Reviews: Backyard Sports

Sandlot Sluggers

This is the first time I play a Backyard game, and it's Sandlot Sluggers for the DS. I don't know any of the characters or backstory of this franchise, so I won't compare this installment with the rest in any way. Here we go.

Modes: story, exhibition, dingers, season and playoffs. I've played them all, and turns out the most interesting one is, by far, the story mode. Recruiting players is fun and all — I like that. Taking down Jimmy feels great. Especially because it's pretty hard to do it! But the small plot is presented in a meh way, to be honest — the randomness, mainly. But I can overlook this in favor of the gameplay. What about it?

Playing ball consists of batting and pitching. No stealing bases, pickoffs or fielding of any kind. The fielding is automatic, and honestly, this made this game lose a ton of points. Fielding is one of my favorite aspects of baseball videogames, and I wasn't pleased when I realized it's fully automated. Basically, you can predict exactly what will happen in the field with enough playtime. There's no excitement in the baserunning and fielding. A shame.

Batting can feel quite difficult because of the perspective, the depth perception, the low resolution and the lack of marking of the strike zone. It's not even signaled before the pitch — you have to draw the lines in your mind the entire game. The timing of the swing is another doozy: you have to be perfect, or else you'll pop the ball up or foul it off or what have you. And finally, you basically can't hit balls outside the zone no matter how good your timing is. Except the AI, who seems to be able to do it.

The quality of the powerups is inconsistent. They're pretty useless in pitching, since the AI will get the swing right anyway if it's in the zone or let it go if it's outside. Most times. Powerups are only truly useful in batting, both for getting on base and for getting a run in. You can only have up to 3 powerups, a pretty low cap if you ask me. At that point, you'll want to use them just to get more back.

By the way, I don't understand some of the fielding choices. Every time you hit it to the gap, you get a double. Guaranteed. But by the looks of it, seems like the outfielder could have been able to nail you at second base if he/she had hurried instead of slacking off. And they throw it to the shortstop instead of to the baseman. Other times, the center fielder throws to the shortstop while a runner is going to third, and that's it. And the runner is only 3/4 of the way there. Why doesn't the SS just throw to third? I'll never get it. Oh, and lineouts to the infield? The baserunners always tag up as soon as the ball is hit. As if they could predict these things.

Seasons, and especially playoffs, feel short because there are only 8 teams, so yeah. There's a "simulate" option that lets you skip any game.

Dingers just feels empty and uninviting.