If baseball fans have been disappointed from the baseball outings from 2K Sports since their exclusive acquisition of the MLB, The Bigs will bring them back. This wildly fun, addictive and perfectly balanced arcade style title is fun all around. There hasn’t been a baseball title with a level of simplistic enjoyment since Baseball Stars 2 on the Neo Geo. It’s been a while.
Midway’s meager attempt at arcade baseball back in 2004 was MLB Slugfest, and there’s definitely some influence here. Collisions at the plate play a huge role, leaping to snag what should be a guaranteed home run is common, and smart use of a constantly building turbo meter is crucial. Unlike Slugfest, oddities like punching the basemen have been removed, and what’s left is a wide-open title that flawlessly integrates the arcade action with sim stylings.
Lead designer Jason Leigh brings his experience from EA’s MVP Baseball series and the lesser Triple Play, and comes out clean. This is a fast paced addition to the 2K Sports line, with standard games running only five innings. With literally no reset time between pitches, zipping through half an inning in less than a minute is entirely possible.
Batting is a two-button affair, one for a power swing, and the other with the goal of simply making contact. While fielding is touchy and difficult, all of the power hitters in the world won’t be able to get past the outfield, whose ability to leap the wall is unparalleled. At times, it’s tiring to see the A.I. grasp for a perfectly time blast to right field for the fifth time in one game. For simplicities sake, it adds both strategy and drama to the hitting portion, and tosses a layer onto the fielding beyond grabbing grounders.
Pitching is the closest The Bigs will get to a simulation title. Meter based, players hold down their pitch button until filled and release. Landing at the top puts some extra juice on the ball. You’ll also need to aim the throw before letting go, though The Bigs only has a strike zone and slightly outside of it in terms of game play however. Any pitch, even those low and inside can be crushed if the batter has the ability.
Purists will obviously scoff at the overblown style and cleanly designed buff players, while those looking for something a little different will be hooked for some time. Racking up points and deciding when to unleash a massive power swing guaranteed to leave the park is the focus of any game. Earning points is dependent on how well you play, what spectacular moves you’ve made, how well the pitching is going, and of course getting on base.
While the game sadly lacks season play, the Rookie Challenge gives Leigh’s baseball game something extra. Here you’ll progress through various challenges in every MLB city, earning bonus mini games to give your created player a boost in the stat department. On the final challenge, the option appears to steal one of the opposing teams players. Late into the mode, you’ll have a powerhouse squad.
A secondary mini game, Homerun Pinball, is a game in and of itself with some fleshing out. Plopped into Time Square, your favorite Major League hitter takes pitches and blasts them into New York’s brightest lights for points. As with any pinball machine, bonus points, secret items, and even multi-ball make an appearance. The city backdrop, while obviously exaggerated, is jaw dropping to see in person. Still shots can’t do this justice with the entire screen flickering with millions of colors.
Over the course of extended play, the general mechanics of The Bigs do become tiring. Simplicity can only hold on to its freshness for so long. That said, this is a worthy sister product to the company’s core MLB franchise. With a tighter feature set and focus on general defensive play, The Bigs will be around for some time.
The Bigs is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Violence. This game can also be found on: PS2, PS3, PSP, and Wii.