Review by matt91486

Reviewed: 12/21/00 | Updated: 07/18/01

We interrupt my Q*Bert 3 review progress for this special bulletin

OPENING STATEMENT
Today, while writing my review for Q*Bert 3 I got some odd urge to write a review for Backyard Baseball. I have no clue why I did, I just did. And now I can inform you of one of the most underrated and underappreciated Windows games around.

GAMEPLAY--7
Backyard Baseball does a nice job of presenting a sports game on the computer, a feat that is hardly easily accomplished. Instead of what most games try to do, which is use the keyboard for immensely complicated moves and the like, Backyard Baseball just tries to present a fun, hassle free baseball experience. Which it does with great skill and ease.

Backyard Baseball succeeds due to the fact that it does not even try in the least little bit to be realistic, or a simulation. It tries to makes baseball fun again. The best thing about Backyard Baseball is the fact that you can make your own team. You assemble this team from the kids in the neighborhood. Do not let their looks fool you. Some of the kids that look like they would be horrible, the kid in the wheelchair for example, are actually very, very good. The greatest thing about this diverse crowd is that, after you use them repeatedly in baseball games, their statistics can go up, to the maximum of four. In the copy of Backyard Baseball that I played, Pedro, the kid who speaks no English had four in all four categories, but the best player will differ from copy to copy.

Whenever you are pitching, you will have four set pitches, and the intentional walk option. Occasionally, whenever your pitcher is doing well in Backyard Baseball, you will get another pitching option. This pitch will be a forkball, a screwball, a spitball (do not laugh) or something of the like. You only get one of these pitches, so use them wisely. They are almost unhittable, even against the most powerful of hitters.

GRAPHICS--8
I certainly did not expect Backyard Baseball to be a graphical treat, but that is exactly what Backyard Baseball was. The environments, stadiums, and characters all look perfect. They almost look like cell-shaded animation. They really do look like interactive cartoons, which is just what the developers ordered. The stadiums, as they very from a sandy field to blacktop to a normal stadium, each look quite different, and completely beautiful in their design and vibrant coloring.

There is only one problem with the graphics in Backyard Baseball. That problem is slowdown and choppiness. When you are playing Backyard Baseball a lot of times you will see the ball suddenly stop and start again, or a character suddenly pause when sprinting to first base. This makes Backyard Baseball look really sloppy, and it can easily make people forget about how detailed the characters and the very varied stadiums are.

MUSIC--6
SOUND--9

The music is classic sports game music, with a child-like twist. The main reason that Backyard Baseball scored so low in the music sub-category is not because it is bad, which it really is not, but because there are so few songs. And those songs only play on the various menus, never in the actual baseball game. Granted the constant sound effects make sure your ears do not go hungry, so to speak, it still would have been nice to hear some songs, even if it was a giant, horrible blight on the stadiums, such as “Who Let the Dogs Out?” in real life. That song is so much, much worse than even “The Macarena.” Anyway, the songs are good, the one on the Character Select Screen being my favorite, but the lack of more than a few songs really hurt the rating.

The sound effects are superb. Except for one tiny problem. When you are batting, or in the field for that matter, the eight other players, besides the pitcher and the batter, will sing out various annoying versions of the phrases “Swing batta batta!” and “We want a batter, not a broken ladder!” You will go insane, there is no mistaking it. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to tear my shortstop from limb to limb for not shutting up. The profile sound effects on the Character Select Screen are hilarious and a must-hear. Other than the fielder’s endless chatter, the sound effects in Backyard Baseball are perfect. Kids, whenever your coach says to talk to other players, do not do it like this.

CONTROL--7
Backyard Baseball has a very innovative control scheme, even for a sports game on the personal computer. It is innovative due to the fact that absolutely everything is controlled by the mouse. When you are fielding, you need to direct the child that is chasing down the ball in the direction of the ball, and then line-up his throw to first, second, or third base (or home plate for that matter) ahead of time, otherwise you will give up a hit on almost every time the batter makes contact. Hitting, controlling in the menus, and absolutely everything else is done by using the mouse as well. Fielding actually works better than I had expected, or hoped for that matter, but batting is a bit harder to control than I expected. It all evens out though to a still above average rating.

FUN--10
I never expected I would be giving a game oriented for children a perfect rating of ten in the fun category, but here I am. The combination of child like enthusiasm for the game of baseball that the characters in Backyard Baseball seem to bring to the diamond so well. added with the incomparable addictiveness of statistic raising, and team forming, almost like a role-playing game, make Backyard Baseball truly the first Sports/RPG. The best thing about Backyard Baseball is that its addictive qualities make it well worth the money, and the kidding you will get from your friends until they play Backyard Baseball.

CHALLENGE--MEDIUM TO HIGH
You would think for a game that has a childish theme, Backyard Baseball would be a little bit easier, and more understanding of my horribleness. The computer just keeps going after you. Once you get the hang of the odd fielding interface, however, the difficulty rating slightly drops, now that you will be able to pick off some of those runners on their way to first base. The hitting interface really adds a lot of difficulty to Backyard Baseball, as the interface makes hitting very difficult to time, which results in a lot of strike-outs for your characters. Many people that I know that have played Backyard Baseball a little bit consider hitting a foul ball an accomplishment, a testament to the oddities of the hitting interface.

REPLAY VALUE--HIGH
Rarely does a game on the computer snag a high replay value rating, but Backyard Baseball has done just that. The fun, and hilarity, of creating your own team before each game is addicting, and well worth the time. Speaking of time, for the people who wish to use lots of it playing Backyard Baseball, there should be more than a few of you, there is a baseball season, or something very close to it, that you can progress through if you wish to. All-in-all, Backyard Baseball will get replayed many more times than most computer games will, even if it does not take as long to finish once through as all of those strategy games and first-person shooters. It actually is a refreshing break from those same to genres that seem to absolutely overpower the computer game market.

PROS
*Sound effects, other than the repetitiveness, are very impressive.
*Innovative take on the sport of baseball.
*Graphics, especially environments, are breathtaking, in a cartoonish way.

CONS
*Music hardly compares to the rest of the game.
*Hearing “Hey batta batta!” over and over again.
*Slowdown and choppy animation.

CLOSING STATEMENT
Probably many review writers are reading my review and laughing at me because I like a game that is aimed at children. But Backyard Baseball truly is one of the better sports games on the computer, and it is certainly worth buying even if you do not have a six year-old at home to cover for you by saying “That is not mine. That is Joey’s game!” Granted, most of you will probably not play it, but you all should.

OVERALL--8

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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