Boot up and play ball!

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
July 14, 2003

The All-Star game hits Comiskey, um, US Cellular Field on Tuesday. For those who can’t get enough baseball, we’ve got some of this season’s big hitters and strikeouts … in videogames, we mean. As for the popcorn and peanuts, you’re on your own.

ALL-STAR BASEBALL 2004 **HOME RUN * From: Acclaim • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: GameCube

This one hits it out of the ballpark. The All-Star franchise always was a winner, but this latest version lets players re-create elements from the 2002 season. We determine that season’s outcome. I got a particular charge in helping the New York Met’s Mike Piazza lose. The Mets lost that game in real life, but it was that much sweeter knowing I had something to do with it. Diehard baseball gamers may be disappointed they can only play these one or two innings at a time. But jumping from inning to inning also keeps the game from getting redundant. –JHK

BACKYARD BASEBALL **HOME RUN * From: Atari • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: GameCube

Sure, the 30 characters created for the game and 10 pro athletes are rendered as 3D cartoons, but features like practice, single game and full season mode will almost make you forget kids are the game’s target audience. Easy to pick up, yet challenging enough to hold interest, Atari’s “Backyard Baseball” is a highly polished sports game. –MD

MLB SLUGFEST 2004 **HOME RUN * From: Midway • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: PlayStation 2

“Slugfest” is for every couch potato who likes to play dirty . . . in a videogame, that is. As its name suggests, little is out of bounds. Knock the ball out of a player’s hands? Good for you. You might want to whack him in the chest real hard while you’re at it. But be prepared, ’cause the other guy might give you a right hook to the nose. It’s not fair play, but it sure is fun. –JHK

MLB 2004 **BASE HIT * From: 989 Sports • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: PlayStation 2

Perfect for the casual player, this game is extremely easy to learn. Though the loading time is longer than on some other platforms, “MLB 2004” has an old-school feel that adds to the fun. The Spring Training mode is a hoot, but if you’re a stickler for the rules, the officiating will drive you nuts. Foul balls often aren’t called and the umpires sometimes let the players get away with murder. –JHK

MVP BASEBALL 2003 **BASE HIT * From: EA Sports Rated: E for Everyone Reviewed For: PlayStation 2

Two words set this above the pack: base cam. The picture-in-picture device helps you keep tabs on who may or may not be trying to steal each base. Players and ballparks are rendered nicely too, but where’s the online play? –MD

WORLD SERIES 2K3 BASEBALL **BASE HIT* From: Sega • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: PlayStation 2

The gameplay is fine, but I got a bigger kick watching the players move. The way they play is realistic to their real-life counterparts. If you wear glasses, take them off and you’ll swear you were watching a ballgame on TV rather than playing one on your PS2. To get really creative with the teams, go with the franchise mode, which lets you scout and select your players. You may not end up a season winner, but I promise you’ll have a lot of fun trying. –JHK

INSIDE PITCH 2003 **STRIKE OUT* From: Microsoft • Rated: E for Everyone • Reviewed For: Xbox

The only good thing I can say about “Inside Pitch 2003” is the ballparks are detailed. No franchise mode, poor player animation and the pitcher’s stamina bar that doesn’t work–I depleted the meter and the guy was still throwing 100 percent of his pitches. “IP” is definitely minor league. –MD

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