May 22, 2011

Big Hit Baseball

The Square Enix name on a game is pretty much a guarantee of a good role playing experience so I was surprised to see their entry into the sports arena with Big Hit Baseball. Now, do we really need another baseball game? Baseball is one of few sports that is well represented on the Android platform while good Football and Basketball games continue to be absent, but I guess companies have to make what they think will sell (like a good football game wouldn't?).

Big Hit Baseball doesn't have any sort of MLB licensing and instead uses 20 generic state and country names such as Illinois and the Dominican Republic for teams. It also offers a good practice mode which is mandatory as this is a baseball game like no other. First, batting is done with quick swipes on the screen and while timing is important so is the direction of the swipe. I really like that they did something different other than the usual positioning of the batter or bat and a button press to swing and the fact that this new control method utilizes the touch screen. Pitching similarly requires you to swipe on the screen. Swipe fast and you'll throw fast... draw a curve with your swipe and you'll throw a curve. For fielding you will also swipe on an outfielder to try and jump or dive to catch the ball although I have yet to see a dive animation.

The graphics are nice and the players look pretty sharp and cartoony. Pick a runner off of a base and he'll hang his head as he heads back to the dugout. The sounds of cheers are often heard as is the crushing blow of bat on ball. The controls, however, are where a quality game with some nice, new ideas takes a dive. First, the touch screen controls are less than responsive to the point that I started to wonder if my phone had a problem. Flaky and inconsistent is the best way to describe it. You'll swipe a hit and swipe a hit and then the next three swipes won't do a thing. Even if the touch screen controls worked flawlessly the game doesn't feel much like real baseball. Aside from swiping there's nothing more to fielding so it's all or nothing... either a miraculous catch in which your player appears to leap 30 feet in the air or a failed attempt which the ball sails on by for yet another triple. The pitching game seems muted as well as there's no cat and mouse here and you just want the player to hit it so you can have yet another chance at a fly out to finally end the half inning. Batting, however, is quite enjoyable when swipes work and downright maddening otherwise and being as you just don't know when a swipe will be properly detected I just don't feel like I'm in control. With all of these working against you games become a very high scoring affair... or at least they are for the computer team.
I should note that the swiping problem isn't just with the game play, but extends to pressing buttons on option screens as well. I'll press and press again and finally on a third press the game moves on. What options are available? Not too many... you can choose the length of a game (in innings) and how many games in a series.

Big Hit Baseball is a game that offers much in the way of potential. I really like the idea of using the touch screen in a gesture oriented way to control the game although I don't think that works well at all for fielding. Unfortunately, in its present incarnation it just feel right and you'd still be better served with one of the other baseball games in the Market. I do look forward to next year's edition of this title where hopefully some of these issues will be cleansed. 2.5/5 stars.

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