Bottom of the 9th review
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Bottom of the 9th review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on August 24th, 2017
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: BASE HIT
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This baseball game is weird and wonderful, but not enough people are playing it.

Developer: Handelabra Studio LLC

Price: $4.99
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Bottom of the 9th is a digital port of a board game where two players face off in the last half-inning of a tied baseball game. It's certainly not your typical sports game, as there are all sorts of dice rolls and turn-based decision-making going on here, but it's a game that still captures the tension of a high-stakes sports scenario pretty well.

Fever pitch

In Bottom of the 9th, your goal varies depending on whether you are playing on defense or offense. On defense, you are in control of your pitcher and must strike out or throw out three batters before the other team can score. On the flip side, playing offense means making contact with pitches in an effort to get at least one player to score. The idea here is that if the defense can hold out, they are confident they'll win in extra innings, while the offense–obviously–wins the game if they score.

It's not exactly the typical setup for a sports game, but then again, Bottom of the 9th isn't like other sports games. The bulk of this game is a sort of turn-based strategy game on a pitch-by-pitch basis. On each pitch, both players simultaneously select a ball position from one of four different zones (high/inside, high/outside, low/inside, low/outside). When picking, the defensive player is choosing where their pitch will actually go while the offensive player is trying to guess what the defensive player is picking.

90% mental

If the batter fails to guess exactly where the pitcher is throwing the ball, that doesn't mean an automatic strike. Instead, the mismatches between guesses give the pitcher special advantages, while matches between guesses give the batter advantages. This makes Bottom of the 9th all about mind games.

The advantages that batters and pitchers can gain from this guessing game can vary. Bottom of the 9th has a whole roster of players, each of whom have their own set of abilities. Some can grant re-rolls of dice, while others can guarantee base hits under certain conditions. Players on defense can't overuse their abilities though, as a fatigue meter on pitchers rises and can fill as pitchers try to press their advantage.

Solo home run

Between making careful lineup choices, using effective psychout tactics, and a little bit of luck, Bottom of the 9th can feel as intense and satisfying as a really close baseball game. That said, this enjoyment is at its best when playing against other people, which isn't always the easiest thing to do.

Bottom of the 9th sports local multiplayer as well as two forms of online play (ranked and casual matches). All of these modes work just as intended, except for the fact that finding someone to play online can take ages. It's unclear if this is because Bottom of the 9th has a low player base or poor matchmaking infrastructure, but either way, you may find yourself waiting to play for longer than you end up playing a full match in some cases.

The bottom line

Bottom of the 9th is a really cool take on a sports game. It looks and feels almost nothing like most other video game sports, yet it captures the feeling of real sports in ways that a lot of other games don't. This magic is only at its best when playing with others though, and finding people to play Bottom of the 9th with can often feel like more trouble than it's worth.

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