First of all, it’s important to note how avid a baseball fan I am. I did not pick this game up for the easy gamerscore or the cheap price, but rather because I honestly just love playing baseball games. Therefore my wording may reflect that in my review, but I’ll try to be as honest as possible. That being said, I don’t intend to explain all of baseball in this review – if you have no idea how the concept of baseball works, this might be a good game to start on, but for simplicity’s sake I will be skipping any in-depth explanations of how the sport works. Let’s begin.
Sandlot Sluggers is an arcade style baseball game. As a young child I would play Backyard Football on my Windows 98 computer and this game reflects that same kind of enjoyment. To be clear, the mechanics of baseball are there. You can contact swing, power swing, bunt, steal, tag up on sacrifice flies, throw curveballs, intentionally walk, etc. The story mode is where you will probably be spending most of your time. You start off with your team playing against different teams as you go. Each player on the team has stats that are separated into multiple categories (speed, hitting, fielding, pitching). Each team that you face will have one “super star” who does something extraordinary (top skill pitcher, top skill hitter, etc). There are about nine or so teams to beat, which, upon completion, you will face the bullies (the enemy in your story) in a game complete with all of the super stars that you have played against.
The arcade style comes through most obviously in the forms of power-ups. Upon doing something well (striking out a batter, getting a hit, stealing a base, etc) you’ll accumulate points on a bar in the corner that allow you to do a power-up. While pitching this will allow you to throw a specialty pitch (decided by a random type spinner). These include such things as the yo-yo ball, which is a pitch where a string is attached, which makes it yank back before crossing the plate, then going forward again. This will confuse the batter, causing him to probably swing early. While hitting you’ll get special abilities as well that make the game significantly more exciting. You can accumulate a couple of the power-ups at one time (though you can only use one at a time), so a mild amount of strategy in when to use them will factor in.
Besides the story mode you’re also welcome to play in a quick play mode. On the negative side, many of the power-ups can be bypassed by simply holding the bunt button, making the “difficult timing” of the specialty pitches unimportant (though I only witnessed the computer using this once against me). The story mode is very capable of being beat in one sitting (I stayed up late one night beating it because of how much fun it was), probably around 6 hours at the most, with significantly less if you force the other team into the mercy rule. You’re always more than welcome to try to beat through the game again, which gives it a small bit of replay value, but overall it’s a pretty short game.
In totality the single player is fun, I enjoyed completing it, but considering its length, it definitely might lend itself better to a rental…
Single Player Score: 7/10
There is a local multiplayer that you can play with two people. You can choose the amount of innings, what team you want to use, and what park you want to play in. The usual problem exists in that it’s difficult to hide where your pitch is going to be, and the problem I posed earlier of being able to circumvent the power-ups is still an issue. Despite that, it’s a solid game mode to play if you have a girlfriend/boyfriend or small child. There’s nothing wrong with it but there’s no added excitement to it either. It’s simply just “solid”. No online multiplayer.
Multiplayer Score: 7/10
The characters in this game are children and they look similar to the old xbox 360 avatars. Considering the game is supposed to pander towards younger children and contains an arcade type feel, it makes logical sense that the graphics would retain that look as well. They are above average for sure, especially for a family game, and are more than adequate for the type of game that it is. The only thing that annoyed me was that they played the same cut-scene inbetween innings every single time – which includes a child running in and half-tripping. I can still see it clearly in my mind despite being more than a month removed from the game.
Like most baseball games there are some announcers that talk while the game is going on. They say some interesting things every once in a while, and if you don’t know baseball that well they can often times fill you in on what’s going on. However, most of the time they are describing the players with some typical baseball adjectives. In totality though, these announcers have a very limited amount of things to say, which leads to repetitiveness rather quickly. This resulted in the muting of my sound about halfway through the single player mode.
There is no DLC. Intangibly, the game is easy to pick up and play, and probably perfect for a younger audience. If I was getting a twelve year old his first xbox 360, and he was a fan of baseball, this game would be coming with it. The game is family-friendly and contains a straight-forward story mode that will never have you wondering what to do next. You also don’t require a significant amount of baseball knowledge to be able to play the game, which helps it to appeal to a larger audience. Of course all of this can be viewed negatively (the game is too simple, the game isn’t suitable for anyone above 16, it’s too linear), but 16+ year old people without kids were not who this game was targeted at. You need to have a pretty lax personality in order to truly enjoy the game.
Graphics: 8/10. Sound: 5/10. DLC: N/A. Intangibles: 7/10. Section Score: 6.6/10
Let me start with this line: the achievements are exceptionally easy. I could have potentially 100%ed this game in one sitting if I had been in the mood to do so. There will be maybe three achievements that you will have to “set yourself up for” (winning a game with a walk off homerun for example), but all of those can be achieved in local multiplayer, which makes them a breeze. There is one notable missable achievement (completing the story mode with the mercy rule), but even if I hadn’t been aware of it I probably would have accidently done it anyway since the game is pretty simple. There are genuinely no hard achievements, just a couple to be aware of before you go into it to make sure you don’t have to play through again.
Now obviously this is both good and bad to people. It’s good to people looking for an easy 1000 gamerscore and completionists. It’s bad to people who like ratio or think that the point of achievements is to enhance the gaming experience, which is the category I fall into. I would love more than anything if there were some more achievements in this game that still gave me some incentive to keep playing, but that’s a point of view. My score here will reflect that view, but if you are an avid gamerscore-junkie or a strong-completionist, I can understand if you disagree with it.
Achievement Score: 6/10
Final Score: (6 + 6.6 + 7 + 7)/4 = 6.6/10 = 3.3/5
I think it’s pretty clear if this game will be for you. If you enjoy family style games (or have someone in your family who does) and also enjoy baseball, but don’t want to be too serious about it, this is the game for you. If you want a challenge, a high TA ratio, a complex story mode, or top-tier graphics, this is something that you should probably avoid. I personally liked this game very much and enjoyed playing it, but I still don’t think it should be purchased for any more than twenty dollars, and might be best suited for a rental. I hope you enjoyed reading my review, if you feel I misrepresented anything or omitted anything important, please let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to include it. Thanks!