I want to clarify, from the start, that I absolutely hate to rate a game badly. It isn't that I have a habit of giving games more credit than it deserves but I always try to find the "good" in games and efforts from developers. I have an immeasurable amount of respect for the gaming industry and those who do all that they can to contribute to it... even if they fall short in their efforts. Baseball Blast is a game that has a ton of potential: it has a great license, a great publisher, and an excellent premise, but the execution just falls short... very short.
In its design, Baseball Blast is meant to be a party game to be enjoyed by friends and groups of friends. From its core, it is a game designed for the family to bring everyone together to have a lot of fun around the television. The only problem is that there are so many shortcomings in the game itself that it prevents this fun from ever getting started. From the start, the game looks pretty good. They have a great art style that they decided to base the game on which is very reminiscent of Valve's Team Fortress 2. It is very colorful, animated, and has the MLB licenses and its various teams written all over it, making it very attractive to even the most casual baseball fans. The problem is that this style wears thin on you quickly because you realize that coming up the with idea of using that style is as far as they have gone.
Every character in the game, player and fan alike uses the EXACT same character model. It is funny that the fans in the crowd are just as "buff" as the athletes on the field. The only differences is that skin tone(s), hairstyles, facial hair, and hats. This is made into an even bigger issue considering that one of the mini-games involves you picking out a certain fan from the crown within the given time limit. This becomes very difficult considering they all look almost exactly alike. Had they taken the time to expand on the art style and create different characters in the same vein, then there would be an untouchable element of character added to the game. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and this "character" just doesn't exist.
The same complaint could be had for the audio in the game. While the game does have commentary by Bob Uecker and another commentator (who I wasn't familiar with), the voice tracks seem limited. It wasn't even 15 minutes in that I was hearing constant repetition in the various sound clips. I was hearing these duplicates in the first 15 minutes and I think I had the entire sound sample collection more than memorized after 3 hours of play. It got to the point where I could predict which sample was going to be used in almost every situation. Needless to say, it got very annoying.
The game itself is a collection of 20 mini games that are based, though sometimes barely, on baseball themes. You will find your self playing dogdeball with a pitching machine, hitting homeruns into outer space and steering them through the galaxy, completing platformer style obstacle courses to run bases, and even hitting back cannon balls at pirate ships Homerun Derby style. These are just a handful of the many games included in the game. As fun as they may sound in premise, particularly the cannonball game, the horrible and non-responsive controls make them an absolute bear to play. The one game in particular that comes to mind when I think of this complaint is Slide, Slide, which is sort of a platforming mini game where you have to dodge obstacles while collecting stars as you "round" the bases. The only thing that you need to do is to either jump or slide over or under obstacles; unfortunately, despite the fact that you often need to do combinations of both in quick succession, the game does not register an action immediately following one before it. There are times where it comes down to being almost impossible to complete a certain section or gather a certain star... it just feels fundamentally broken. This feeling expanded into many other mini games, keeping them from being enjoyable in even the slightest manner.
The same sluggish controls existed in the various bumper car style games and the batting games which are reliant on precise timing. I had hopes in the fact that the game supported the Wii Motion Plus (WMP) accessory that some of my concerns would be addressed by connecting the WMP dongle to the Wiimote, but it didn't. Using the WMP added absolutely nothing to the game. There were no additional games that were not accessible without it and there were no noticeable improvements to the existing games by adding it. The inclusion of WMP support is pointless and adds absolutely nothing to the game.On top of the broken controls, the length of the games hinders the ability to enjoy them as well. The games are often over with very quickly, easily less than a minute, and often quicker than the loading screens required to load the game in question. It just isn't fun.
The broken control mechanics that I have mentioned make it very difficult to complete the goals given to you by the game in order to progress. Even though the game includes benchmarks which it calls "achievements", they become nearly impossible to obtain due to the inability to make your character do what you want it to do when you want them to do it; the controls break the game. While this is supposed to be a kid friendly, family game, I would imagine that they would get extremely frustrated and get the impression that there are games that just aren't meant to be won.
The multiplayer mode of the game had a lot of promise as well; the party mode has a great premise in that is plays out as sort of a combination baseball / card game. Players alternate playing minigames which earn them various cards that they can play which will determine how they progress in the simulation of a baseball game. Cards include actions that may give your batters bonus attributes for their at-bat or cards that negatively effect the opponent's attempt at-bat. On paper and in theory, this could be fun, but the mini games break the whole system.
Playing through the single player experience and unlocking the locked mini games will also unlock two additional modes for players to access. The first mode is a baseball trivia mode that is very reminiscent of the on-screen trivia games included in many sports bars. This was the most redeeming part of the game in my opinion and the mode that I had the most fun with. You can also unlock a puzzle mode which has the player using the Wiimote to put together baseball themed jigsaw puzzles. There is no benefit to accessing either of these modes which makes them feel tacked on in the end. Even though I found the trivia game remotely enjoyable, it was pointless in the long run of things.
I don't know what else to say except for summarizing that this game is a complete mess, top to bottom. Even the slightest redeeming qualities, like the fun trivia mode an the quirky art style are quickly overshadowed by the numerous other shortcomings of the game. The game feels rushed and quickly thrown together and a waste of the MLB license. There didn't seem to be a lot of time put into the game and is shows in the final product. Despite this overall opinion of Baseball Blast, there is the groundwork here for a game that could be enjoyable in the future. Hopefully 2K can learn from this title and produce something infinitely more enjoyable in the future as the market for this type of game is definitely there...