Commodore User


Hardball

Author: Chris Anderson
Publisher: Accolade
Machine: Commodore 64

 
Published in Commodore User #30

Hardball

Oh boy, American sports fans are going to love this. Admittedly there are already three baseball simulations on the market, but this one makes the rest look prehistoric.

Somehow it manages to combine both the management and action aspects of the game without compromising either. Especially memorable is the animation of the pitcher and batter and the way that pitched deliveries are depicted.

The view for this key part of the game is from behind the pitcher. You see his back, while facing you is the batter and behind him the catcher and umpire. If your team is in the field you have to decide what kind of pitch to deliver and in which precise direction. There's a total of over 40 combinations, ranging from Fastballs to Sinkers, Sliders and Change-Ups.

HardBall!

What's remarkable is that each different pitch is depicted slightly different on screen. For example, if you select a high Curveball which you want to swing away from a left-handed batter, that's exactly what you'll see happen. From the point of view of the pitcher the skill is to maintain a good variety and keep the batter guessing.

When you're batting the problem is to spot what type of delivery it is as early as possible so that you respond accordingly. You have the option of swinging high, low, inside or outside by moving the joystick at the appropriate moment. But if you can see the ball is wide it's best not to swing at all - if you do and miss a 'strike' is recorded against you. Three and you're out.

As in the real game, split-second reactions are the key. There is also a strong element of bluff, especially when you're taking on a human opponent instead of the computer.

HardBall!

If the batter connects, the view switches to the part of the field where the ball is moving. If you're fielding you can move the nearest fielder to the ball and then throw it to one of the 'bases'. The view immediately changes to the relevant base to give a close-up view of whether the ball or battle arrives first. This constant flicking between screens gives the impression of televised coverage and is very effective.

What isn't so effective is that way the ball moves when thrown by an outfielder. It starts incredibly slowly but then suddenly speeds up in a manner which would make Isaac Newton turn in his grave. A pity that, but it's about the only thing about this game that's shoddy.

If the action part of the game isn't enough for you, you can start getting involved in the management side - selecting a team, substituting players, fielding individual players in the most appropriate positions, etc. Various statistics are supplied to help you make sensible choices.

Incidentally, if baseball is new to you, the program instructions do include a summary of the rules of the game. It's well worth getting into, and this program, without question, is the best way of doing so.

Chris Anderson

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