Friday 13 November 2015

Baseball (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1980

Baseball is one of only two sports games on the Microvision (the other being Bowling) and it was released exclusively in North America.

It supports 1 or 2 players and the objective is to score the highest number of runs within nine innings. You never actually play defense, as offense is the only option with the computer controlling the pitchers. Once the ball is thrown you simply swing the bat by moving the controller knob from the far right side to the left; the faster you do this the further the ball will travel. The CPU throws pitches down two columns on the LCD screen; the first are towards the right side of home plate and they're the easiest to hit. The other is in on the batter's hands and these are tough to make contact with as big swings will generally result in a miss. I found that it's best to make smaller controller movements for these although they still never seem to travel far which is a bit annoying. If the ball is hit close to a defender (only shown on the overlay) the play will result in an out. However, if it lands far enough away from them the game will calculate how many bases you're allowed to take. I was impressed by how accurate the outs were in terms of lining up with the overlay markings as the calls were consistent. Infield hits are also possible but usually they result in being thrown out at first. Home Runs can be achieved if you move the knob quickly enough and strike the ball at the correct moment; managing this is immensely satisfying as the display shows all team members on base rounding for home. The second skill level introduces the possibility of double plays (i.e. two outs if a runner is on base) as well as tougher pitches which consist of Curve Balls and Fast Balls. It's almost impossible to see when a Curve is being thrown though as it drifts off the plate at the very last second! However, if you have a keen eye this is the preferred mode as it relies more on skill and the CPU actually throws some balls instead of just strikes.

Baseball is a fun, albeit shallow, experience that feels more like a batting practice / Home Run Derby game than a real baseball simulation. As long as you manage your expectations beforehand there's some enjoyment to be had here and given the primitive nature of the handheld the developers did a good job of bringing the sport to life.

Random trivia: The only other Microvision game released in 1980 was Sea Duel (also known throughout Europe as either Bataille Navalle, Duel or See-Duell).

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