Backyard Baseball Review

Developer: Humongous Entertainment Publisher: Atari
Release Date: April 9, 2003 Also On: None

Although baseball is widely considered to be America’s pasttime, I would dare say that football is nearer to the hearts of most people in this country than baseball. However, that is not to say that baseball is not a significant part of this country and its athletic heritage. Although many baseball games have been released over the years, most fall into one of two camps: arcade, with flaming balls and spectacular but unrealistic moves, and simulation, featuring real players in real ballparks. However, identifying exactly where to put Backyard Baseball is a real challenge. It plays like a simulation game for the most part, but doesn’t have everything the same as other simulation games. Backyard Baseball is not a bad game, but even at its time of release, better games existed.

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The graphics in the game are not bad. However, I must admit that I find the cartoony look innappropriate considering the fact that many of the characters you can choose from for your team are supposed to be child forms of real players. Other than my complaint about the graphical style, the graphics don’t seem to be quite as detailed as they could have been, and the displays on the humongo vision that show between innings seem to be limited and thus repeat a lot, although not more than once a game. However, the graphics are certainly good enough that, despite the cartoony feel of them, the characters based on real baseball players do look as much like younger versions of the players as cartoon graphics can allow, which is certainly a plus.

On the sound side of things, the sound effects seem to be very sparse, although what few there are execute well and sound like what they are supposed to sound like. The music likewise is unobtrusive, although its not the kind of stuff that you would become addicted to. The commentary seems to be very limited and tends to repeat itself a lot. So the sound, while not the greatest, is not so bad that I would recommend muting the game because of it.

In terms of gameplay, if you’ve played an All-Star Baseball game, you can probably handle this game fairly well. The controls are fairly similar to what are found in most baseball titles of its time, although it should be mentioned that you direct your type of hit by hitting a button before the pitch rather than by what angle you hit the ball at with your aiming cursor. Another thing that I found different about pitching in this game is that you can manually change the direction of your pitch even after you’ve thrown it, a factor I’m not sure exists in many other baseball titles, but one that does make it easier to fool a human opponent. But overall, controls are the same as any other simulation baseball game, and, for the most part, they work well.

I only have two major problems with the controls. One, sometimes when you are trying to field a ball, you start out in control of a different player than you would anticipate (catcher instead of pitcher for example), meaning that you will occasionally move in the wrong direction initially, buying your opponent enough time to get to base. And two, the players move very slowly. I mean, I’ve seen turtles that can move faster than some of these players when they’re fielding. Sure, they don’t move much faster when they’re baserunning, but when it takes ten seconds to get to the fence to get a ball that landed there that’s too long. I’ve also missed catching many balls that, in other baseball titles, would have gotten caught, because my player was too slow to get to the right spot in time.

The one major difference between this game and most other simulation baseball games is that your team roster isn’t dependent on what team you choose. Indeed, what team you choose makes little difference other than what your team wears. Instead, you choose your nine players from a group of about 40 or so. You can choose when you play the computer whether you want to choose your nine first or take turns with the computer choosing. Obviously, you’ll get a better team if you choose first, but that does remove a little from the challenge.

So, overall the gameplay in this game is pretty good. However, there are only three modes in this game: an exhibition mode, a season mode, and a home run derby mode. In the exhibition mode, you (or you and a second person) choose your nine players and play a single game (of 6 or 9 innings, depending on your preference). In season mode, you choose your group of nine and take them through an 18 or 32 game season. In that mode also you can choose between 6 and 9 inning games. For the home run derby mode you choose a single player and you try to hit as many homeruns as possible in a certain quantity of pitches, or to get more than your opponent if more than one person is playing. However, I think All-Star Baseball 2003 was released around the same time as this game, so the lack of a franchise mode is blatantly obvious (although God only knows how that would work in a game like this).

Overall, while Backyard Baseball is a decent baseball title, there were better when it was released, and there are certainly better now. It doesn’t have as much depth nor is it as realistic as other simulation baseball titles, but it may prove a worthy diversion for a while for some baseball fans.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 6
Final: 6.3
Written by Martin Review Guide

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