In my review last year for the stat-crunching baseball simulator Baseball Mogul 2008, I stated that the game provided a great experience for stat-heads and casual baseball game fan alike. Baseball Mogul 2009, which only sports a few tweaks from the 2008 version, is also a fun experience (as an update of an enjoyable game ought to be). There are some issues here and there, but most can be overlooked.
The myriad of stats that Baseball Mogul 2008 gave its users are still available here in 2009 but with a somewhat cleaner interface. It is easier to find the little bits and pieces true stat lovers want. Additionally, it easier for non-stat lovers to find the elements that interest them as well. Users can manage the overall and day-to-day operations of an incredible array of teams, from classic to modern to fictional. At its heart, the game is stat-based and contains dozens of stats for the players.
While stats are the game’s bread and butter, it can’t (and doesn’t try to) compete with graphically intensive baseball simulators for the computer and console systems. That’s why the game includes, as it did last year, the ability to play in-game by clicking various buttons to swing, bunt, pitch, substitute players, etc. None of it is done in real-time (pitches and swings are chosen prior to a play commencing), but it does add to the gameplay.
It is within this in-game experience that 2009 has made one of its more silly additions for this year: the “Base Running” screen. The game asks the user from time to time (not consistently and not always when it should) if the player wishes to try for an extra base. The times it doesn’t ask and doesn’t advance the runner are hugely frustrating. It is also silly and more than a little frustrating when the game asks the user if they want to try for an extra base when the fielder has the ball 72 feet from the runner’s next base while possessing an arm rated at 93 (out of 100). Simply put, save for an error on the throw or catch, there is no way that the runner could ever be safe. To have the game ask the question is virtually equivalent to the game wondering if the user has some crazy desire to have their runner thrown out in order to either shave points or handicap themselves.
There are also just weird things that the AI chooses to do, from not resigning star players (instead letting them go to free agency), to its aforementioned desire to have the user give up outs for no reason. And yet, except for the most serious of stat-heads, most of these AI quirks are minor and easily overlooked.
Also easily overlooked, but not easily listened to, are the game’s new sound effects, particularly the crowd noises, which sound a little like glorified static. While the cracks of the bat and audience noise are cute at first, they become old very quickly. Everything sounds almost identical and, as a stat-based game, there is little purpose in it unless the question is how many people in the crowd applauded the home run.
The biggest problem with the game is that if one has last year’s version there is very little reason to upgrade to this year’s version. The look is somewhat nicer, but that’s about it.
One of my complaints last year was that the photos of players delivered with the game were ancient (Jason Giambi not wearing a Yankee uniform was my example). For a new version of the game, it is distressing that the same thing remains true. One can go to the forums and download pictures, but it’s a cumbersome manual process and the pictures seem to be only semi-official. There simply is no reason why, if this year’s version is only slightly updated from last year’s, that such a fundamental element shouldn’t have been changed.
For all its foibles, Baseball Mogul 2009 is still an enjoyable experience. It shows just why baseball is such a game for stat-lovers and makes those stats accessible to everyone. There are numerous different ways to play the game, with the computer having the ability to handle any aspect that the user feels either too mundane or too complex. Allowing the computer to take over some of the operations will never allow a team to reach the dizzying heights (or abysmal lows) that it could with the user in control, but it does make the game more accessible.