What's all this 'baseball' malarkey about then, eh? I mean, people wear 'baseball' boots, and put 'baseball' caps on their heads - but everybody knows the game they're really talking about is rounders.
Of course, that doesn't sound half as street-cool and hip - which is probably why the Americans changed the name. Anyway, whatever you call it, it's a damn simple game to understand so without further ado let's get out there and have a bit of a bat, shall we?
RBI 2 is a 3D simulation, in which you get to become your very own baseball team. You start off by selecting the American city you want to represent, then you pick a pitcher (the blokie who chucks the ball, not a jug with handles) and finally an opening batter (the blokie who hits the ball, not a pancake mix).
Still with me? Good. Then the scene shifts to the ballpark. If you're fielding, your 5 blokes automatically take up sensible positions, so there's no faffing around. The pitcher stands on his mound, and then it's all up to you.
When batting is in progress, a blown-up view of the pitcher and batter is shown (so you can see what you're doing presumably). If you're pitching, you can move from side to side choosing the best angle, and also set the joystick to do fast or slow deliveries and curve balls. And it actually works! With a bit of practice you get to know which balls certain players have trouble hitting and which they like. The batter is finally out if you throw 3 balls which he misses (And that's the origin of the "Strike1, Strike 2" saying, fact fans.)
But if the batter hits then you've got to run your men, footy sim like, until they 'field' the ball (which basically means 'going and fetching it'). They've got to throw the ball to any base with an opponent running to it. The joystick controls takes some getting used to (it's a case of getting your stick in the right position and pressing Fire), but it works brilliantly when you do. (You've no idea how satisfying it is to whip the ball from the outfield straight into a base's hands just before the computer's little man wheezes up to it!)
Batting is an altogether easier option. You see the same close-up view of the batter and pitcher, but this time you must move the batter into the best position. It's trial and error, but after a couple of games you'll have the measure of it. But here's the dodgy bit. Once he hits, your batter automatically runs to first base. Any other men you have on other bases also run automatically. The only control you have is to prompt a man to keep running when he would normally have stopped. It would have been nice to have control of at least one of the runners - but no, you have to just bite yer nails as the bods paddle round slowly to the next base.
Although this can seem like an eternity (like the speed your men run at when they're fielding), the game is pretty quick, and the scrolling as the ball is followed around is nice and neat. A little screen below the main display tells you exactly where the ball is and who's nearest to it, while another displays a radar-type view of all the action. It plots the positions of the ball and all the players, so for the most part your eyes will be glued to it when you're in to bat.
The aim is to get your men round all 4 bases safely. Once 3 blokes are out, the other team has a go. There are 10 rounds of this to-ing and fro-ing and each one lasts a couple of minutes (or less if you're completely atrocious at it). This quickfire approach is completely different to, say, cricket, and it's certainly a lot more exciting, that's for sure.
Baseball is hardly the most obvious thing to do on the Spec (you might fall off, hur hur). but Domark have managed a pretty spiffy job here. The only niggle, as I've said, is that you do a lot when you're fielding, but you tend to sit back and watch your guys struggling when it comes to the batting bits. Oh well. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life.
Good representation of baseball, and a lot of fun. Don't control as much of it as you should though.