Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: The Bigs

in

0:01 This minute was mostly spent staring at various loading screens.

0:02 The options screen has only three settings: Difficulty, number of innings, and vibration. Such simplicity! I think I'm going to like this game.

0:03 I choose play now and dive into a Cincinnati vs. St. Louis match. Well, after another loading screen, that is.

0:04 ?Hi everyone. This is The Bigs,? says a decent-sounding announcer (whose name I fail to catch). Before I know it, I'm at bat. A circle shows where the ball will land in the strike zone -- high and outside. I swing and a slow-motion diving catch by the first baseman means I'm out. The other team gets 17,500 ?points.? I hope those aren't interchangeable with runs.

0:05 A catch and a strikeout later and my first inning is done. Sometimes the pitch location shows up beforehand and sometimes it doesn't. Confusing. Also, I can't tell if there's any more to swing control than just hitting A at the right time. Maybe I should look at the controls...

0:07 My first pitch is awful because I don't know how to work the power meter. Luckily, the hit comes right back to the pitcher. Easy out.

0:08 Now that I know when to let go of the power meter, I get my first strikeout, and five Achievement points for my trouble.

0:09 The hitter gets a double after another botched pitch. This system takes some getting used to.

0:10 The screen goes all black-and-white and slightly out-of-focus -- it's like looking through the eyes of a robot. I guess that was good for the computer, because he belted one through the first baseman to drive the runner home.

0:11 Apparently, the robot eyes showed the computer activating Turbo, because the same thing happens when I activate it. Makes my fastball a lot faster, that's for sure. It's not fast enough, though -- the hitter still puts it in play. The ball bounces off the first baseman and stays in the infield, but I can't grab it because I'm too slow to switch which fielder I'm controlling. This is going to take some practice...

0:12 A couple more doubles and it's 4-0. What's more, the batter just activated something called Power Blast. Gulp.

0:13 Power blast lives up to its name ... now it's 6-0. Plus I can't throw fastballs anymore. Gawd!

0:14 A slow grounder to first mercifully ends the inning.

0:15 I'm up ... and down in another 1-2-3 inning. I have real trouble making contact with the ball, and when I do, it's either a foul or goes right to a fielder. Sigh.

0:16 Whoa. I flip a perfect double-play ball to the second baseman, but he gets absolutely DECKED by the sliding runner in a slow-motion crash. ?Now that's some big time major league action,? says the announcer. I'm pretty sure nothing in that collision is allowed in the MLB.

0:17 Now I can't throw sliders anymore. I change to a fresh guy ... in the second inning. Sad, I know.

0:18 Another strikeout gets me out of the inning -- and I get another new achievement! I'm getting the hang of this pitching thing.

0:20 Strikeout, a caught line drive, and another strikeout ends my inning quickly. I just can't get the offense going ...

0:22 ... I'm getting better at the fielding, though. I get a 1-2-3 inning without even relying on strikeouts.

0:24 OMG BASE HIT! Aided by strikeout-accrued Turbo, I hit a power shot to the left corner for a double. Whoo! Then a quick grounder to first ends the inning. Oh well. I DID SOMETHING ON OFFENSE!

0:26 Remember when I said I was getting better at fielding? I lied. The computer gets three hits in a row, all easily fieldable, if I could just make the players DO WHAT I WANT THE BALL IS RIGHT THERE JUST CATCH IT ARGGGHH! Not that I'm bitter.

0:28 My fifth strikeout of the game gets me out of the inning. Thank god I'm good at something.

0:30 I never even make contact in my final set of at bats. 11-0 is the final in five innings. Maybe I should try Easy.

0:32 Easy ... doesn't seem much easier, at least as far as hitting. All the pitches are still at the corners and nigh unhittable (for me, at least). The second baseman drops one catch, though, so I got a guy on base. Victory?

0:33 The pitch meter seems much easier in the lower difficulty. I get eight ?perfect? pitches in a row without really trying, and two strikeouts for my trouble.

0:36 HA! A Turbo-aided hit knocks down the pitcher and gets me in for a single. Maybe Turbo is the key to helping my hitting.

0:37 Maybe not. My next two Turbo hits are uninspired grounder sacrifices. The third is a foul. WEAK!

0:40 Perfect pitches notwithstanding, every time the ball is put into play I have trouble doing anything with the fielding. My throws are late, my fielders are slow -- I'm just at a loss.

0:42 I'm finally getting the batting timing down! I get two ?perfect? doubles (according to an in-game pop-up message) for my first run. Playing around with the running controls, the second runner stops between first and second. He's literally frozen midstride, and I can't figure out how to restart him. The result is a hilarious out. I don't care, though. RUN GET!

0:43 Despite my control problems, I'm liking the fast pace of the game. My main problem with real baseball (and most virtual baseball) is the sluggishness. Not a problem here.

0:44 Another 1-2-3 inning on strikeouts.

0:45 Using Turbo on a changeup is just ... wrong.

0:47 Fifth and final inning. Another Turbo-amplified, ?perfect? single gets me enough power for a Power Blast of my own. Just watch that baby fly! CLANG off the foul pole and -- the crowd boos? I know I'm the away team, but that's just discouraging. Still, I'm up 3-0.

0:49 Two quick hits and it's first and third with one out. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of hitting?

0:50 I get one more guy home with a bloop single, but the next pop bounces off the shortstop and into the first baseman's hand.

0:51 My 10th strikeout gets me my sixth achievement in an hour. Nice.

0:52 A grounder to first and I WIN! Easy is definitely more my speed for now. I'm still making errors, but not enough to make it uncompetitive. It's even -- dare I say it -- fun?

0:53 Not much time left. Let's try Home Run Pinball. ?Rip balls into Times Square to earn points.? Intriguing.

0:55 Like it says on the package, I'm standing in the middle of Times Square knocking out the trademark neon signs (replaced with 2K Sports logos, etc.). It's good for practicing the timing of batting and kind of interesting, but kind of pointless, too.

0:58 Plain old Home Run Derby is done with a pointless split-screen (so I can watch the computer play?) and some odd rules (a bonus pitch is worth double?). Home runs seem a lot easier here, too ... meh.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.


Why? After the initial learning curve shock, I feel like I'm finally getting into the ?swing? of things (har har). Seems perfect for breaking out when a friend is over.

This column is based on a retail copy rented from GameFly.

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