MLB Power Pros Touch 2010
One of the longest-standing franchises in video game baseball, the popular Japanese Power Pros series has yet to really find traction in the west. Originally debuting in North America in 2007 (but much, much earlier in Japan) the games have received critical praise, but it’s done little to make them a household name. Now in its second year on the iPhone, Power Pros has acquired licensing rights for Major League Baseball, making it the first game on the iPhone that will let you step into the batter’s box of your favourite team.
MLB Power Pros Touch 2010 captures all of the fun and excitement of last year’s Power Pros Touch and wraps it up in the uniform of your favourite team. Like other Power Pros games, what makes this title so appealing is the surprising amount of gameplay customization available. Players only looking to dabble can pitch and hit in a 3-inning exhibition game, letting the AI take care of the rest. Players looking for depth can tackle the full 162 game season, controlling base running, fielding, and even make last minute pitching adjustments with the slide of a finger. Players looking for something in between can tweak a range of options, letting them player shorter seasons, longer games, switch on mercy rules… the list goes on and on.
Gameplay itself is simple, yet incredibly satisfying. Pitchers can choose from a number of different pitches and will tap where they want the ball to go. Last minute adjustments can be made by quickly tapping somewhere else, or players can up the challenge by replacing the tap mechanic with a swiping one that offers more control despite being more challenging to master. Batting controls are just as simple. Once the pitcher releases the ball, its destination will show up on the screen as one circle closing in over another. Tap that circle when the two meet to connect perfectly. Do it too early or too late and you’ll likely foul or miss the pitch entirely. Players can bunt by touching their hitter and can go for a big play by swiping upwards once contact is made with the ball. Everything that MLB Power Pros Touch 2010 throws at you is incredibly easy to pick up, but never feels so shallow that it might lose your attention.
In addition to the basics, players can steal bases and control fielding and base running, so long as these features are flicked on in the Options menu. All of these are as simple to implement as tapping the screen, favouring baseball strategy over complicated controls. Can Overbay make it to third before the center fielder throws it in? Can Longoria steal second before Shawn Camp throws him out? Worrying about the actual plays takes the main stage here as the controls quickly become second nature and require little to no thought.
In terms of flaws, MLB Power Pros 2010 exhibits very few. The most noticeable here is the announcing, which isn’t obnoxious like you’ll find in many games, but simply flat out wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “still no score” and “that’s an RBI base hit!” when neither of these things were true. If I had to guess I’d say that some of their chatter is simply on a loop. It can’t be all of it though, since so many of the calls like strikes, balls, and homeruns are so dead on.
Then there’s the elephant in the room. When we say that the gameplay here should be familiar to veterans of last year’s Power Pros Touch, that’s a bit of an understatement. MLB Power Pros 2010 is hit for hit the exact same game with the addition of the MLB license. Considering that Konami had held the license for home console versions of Power Pros in 2007 and 2008, it was the one thing that was conspicuously absent from last year’s offering. Getting to play as your favourite team instead of the fictional teams that were included last year is fantastic, but we would have loved to have seen something, anything that made this feel like a new instalment instead of a simple re-skin of last year’s model. The gameplay didn’t need to change, but how about offering real MLB stadiums? Or a World Series mode that’s accessible from the main menu? To Konami’s credit, they’ve removed the previous game from the App Store so that gamers won’t be duped into buying the same game twice.
Alright, maybe we’re overselling the similarities here. Adding MLB teams is a huge change all on its own, and this title does allow you to build your own custom team using real world players – something with definite appeal to the fantasy sports crowd. Plus this new version introduces local multiplayer to the franchise. Sure we would’ve preferred online, but we’ll take what we can get.
Power Pros Touch was, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best baseball game on the iPhone in 2009. If you somehow managed to miss it, MLB Power Pros Touch 2010 is an easy recommendation to any baseball fan in the crowd. If you didn’t miss it, however, 2010 doesn’t bring enough new to the table to justify the $8 purchase — unless you’re an MLB purist who’s just dying to see names like Granderson and Swisher at bat in pin-striped jerseys.