The Bigs 2: Baseball Review
For whatever reason, baseball has struggled to find a home outside the United States. Despite that, the game must have some fan support in Europe to warrant the release of the second edition of The Bigs.
The Bigs 2 is not the typical sport simulation; instead it attempts to take an arcade spin on the traditional game. Hits, pitches, catches and runs and are all presented in an over the top manner that ensures this baseball title doesn’t fall into the same dull trap as other more faithful sports titles.
The arcade element comes into play through the power gauge. Built up through plays i.e. gaining bases, striking or catching out batters players, the power gauge can be used to boost batting and pitching power, player speed and catches. Build up the gauge enough and Big Heat or Big Blast options can be activated which guarantees a strikeout or homerun. Catches are the most interesting aspect; initiating an energy catch or ‘legendary catch’ will bring us a button sequence, complete this to finalize an over elaborate, slow motion catch complete with fireworks and mood lighting.Although exciting at first and adding to the overall arcade style that the developers have aimed for, past the first few catches it becomes tedious and less spectacular. Despite its arcade style The Bigs 2 is a game of strategy. Build up points to pull off those over the top moves and provides the excitement, but when those moves are activated is the key to success.
Although The Bigs 2 has a season mode, repeated games can be tiresome. Breaking up the normal season mode is the ‘Become A Legend’ mode, which sees a created player attempting to make a comeback into the major league and with any luck into the Baseball Hall Of Fame. ‘Seasons’ consist of a select few games with stipulations or prizes for winning, such as scoring a homerun with your created player, or stealing a player from the other team. Mini games include batting pinball and speed races, and in between games can provide opportunities to increase stats and break up the otherwise repetitiveness of playing standard baseball.
As for the games themselves batting is straightforward; A provides accurate hits, B provides more powerful hits, while X provides a bunt (stopping the ball without hitting it). Each batter has their own level in these three attributes. For example a player with a high power rating is more likely to get a homerun, while a player with a high speed run has more chance of gaining those all important bases. Although little on the basic side, skill points do give an indication as to who is better at what, which does bring some strategy to proceedings, instead of the expected hit and hope scenario. Accompanying skill points is the wheelhouse, or comfort zone, the pitch area where a batter will have the most success should a ball be pitched into it. This is shown as a red zone inside the strike window (the area where a successful pitch counts as a strike), connect with a ball in the zone and no outfield player will be able to get his grubby mitt on the ball, miss and the red zone is reduced.
On the other side pitching is performed through A, B, X and Y, each button providing a different style pitch depending on the pitcher, from fastball to curveball, sliders to splits. A pitches success is dependent on a power meter, the higher the meter the more powerful the pitch and the more chance it has of being successful, it also hides where the ball will end up. Throw poor or repeated pitches and the batter will see it coming, giving him the advantage. Gaining any bases off a pitch will reduce that pitches effectiveness to the point that the pitcher can no longer use it. So again strategy is the key. Fielding is also intuitive, when the ball is in play A, B, X and Y respond to the four bases. For example, Press B and the ball will be thrown to first base and so on. Although confusing at first, once learnt it can provide some fast and satisfying defensive plays. It all sounds fun, that is until the players have to move. Leave them to their own devices and all is well and good. The problem lies when you try and take control, players loose all sense of direction, getting themselves out or watching a ball fly out for a homerun. This can prove frustrating, especially in the harder difficulty settings when the AI is on top of every little mistake tip, let the AI take control.
While The Bigs 2 portrays itself as an arcade title in terms of over the top features, freakish character animation and larger than life character models, it could easily disguise itself as a legitimate sports simulation. Game mechanics are intuitive and would be at home in any Baseball simulation.
What The Bigs 2 has done is create a solid Baseball game whilst at the same time add aspects that are distinctly arcade, case and point the power gauge, On the one hand this is a title that could appeal to fanatics and newcomers alike, on the other hand it could repel both audiences who get neither a complete simulation or complete arcade experience.