It’s a great time to be a baseball fan. Just a few weeks ago, it seemed as though nothing could come close to challenging MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 as the best mobile baseball game this year. Then last week Gamevil dropped MLB Perfect Inning Live, and competition for the top spot is incredibly close.

MLB Perfect Inning Live Batter's Up!

Where MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 will appeal to those who are mainly looking for batting practice with a side of team-building, MLB Perfect Inning Live is a much deeper game. You’re in charge of pitching, batting and team management, all the while testing your skills against friends, strangers and computer simulations as you rush to complete daily challenges.

If you want to exercise full control over your in-game experience, it’s hard to pick up MLB Perfect Inning Live for a few minutes here or there. However, when it comes to looking for a way to spend a Saturday afternoon it’s pretty close to perfect (unless, of course, you have a chance to get out and play some real baseball).

MLB Perfect Inning Live lets you take control of your favourite MLB team, adding new players (drawn from randomized player packs), making trades, and developing the players on your existing roster. While the core of your team will look and feel like the Mets or Phillies you watch at the park or on TV, there’s still the flexibility to turn them into the team that you wish they’d be.

Although MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 also uses player cards, the scouting, training and free agent systems in play with MLB Perfect Inning Live make it feel like a more immersive team management experience. There are so many balls in the air at once that the idiom ‘running around like a chicken with your head cut off’ seems insufficient, but that seems to be an accurate reflection of what it’s like to be a real GM.

MLB Perfect Inning Live Team Management Menu

As good as the team management experience is, the in-game playing experience is even stronger.  With control over pitch type, aim and accuracy, you can be really strategic with your defense. Walking a strong batter or forcing him to bat outside his comfort zone can yield significant payoffs. There’s less to do on the offence as, for the most part batting is mostly about differentiating between balls and strikes and gauging your timing, but there’s an auto-aim at the ready if you’re still struggling to knock them out of the park regularly.

With the complexity of the gameplay on the field, having a great tutorial is essential. Fortunately for everyone just entering the Perfect Inning series this year, it’s a box the game definitely checks. Without being patronizingly hand-holdy, MLB Perfect Inning Live walks you through the ingredients of great pitching, batting and play-making so that you’re confident about your odds of success in the big leagues by the time it’s all over and you have to take on other players.

Perfect Inning Live Pitch Selecton

There are three main game modes available, two which immerse you in super smooth live play (say goodbye to waiting!) while the third is a turn based mode that’ll appeal to time-crunched social gamers. The two live modes (season and battle) come stocked with simulation options.

Live season games can employ a mix of simulation and action – for example, simulating innings 1-4, playing innings 5-8 then (from in the game) simulating inning 9 when the outcome’s more or less been sealed. Live Battle mode offers the first live PVP social baseball experience and gives you a choice of playing 1, 4 or a full 9 innings against your opponent, catering to the hardcore and the attention-challenged among us.

Whatever mode you’re playing in, you’ll be able to enjoy solid 3D graphics that rival the quality you’d find in any Xbox 360/PlayStation 3-era console sports game. The voice-over commentary is among the best in baseball games, so even those who typically play with the sound off might want to leave at least the commentary on this time around.

MLB Perfect Inning Live Player Matchup

The complexity of MLB Perfect Inning Live means that as far as mobile games go it’s a large one. Very large. This has a serious impact on game performance, particularly on older devices. With the popularity of the game, it seems that the servers are pretty easily overwhelmed. During peak times there can be a frustratingly high number of dropped games. This issue will likely be sorted over the next couple of weeks and, similar to Pokémon GO, there’s a certain amount of understanding on the part of players that popularity comes with complications.

What’s more frustrating is that doesn’t seem to be any easy way to find real-world friends who are playing. There’s no option to log in via Facebook or Google (which there seems to have been with MLB Perfect Inning 16), and if you aren’t all actively using Gamevil’s HIVE network, it can be next to impossible to find your friends without their team name.

For those who fell in love with MLB Perfect Inning 16, there’s more bad news as well. Your exact team isn’t transferred into MLB Perfect Inning Live, and there’s many reports of issues with transfer rewards for sticking with the series. The result seems to be a lot of frustration among long-time Perfect Inning players.

MLB Perfect Inning Live Simulation Mode

Overall, if you’re new to the series, are running a newer device, and want more control over the whole dynasty building experience, MLB Perfect Inning Live will blow MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 out of the water. If you’re a long-term player, the transfer issue might be enough to switch your allegiance alone. Yet, even then, it’s hard to argue that MLB Perfect Inning Live doesn’t offer a more realistic experience tailor-made for MLB fans on the go. For those that stick with it, it’ll likely be a great accompaniment from now until the last pitch of the World Series.