Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Release Date: June 25, 2007
The strategy of publishing games across multiple platforms — especially in the sports genre — maximizes a publisher's market exposure, but it can also lead to noticeable quality differences between platforms. (This is most noticeable when a console game is ported to Windows or a handheld system.) If you happen to own several gaming systems, you always need to do some research to make sure you get the best version of the game for your available hardware. Thank goodness there are plenty of platform-specific game reviews out there!
If you were to take a major league baseball simulation and add power-up points and over-the-top arcade action, you'd have a pretty solid description of The Bigs. The game offers baseball enthusiasts an alternative to the often repetitive nature of most baseball simulations. A two-tiered points system provides players with the ability to routinely pull off turbo-charged moves or less frequent Power Blast hits or Big Heat pitches. The Bigs includes a variety of gameplay modes including: Quick-Play, Exhibition, Home-Run Derby and a player-building mode called Rookie Challenge. The game also supports head-to-head multiplayer competition through the PSP's Wi-Fi system.
Graphically, The Bigs is nicely detailed, and the action is both smooth and believable. The PSP's widescreen format really helps reduce eye fatigue when spending large periods of time keeping track of the baseball. There were a few times while playing when the player positioning was questionable around the bags, leaving me wondering (until the announcement) whether or not an "out" had actually occurred. You'll also notice some edge shimmering in the game, but it is not overly distracting to the gameplay.
The interface is easy to navigate, and in between loading screens, interesting trivia about players and teams is displayed along with a nice action photo. The sound effects are spot-on and always stay in sync with the action. There does seem to be some occasional sync problems with the announcing and umpire calls, but it's not too noticeable. The Bigs also sports an impressive collection of music tracks, with such big-name artists as Motorhead, Primus and Jane's Addiction.
As for the controls, if you've already played or if you own one of the numerous other baseball simulators that are on the market, you'll will be familiar with The Bigs' control scheme, since it only differs slightly from what seems to be the standard button assignment for modern games. The controls remain intuitive, responsive and easy to learn. You'll just need to learn a couple of additional button combinations to trigger the "Turbo" and "Power" modes.
The Bigs provides baseball fans with some over-the-top arcade entertainment. With a two-tiered point system, you have the ability to enjoy some spectacular game action. At the first level, avoiding bad pitches when at bat can earn you turbo points; likewise, when on the mound, throwing strikes will also earn turbo points. With enough turbo points you can cash them in on-demand for over-the-top moves at the plate, on the mound, or even out in the field. At the second level, pulling off desirable offensive and defensive plays will allow you to accumulate Big Play Points. Once you've earned 100,000 Big Play Points, you can trigger the Power Blast or Big Heat modes, which just about guarantee a home run hit or a blazing strikeout at home plate. Even as an arcade-style game, The Bigs offers the complete suite of baseball actions during gameplay: bunt, steal bases, pick-off runners and even climb walls. My biggest complaint is that the outfield defense is almost a joke; very few hits are lofted into the outfield, resulting in the ball moving much too quickly to position players for a normal catch or recovery.
In The Bigs, Rookie Challenge mode is the equivalent of Career mode in other sports games. After creating a new player, you start out as a rookie at spring training where you'll begin to slowly build up your player's attributes such as hitting power, fielding ability and overall speed. This is accomplished by spending points which have been earned by performing well in games and by successfully completing training sessions. Training sessions are usually locked until you've won a practice, exhibition or regular season game, and there are a total of four different training mini-games. The training games, which include fielding, batting and running challenges, allow you to improve your skills and timing while also earning upgrade points for your player. Strangely, Rookie Challenge mode is the only place where you'll find game tutorials, which are activated during the first game you play as a rookie. Similar to some of the other play modes in The Bigs, you'll need to manually save your progress through the menu in Rookie Challenge mode; it's not automatically saved as you go.
Keep in mind that the Quick Play and Exhibition modes are very similar, and the main difference is that in the latter, you have the ability to customize various game parameters such as teams, rosters, stadiums, time of day, and difficulty levels.
Beyond the primary game modes, The Bigs has much more to offer. The Home Run Derby mini-game allows you to compete against another AI player in a home run batting competition. For optimal viewing, it's is presented in split-screen, and the first player to reach 10 home runs wins. This mini-game is quite a bit of fun and did wonders for improving my timing at the plate. Additionally, if you enjoy modifying rosters, The Bigs offers a complete roster editing mode, which allows you to create new players, edit players and even trade players between teams. Saving your modifications is a bit awkward; you need to enter the "Manage Rosters" menu to save the modified roster or created players before leaving this mode.
As you'd expect, The Bigs allows you to set up or join a game lobby in Ad-Hoc mode on the PSP. When trying to establish a connection with someone, you may find it more effective to keep your ad-hoc channel in automatic, or else you may experience ongoing problems connecting with your opponent.
The Bigs can be a surprisingly entertaining game as you race to rack up points to utilize turbo mode and unleash the might of Power Blast and Big Heat. It offers plenty of replay value with excellent game modes such as Rookie Challenge and the Home Run Derby. The game especially shines when competing head-to-head with friends in ad-hoc mode. On the down side, it loses a great deal of depth with its poor outfield control. Nevertheless, The Bigs is an entertaining title, especially if you don't always take your baseball too seriously.
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