Baseball may be the national pastime, but anyone who is currently watching the MLB playoffs can tell you that it takes an awfully long time to play a game. There may have been a time when three hours was enough for nine innings, but those days seem gone. Perhaps then, 2K Sports' baseball themed collection of mini-games, Baseball Blast!, will help bring more fans to America's game, fans who can't spend four hours watching Andy Pettitte throw to first base.
Baseball Blast! features over 20 different mini-games which use baseball as a jumping off point. For instance, in some of the more sedate games, one may find themselves using the D-Pad on the Wii Remote to select whether a pitch will go high, low, left, or right in order to hit targets on the way from the mound to home plate.
In slightly more complicated games, Slide! Slide!, the player has to decide whether their base runner jumps or slides on a trip through a basepath jungle in order to best avoid tigers and baseballs while managing to get all the gold stars that appear. It's momentarily fun and vaguely baseball related, but even on the hardest difficult available doesn't offer much of a challenge.
Not to worry though, other mini-games are far, far more difficult, even on the easiest level. One of the harder games, Diamond Double, requires players to time their swing and its strength so as to hit a ball into one of a multitude of jewels hovering above the outfield. Some jewels are worth more than others, and if one doesn't hit the right ones, they'll never score enough points to advance.
While difficult, that game at least has its roots in baseball, not all really do. One of the more fun (but still frustratingly difficult) games is Bumper Base, which features the player as one of four bumper cars running about on an elevated base. The goal is to knock the other cars off, something accomplished by powering up and bumping them or jumping into the air as they try to bump you. It's certainly a cute little game, but as with too many of the mini-games herein, the controls leave a lot to be desired.
In the case of Bumper Base, the player has to hold the remote vertically and lean it left or right to turn left or right. The setup may be straightforward, but even using the Wii MotionPlus (supported, but not included), the sensitivity always seems too great or too little, making it incredibly hard to cause one's car to go in the intended direction.
The game does suffer from other control anomalies as well. In The Wave, players must keep a wave running through the stands. The remote has to be held horizontal, with the D-pad by the player's left hand. If the D-pad is placed by a player's right hand they'll completely misread the screen when it states which button needs to be pushed to continue the wave – this is because when the screen shows for the D-pad to be pushed up, it doesn't actually mean "up," it means "up if you have the controller horizontal with the D-pad by your left hand," or, if you prefer, it means "right." Even after figuring out this anomaly, many players will need to retrain their brain which very likely automatically knows, even when the controller is held sideways, which way "up" actually is.
Baseball Blast!'s graphics are fun and cartoony and Bob Uecker and Rob Dibble call the play-by-play. It seems an unnecessary addition to have real announcers in the game, but it is nice that there is someone calling the action. The game also features a trivia challenge which contains questions that range from easy to nigh-on-impossible, real teams, real players, and reasonable facsimiles of actual stadiums. And, as it's a bunch of mini-games, also supports up to four players.
Overall, the game is fun and lighthearted, with just enough happening to keep players of all levels interested. Beginners will have a tough time with some of the events while experienced gamers will find others too simple, but that may actually mean that the game is perfectly balanced. If not for the control scheme oddities and frustrations, this could have been a home run, instead, it's a ground-rule double.
Baseball Blast! is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief.