Today I took on some bullies and reclaimed baseball for the kids of my town.
Backyard Sports as a series is built on taking popular sports and turning them into fairly simple but fun, family friendly kids games. Sandlot Sluggers is no different, taking baseball and putting it back into your backyard (or the neighborhood park, vacant lot, wherever you can find space to lay out four homemade bases). You, the new kid, must play a series of games in order to recruit all the best players in town to form a super team capable of beating The Bullies, who have ruined baseball for everyone.
The game is fun and light for the most part, but with a surprisingly steep learning curve and abnormally difficult beginning. The game starts with you being the only star player on your team; a character that you create with some basic physical and stats customization. All the other players are capable of hitting a good ball, but more often than not, they won’t. This means that your first game or two is exceptionally difficult.
This is mostly because the computer hits insanely well and is almost always able to catch the ball (plus your players seem to run at about the speed of negative 10 MPH). Even when set to easy the game whooped my ass the first few times I gave it a shot (difficult set to low and everything). It doesn’t help that the game doesn’t give any clear direction on how to properly hit the ball either. I eventually gave up and restarted the game with a new character, one that put all the stat points into speed and hitting. The result was that I could at the very least hit the ball out of the park a couple times the first game, build up some power-ups and actually cause some damage with the first couple of teams until I had enough star players to really dominate the game.
Oh, power-ups, yeah. With enough strikes/strike outs, base hits and home runs you build up power-ups that can be used either offensively or defensively. Offensively the power-ups guarantee at least a single, meaning that once you have a couple of star players who can really whack the ball they can be used with your generic players to get on base and then drive in the runs with the power hitters. You might think having a baseball that is going to temporarily freeze the defensive player that catches/touches it first would ruin the game, but the strategy that is added by deciding when to use it does a lot for the game.
Once you have a couple of star players the game really just turns into a homerun derby. As a result, unlike most games, Sandlot Sluggers is crazy difficult at first and crazy easy by the end; case and point I think I beat The Bullies somewhere in the area of 24 to nothing after one inning (mercy rule).
The game’s wildly out of whack difficultly and lack of tutorial aside, Sandlot Sluggers is a fun little romp in the baseball most of us knew at some point as a kid: The homemade bases, the house rules (if the ball lands in the sandbox that’s a double), and the fact that almost every backyard game really was dominated by one better than bad player in the neighborhood. Combined with the colorful and fun visual style that really looks like it was made to work with Xbox Avatars, the game is a charmingly good time once you get passed the first hump of difficulty. What I’m saying is that really, it is just some good old-fashioned fun with a lot of little nods to a style of baseball many of us have likely forgotten about.
Tomorrow I buy a zoo in Zoo Resort for the 3DS.
Final Rating: 7.8/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: Main story, about 3 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 695/1000
Price Bought at: $5
Current Price: $6.97 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $10 or under, aka click the link above!
Why you should buy it: Charming, kid friendly baseball game with fair amount of replayability.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: Frustratingly difficult beginning to story mode.