for purchase, such as items that affect your power or control (your hitting radius) like bats and gloves or things that are purely aesthetic like facial hair. These items are all purchased using golden balls. Periodically, in every game mode, you will be pitched golden balls, and if you hit these balls for a home run, you get to keep them. The most golden balls can be earned through online matchup. In addition, there are 50 possible achievements, and completing them will give you anywhere from 10-200 golden balls.
The controls really make the game a blast to play. Before swinging, you are shown a silhouette of where your bat will swing. You can control this silhouette goes using the accelerometer, and you swing by tapping the screen. The accelerometer controls felt nice and well-calibrated, but unfortunately there is no sensitivity option or custom calibration. In addition, oddly enough, sometimes taps do not register, which can be extremely frustrating. However, overall, the controls work extremely well, and they make the game easy to learn but hard to master.
The 3d graphics are nice for the most part, and about comparable to those on the Wii, although the players are a little blocky. There are also a variety of stadiums, although they are basically the same thing with different color schemes. Some of the home run animations, triggered when you make an especially solid hit, are very cool. There are a few graphical glitches however, such as balls hitting the wall but still counting as home runs. The classic ballpark music is good, and definitely lends itself to the arcade nature of the game. In addition, Baseball Sluggers allows you to access your music from directly in the game and create a custom playlist.
You don't have to be a baseball fan to appreciate Baseball Slugger, because it really has very little to do with real baseball. It is, simply, an extremely fun game with a deceptive amount of depth and an exceptional online component. If you don't mind a game that lacks a large amount of intricacy, Baseball Slugger is a must-buy.