I grew up in the NES/SNES generation of video games, so I'm old enough to remember the simple yet fun sports games of the past but not too old to feel like "MLB: The Show" is too complex to handle.
As enjoyable as "The Show" is, there's a certain charm in a stripped-down sports game that lets gamers rely on just a couple buttons and complete a game in way less than an hour. That's why MLB Advanced Media's reboot of the "R.B.I. Baseball" franchise sounded like fun.
And "R.B.I. Baseball 14" is fun, for sure, but it's also in need of some more seasoning and some more... well, more.
The game, a download-only which was released on Wednesday for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and iOS devices, allows for exhibition, regular season and postseason play. That's it. No online multiplayer, no roster viewer and no home run derby.
Curiously, there's an online leaderboard that allows for seeing how one stacks up against the rest of the "R.B.I." users. But what good is that when there's no way to face them remotely?
I suppose it's a good measuring stick for how one should expect to play against AI opponents. If early returns on the PlayStation 3 version are any indication, the computer opponent will serve up plenty of hits, but likely will thrash your own pitching, too. Pitchers, by the way, will tire after about four innings just as they did in the original "R.B.I. Baseball," which wasn't exactly a charming throwback.
The gameplay in "R.B.I." is just as simplified as its selection of modes, which is not an issue in this case. The problem is that the presentation is super bland. Old-school baseball games, including the first "R.B.I.," often featured infectious music overlays during play to spice up the audio. The original "R.B.I." ditty makes a cameo when the game boots up, but that looks to be about it.
Hopefully, the team at MLBAM will throw a little more love into the presentation if it releases a new edition in 2015; elements such as postgame stats and a few more fun animations wouldn't change the formula but would go a long way with the overall experience.
While I wasn't able to test out a two-player local game, it seems like that would be plenty more fun than facing the AI, which won't make the same fielding mistakes as you. It's recommended that the assisted fielding setting be turned on to minimize that issue because catching a fly ball in the outfield is like shooting in the dark.
Despite all its issues, "R.B.I." is on the right track. It's easy to pick up and learn in a few minutes, and games last around 20 minutes -- even less when opting to play games as short as one inning long. It's a different enough experience from "The Show" to stand out on its own.
At $20 for gaming consoles, "R.B.I." is quite overpriced. If online play is added this summer as promised, it becomes a much more reasonable price point and that's when I'd suggest gamers pounce on it. The mobile game seems like a bargain at $5, but without testing how it plays on a touch screen it would be inappropriate to recommend it.