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Baseball Blast! promises a lot but, like its overblown exclamation touting title, promises more than it can deliver. MotionPlus should have been a revolution here, but seems to have little effect. Publisher 2K Sports tried hard to wring all it could from baseball, but too many uninspired minigames prove the title's downfall.
From the outset, Baseball Blast! does not make a fantastic impression. In a genre that relies strongly on presentation to distinguish individual titles, it is shameless how many games rely on the power of its licence - in this case MLB. While I suspect the Major League Baseball branding could convince some to pick up the game, once they get it home and into the Wii they will soon feel a familiar twinge of disappointment.
A smattering of team logos and player names makes up Major League Baseball's entire contribution. With character models all playing and looking alike, bar skin tone and hair, their inclusion feels more like an after thought than a considered part of the design - and even these differences feel more like an after thought than a considered part of the design. . Yes, I was able to pick any team from the Major League Baseball's roster, but once the game began my choice made no impact on the competition - even the cosmetic differences are practically unnoticeable.
However, if the games on offer are out of this world, it matters not one bit what the Major League Baseball has to do with it. With the bat-swinging, ball-throwing baseball theme woven into the game's very fabric, I did wonder if the limited mechanics of the sport (hit, throw, catch, run) would restrict the options available to the designers. It is fair to say that with the shear scope of games on offer Baseball Blast! managed to exceed my expectations. While the bite-sized games borrow heavily from the sport, the team in charge seemed to know when it was time to change things up and take liberties, even if sometimes the change in location seems somewhat incongruous.
Games range from simple variants on batting and pitching to puzzles and quizzes.
Games range from simple variants on batting and pitching to puzzles and quizzes. It's to be expected that with such a mixed bag the quality of each game will vary wildly, both in terms of concept and controls. Some I confess to really enjoying, guiding a ball through lines of catchers for a homerun in one event, and hitting a rocket ball through the cosmos in the next was a fun distraction. But these choice highlights did little to outweigh the overwhelming amount of dross that occupied the majority of the disk.
Events where I had to solve puzzles to complete team logos, or shake the Wii remote to build power were high on my list of grievances, but none matched Cannonballs! This was a game that's greatest sin was looking fun. Hitting flaming cannonballs back at the pirate ships should be a sure thing, but the speed the ships fired at, mixed with unresponsive controls and dreadful character recovery time, meant that balls continually flew past as my batter struggled to keep up with my own wild thrashing.
I stood in my lounge, infuriated, swinging my Wii controller (MotionPlus attached) back and forth like a blind drunk scythe handler in a field of sniggering wheat, fuming as ball after ball streaked by. Eventually, after much windmilling, I reached the required score to progress and gladly left it behind while I cautiously rubbed my tender elbow.
Cynics, I am sure, will see through the numerous endorsements that cover the front of the box.
Speaking of the MotionPlus, its affect on proceedings was so minor that at first I barely noticed it. I spent a lot of time waiting for an epiphany, for a penny to drop from the heavens with instructions on how to use the improved controls. It never came. A little reading shed some blinding light: the MotionPlus only works in five of the packages twenty-one games. With changes limited to intangible tweaks, near unnoticeable without a direct comparison, the inclusion of the peripheral feels like a marketing bullet point rather than a boost to the gameplay.
Cynics, I am sure, will see through the numerous endorsements that cover the front of the box. Baseball Blast! wears its branding and exclamation marks like the man in the gold suit - it's all showy bravado and no substance. Baseball Blast! is without a doubt your typical, uninspired, cash-in that does nothing to separate itself from the crowd. Except maybe shouting everything really loudly from a pitcher's mound.
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