The bases are TILT.
One of the things I love most about video games is just how bizarre they can get. One day I might be the wind blowing flower petals around, another I’m a zombie-slaying samurai, and another I’m an interstellar bounty hunter who was raised by alien bird people. But when I play Baseball Slam, I’m a regular old baseball player. One who was shrunk down and tossed inside a pinball machine, apparently.
It’s such a weird combination, but that’s the best way I can think to describe Baseball Slam. It really is like batting inside of a pinball machine. Point tokens float through the air, score multipliers can be intentionally shattered to boost numbers, and a significant portion of the environment can be used to trigger special events. Car chases, helicopter crashes, and various other forms of property damage are only the beginning. Players just have to tap and hold the bottom of the screen when they’re ready for the next pitch, then swipe to their intended target; no worrying about fancy pitches or swing strength here.
The challenge instead comes from the, well, challenges. One level might require earning 20,000 points to finish while another asks players to destroy a large sign. And of course, they can also earn more points (and coins) by finishing these tasks with extra pitches left over. Then, assuming players manage to breeze through all of the challenges for all of the venues, there’s also the high score competition that serves as the multiplayer mode.
First and foremost, Baseball Slam is simply a lot of fun. It’s ridiculous enough that it’s never frustrating; there are plenty of interactive level elements to search for, and the swipe controls are about as responsive as anyone could hope for. I really can’t stress just how much fun it is to aim a hit at an aircraft carrier control panel, only to see a jet pop up onto the deck. A jet that can then be launched with the right shot. Baseball, people. It doesn’t get any crazier than this, unless you count that indecipherable year 3000 equivalent in “Futurama.” And that doesn’t even take into account the wacky power-ups that can spilt the ball in three, freeze time, cause hectic ricochets, and so on.
The multiplayer does nothing to ruin the enjoyment, either. Players simply get matched up (or intentionally challenge each other through Facebook) and take turns trying to out-score one another. Mechanically, it’s fairly similar to other popular asynchronous iOS multiplayer games, only instead of making words or drawing stuff, players have to hit giant slot machines or passing police cars with a baseball.
I have to admit I’m not too crazy about the need of an Internet connection to play. It makes sense for the multiplayer, kind of, but aside from the ads that intermittently pop up, I can’t think of any good reason for it to be a requirement. It was also a problem when I first started up Baseball Slam because some extra content needed to be downloaded, which took several minutes to complete. It could have been my connection speed, certainly, but I still had to sit there and babysit my screen (so it wouldn’t turn off) for probably close to ten minutes. Thankfully it’s not the sort of thing that has to happen every time the game is started up; it’s just that it’s a real drag that first time.
Lengthy initial install times and over reliance on forcing ads into players’ faces aside, Baseball Slam is a wonderfully ridiculous hybrid of two very unlikely ball games. It’s colorful, chaotic, easy to play, and even easier to keep playing. And this is all coming from someone who cares as much about the MLB as the current precipitation levels in Tasmania.