Monday 22 November 2021

MLB Slam! (Nokia N-Gage review)

Developer: Hexacto Games
Publisher: Jack of All Games, THQ Wireless
Released: 2003

MLB Slam! is a baseball game that features official 2003 stats and includes an MLBPA license.

Six modes are available which are Quick Match (randomly assigned teams), Spring Training (single game where you can pick your own teams), Full Season (162 games), World Series (postseason only), Homerun Derby (hit the ball into the stands as many times as possible) and 2 Player Game. Fielding is automatic, but you do have control over which base to throw to; it's a little basic, but it gets around the issue of trying to view the destination of a fly ball on a tiny screen. Pitching affords you various types of throws (e.g. Sinker, Changeup) to employ strategy, but it can be tricky to see the break on a Curveball when compared to a Fastball as everything tends to look similar. Weirdly, slowdown and frame-rate drops start to rear their ugly head as you advance into later innings, and while it doesn't affect you choosing your pitch location it does result in the ball speed metre jumping around erratically. Batting-wise, there is a noticeable delay between the swing animation and the hitter making contact with the ball. The hitting mechanics are intuitive though and backed up by a pitch location indicator that nicely mixes a location-based hint with player reaction times; it's a shame then that the aforementioned slowdown occurs deeper into each game which causes your swing location indicator to jolt around. Some of the automatic base running is head-scratching too, especially when a teammate on third base breaks for home when there's one-out and the batter hits a soft come-backer to the pitcher! The big screen LCD animations that are shown when a big play happens are neat, but the frequent audio drop-outs take away some immersion.

MLB Slam! has a solid foundation, but it's the lack of care from a technical and performance perspective that really holds it back. There is some enjoyment to be had when the frame-rate manages to keeps itself steady, but in a sport built on quick reactions the last thing you need is to be fighting against the game engine.

Random trivia: The two other N-Gage titles published by Jack Of All Games in 2003 were NCAA Football 2004 (with Electronic Arts) and Puzzle Bobble VS (with Nokia).

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