Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Release Date: June 25, 2007
I swear, the Wii is the most schizophrenic system I've ever had the privilege to have in my house.
Its advertising spin is that of the everyman's (and woman's, and child's) game system, with intuitive, immersive controls that, in theory, make every title that comes out for it easy as pie to play. Several developers have taken this to heart, and as a consequence, we've gotten seriously awesome mini-game showcases like Rayman: Raving Rabbids, WarioWare: Touched, and, oddly enough, the Madden games, which are doing their best to make sure even your grandma has a reason to pay for yearly football.
On the other side of the equation, though, we get games like The Bigs, which are anything but intuitive. Do not believe the back of the box — there is no way you'll be able to jump into this game without going through the somewhat-lengthy tutorial segments. Wii Sports Baseball, this is absolutely not, despite the fact that it's an arcade-style baseball game on the Wii.
Developers, could you please make up your minds? I'm getting very confused here.
The good news is that The Bigs on the Wii does work as advertised, and is actually pretty cool once you learn it. This is, however, a big "if." The game isn't played as if you're actually on the field — it plays from your couch. Horizontal and vertical swing motions, combined with buttons and twists of your arm handle everything from batting to pitching to fielding. Practice it for a half-hour, and it is the most immersive (and the most tiring) version of this game on all consoles by far. However, depending on your views and standards on what Wii gaming should be like, your mileage may vary. Adding to the immersion, though, are the surprisingly impressive graphics and sound. Even close-up, the player models are large and detailed. There's no slowdown to speak of, and all the baseball field sounds and announcements you'd expect are in the title. Presentation is a big part of a game like this, and even on the least powerful of this generation's systems, the developers nailed it.
I can say that the Wiimote gestures work perfectly in every circumstance, and directions are perfectly understood. However, there are so many combinations of moves that it can be hard to remember what to do in each situation. The result is that you won't be playing The Bigs to its full potential for a while after the first time you boot it up. Getting the timing down for each gesture can be tricky business until you learn the nuances, and even then, it doesn't factor in the occasional shoulder-tackle from a runner trying to steal home plate.
Yes, shoulder-tackles. What sets The Bigs apart from other baseball games is the adrenaline factor, which can be compared to its current rival, Midway's Slugfest series. The better you play your baseball, the more of a high score you rack up. Accumulate enough of a score, and you're awarded with meter, which you can use to beef up your players, or break the rules of baseball and/or physics via the Big Play technique. Suddenly your batters have super arms, and your pitchers know no-hitters like the back of their hands. The screen goes blue, and God help the opposing team, because your day's about to go down the toilet.
This is all pretty cool, but you know, it's been a while since we've seen a game really go nuts with the sport. There's some violence here, yes, and some turbocharged moves. Easy home runs and super-fast action are the order of the day, and Midway's Slugfest games provide similar gameplay via different venues and special effects. However, for my money, both developers need to sit down with a copy of the SNES' Super Baseball Simulator 1.000, the last video game to truly turn the sport of baseball on its head and back again. Players could nab power-ups, cause earthquakes, cause the screen to rotate madly during fielding attempts, make the ball move erratically … the game made baseball wacky and unpredictable, yet stayed simple and easy to play. It'd be a perfect fit for the Wii.
At any rate, back to The Bigs. Its career mode is named Rookie Challenge, where you create your own player, place a team around him, and then attempt to win the pennant. There are a few mini-games that you play to build up your character, but otherwise, it's a series of baseball matches, just like in other simulators. Out of all the modes, though, the Home Run Derby is a very good way to practice your batting as well has to have a good amount of quick-play kickback fun, and I encourage everyone to try it.
In all, The Bigs is a decent baseball game for the Wii, but it really plays more like a game of real baseball than one is led to believe. Should you buy it? This is a subjective question, honestly. This game is to baseball what Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 is to fighting games. It succeeds wonderfully in adding immersion to the experience, but in order to fully enjoy that immersion, there's so much you have to remember, and so little time to remember it in. Rent this one first to see if you like it. If you're looking for a baseball game with some meat on its bones, that you and your hardcore buddies can have a blast in, then The Bigs just might be for you. If you want some baseball that's conducive to easy, casual party games, though, it's best to stick with Wii Sports.
As for me, I'm still waiting for my Super Baseball Simulator 2.000. Come on, folks — it'd be perfect.
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