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Sean Pearce
1986
Sport: Action
£8.95
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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32
Chris Bourne

Well, golly gee, it's good to see all you folks out there in limey land taking to our fabulous game of baseball. After all, this cricket you play what kinda game is that, for gosh sakes? A bunch of guys standing around in white pants all day or some times for a whole week. You're never going to get peak time programming to swallow that.

So now you'll all be wanting to know how to play this li'l ol' game. Well, first, the manager picks the squad. Nine guys are out on the ball park, and another 16 are back on the bench. You get plenty of dope on the guys in the team. The list gives you their normal fielding position, which way they bat, and their averages. A lot of these guys got silly names like there's some guy called Einstein, and this guy Asimov, whoever he is.

Once you've sorted your line up, it's out to the ball park, to face either the computer or a buddy. The screen shows just the pitcher, hitter, backstop and umpire, with a small insert showing which bases are occupied.

Most of the control in this game is accomplished by moving the joystick and pressing fire. At most stages, there are four possible choices. If you're pitching, then you've got to choose what kind of ball to pitch. There are four choices available out of eight types and the choice depends on the pitcher you've got. Red hot guys get nifty balls like Fastball!, or a real Joe Demaggio type can throw a curve that'll really blow the batter 's mind. Then there's a further choice of whereabouts the ball is aimed: up, down, left, right and centre. Then the pitcher winds up and throws.

Meanwhile, down at the plate, the batter has picked his shot and chooses his moment to strike at the ball. If he misses, then the backstop moves to catch the ball, and the umpire delivers his verdict: was the ball a strike? A hitter gets three strikes in which to hit the ball, after that he's out. If the pitcher throws four balls (what you cricket, types would call a no ball, I guess), the hitter gets to walk to first base.

If the hitter connects, the game moves to a view of the whole pitch, with the ball bouncing harmlessly out of bounds, or straight into the arms of a fielder, or, as you hope, streaking for the boundary. Then the fielders have to collect the ball and get it back to the bases. During this time, the fielding player gets to move the fielders around and choose where the ball gets thrown, again by using a menu and moving the joystick and pressing fire. The hitter from a menu to stay where he is, or run on to the next base.

One or two players can participate in Hardball. After three men are out, the teams change over. After both sides have been in nine times, the match is over. Each time a man gets round the bases, a point is scored. If the scores are level after nine innings, the game continues until one side wins.

CRITICISM

'This game has some of the slickest presentation I've ever seen on a Spectrum. The animation on the pitching screen is really nice, coupled with the use of some very pretty shading. And all through the game, there are plenty of decisions to keep your Interest up. Only two things mar an otherwise neat game: it's really hard to play, and it hangs around too long on the fielding screen. That coupled with the fact that I don't find baseball the world's most exciting game make this one a near miss for me, although I can see that a lot of hard work went in to making it this good'

'It's strange to see yet another Baseball simulation on the Speccy as it is a sport that has a relatively small following in the UK. This is more pleasing to play than IMAGINE's International Baseball as it has captured more of the spirit of the game. The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. The pitching screen is very well drawn, there are some nice large characters and lots of colour. The playing field, however, leaves a little to be desired. The sound is adequate but not brilliant, the effects are fairly extensive but the tune is poor. The only thing that I really disliked about Hardball is that it takes a lot of practice to get anywhere, though once you do, it becomes very addictive and playable too'

'With my limited knowledge of baseball and the fact I find the sport rather tedious to watch, I entered this game with a certain air of scepticism. To my surprise, I totally enjoyed playing it and as far as I can tell it covered all aspects of the sport, with the bonus of being able to change players as required. The graphics and animation of the pitcher and the batter are superb, some of the best I've seen on the Spectrum. I preferred pitching as I found I could do no end of fastballs and curves. On the other hand, I could never hit the ball when batting. All in all, a very impressive baseball simulation and I 'm sure it will do wonders for promoting the sport.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: definable
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: better than average
Graphics: technically accomplished
Sound: spot effects and tune
Skill levels: one
Screens: two
General Rating: A good simulation of a minority sport.

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Screenshot Text

Every pitcher tells a story. Strike three, and the batter's out.

The ball's streaking towards the boundary, none of the bases are covered, and Casey's trying for a home run.