Sinclair User25th May 1987
Published in Sinclair User #65
I could never cut it as a baseball star. I just haven't got the steely-eyed busting-a-gut determination of the home-run players or the aim or skill of the pitcher. And God knows I haven't got the nerve to wear the outrageously silly trousers which are far too short and make your ankles look ludicrous.
Activision (via its US subsidiary, Gamestar) has kindly come to the rescue of the self-conscious among us, and released Championship Baseball which enables you to enjoy most of the goings on that go on at a baseball game in the privacy of your own home.
The Championship bit of the title may suggest strategic elements in gameplay. but the Spectrum version includes no such options so anyone who fancied a bit of coaching will be dreadfully disappointed.
What we do have is a bit of pitching, a bit of batting and a bit of fielding - either one-player against the computer or two-player with a friend. The screen shows a large animated character on the right-hand side of the screen, with the pitcher a little way into the distance. The left of the screen shows an overview of the playing field, with little stick-men to denote the positions of all the players.
When the pitcher pitches he cranks back his arm, and lets fly - you choose whether to throw a screwball,- a fastball, an outside knuckleball or any of the other bizarre-sounding manoevures that the ball can be forced to follow by just a flick of the pitcher's wrist.
Jerk the stick in the direction that will provide the pitch you most desire. To a certain extent it's a matter of luck, but you should find a couple of angles that will beat most batters. Ot course, if you use the same pitch all the time, the opposition will learn to predict your moves...
Now batting. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of skill in batting, apart from timing when the ball is in a hittable position. Each batter has a pre determined style of batting, and you don't actually get to control where he swings the bat (though you do have the choice of either taking a swing or 'bunting' - a kind of safety shot. Assuming you make good contact, and you didn't decide to bunt, the ball will fly off into the field, and you run for all you're worth.
You'll automatically run to first base (or bag as those US types call it) but from there you have a whole host of options available. You can either stay put, go on, go back to the last bag, slide into the bag, dive back to the last bag etc etc. It's this part of the game that offers some scope for real excitement, as it all centres around taking just the right amount of risks. If you make a bad choice, the computer (or a mate, if you're playing in two-player mode) will field the ball and you'll be walking back to the bench.
The object while batting is obviously to score as many runs as possible. A home run is virtually impossible, though it scores more prestige-wise.
Then fielding, which involves running after the little white dot on the first part of the screen When one of the guys gets to it, you'll have to make a snap decision as to which base he should throw to. The computer character (or mate) is hurtling from base to base, and if you goof, he'll score that home-run.
Baseball is obviously going to go down a storm with sports sim enthusiasts. As for everyone else, they could like it too. And while the graphics are a little simplistic, they do the job very nicely thank you.
Not one for hard-nose arcaders. American-icon fetishists and genuine sports fans will find much to admire, though.