Summer is baseball season. There is nothing better than a day at the ballpark when the weather is warm, scarfing down a few hotdogs and rooting on the home team (Go Yankees!). It’s a nostalgic feeling I get every spring, which I usually celebrate by submerging myself in baseball video games for a few weeks.
This spring I got to try out three baseball games, each vastly different from one another, each with it’s own unique niche in the marketplace. While there are other baseball sims out there, these three franchises immediately caught my attention because of their depth and scope. Here are some strengths and weaknesses of each franchise, and why you should consider them based on their accessibility and breadth of content.
MLB The Show 16
If you’ve been following our accessibility reviews, you know this franchise (and the next on the list) have consistently received stellar reviews. Not only is MLB The Show 16 highly accessible, but it is also the best 3D baseball sim on the admittedly thin market. While previous console generations have had AAA competitors such as 2K Baseball and MVP Baseball, The Show stands as the lone big budget MLB game left.
The argument for The Show franchise is an easy one to make. It’s depth of modes, crisp gameplay and innovative accessibility features put it in the upper echelon of sports games for both authenticity and accessibility. Whether you want to take control of your home team and act as their General Manager, create a player and take him from high school through the MLB Draft, or just jump on the field and hit a couple home runs off of your favorite pitcher in your favorite park. Adaptive difficulty, fielding and base running assists make the act of playing baseball incredibly accessible in a way most sports games aren’t. MLB The Show 16 stands above the other two games on the list as the most action packed experience.
The downside to MLB The Show 16 is that it is a first party game and exclusive to Playstation platforms (please bring back the Vita version Sony). Players on PC and other consoles are left in the cold, and have been for a few years.
Full review: http://www.unstoppablegamer.com/mlb-the-show-16/
Out of the Park Baseball 17
Thankfully, PC players have a stellar hardcore baseball simulation game in the Out of the Park Baseball series. Out of the Park Baseball is perhaps the most complex game on our list. Aspiring general managers will put thousands of hours into tinkering with numbers and micromanaging their team down to every pitch of every game. The difference between Out of the Park Baseball 17 and MLB The Show 16 (besides the number) is that OOTPB is a much more analytical game, where bats and balls are replaced with numbers and graphs.
You don’t actually “play” baseball in the sense that you are pressing a button to swing the bat and hit a ball coming at your character at 95 miles per hour. It’s a management simulation, where you don’t play baseball yourself, but issues orders to your team on the field. Instead, OOTP Baseball gives you a list of commands that change depending on the situation. Instead of a baseball player, you take the role of a baseball manager, issuing orders and watching your team carry them out.
That is a downside in the sense that to some people may feel like it is less of a “game” than The Show, but OOTPB has depth in spades and enough interactivity to keep you engaged for many seasons of virtual baseball. Not to mention OOTPB features professional baseball leagues from around the world and historical rosters to play with.
It’s also worth noting that OOTPB 17 is near perfect in terms of accessibility. Like past entries in the franchise, text-to-speech and a plethora of options ensure the game can be played by everyone, regardless of their needs. While The Show requires some fine motor skills, precision and timing, none of that is present in OOTPB and the next game our list, making them easier to play for some.
Strat-O-Matic’s Baseball 2016 with Baseball Daily 2016
(In lieu of a full review, we’ll run down the game’s strengths and weaknesses here)
Strat-O-Matic, long time maker of fantasy sports board games and products, recently let me get my hands on Baseball Daily, an add-on to Baseball 16, their Windows game. Baseball Daily initially intrigued me because of its premise: a game where player stats and ratings are updated daily with each player’s real life performance. Fantasy sports has always been a big interest of mine, and anyone who has ever played them know how much fun it is to micro manage a daily lineup and make roster moves based on a MLB player’s real performance. This concept, on paper, is the culmination of everything leading up to this point. Unfortunately, Baseball Daily has many problems, but perhaps most egregious are it’s issues with accessibility.
The Baseball 2016 platform runs on Windows XP or higher. Strat-O-Matic notes that older operating systems may work, but they are not officially supported. That in itself is a hint at how dated the user interface is. Font sizes are small, numbers are bunched together and the layout is confusing. While there are ample sound options (even though sound isn’t necessary to play the game), there are colorblind issues and no way to make the font bigger. There are some strange design and layout choices that make elements of the presentation hard to see and interact with. Red font over brown backgrounds make words difficult to read and stadium pictures are blurry in game.
Requisite knowledge of Strat-O-Matic’s rating systems is necessary and frankly as a newcomer with no experience with their products before, I felt lost. Baseball Daily has a vast help menu with dozens of entries that I suppose you could study to learn the ins and outs of the franchise but that is far less than ideal for casual fans. In comparison with its competitors and the other games on this list, Baseball Daily has the least bang for its buck, the chunkiest presentation and most accessibility issues.
Here’s the bottom line; Baseball Daily is a neat and unique concept that is executed poorly with a presentation that is desperately in need of an upgrade. Strat-O-Matic’s Windows game shares many similarities with Out of the Park Baseball. They rely on numbers, analytical thinking and include a vast amount of depth. The difference is that OOTPB does practically everything better, more efficiently and frankly in an easier, user friendly way. You can just tell by comparing a screenshot of each game that one company is a video game developer and the other is not.
Major League Baseball games are some of the crispest, accessible sports games on the market. MLB The Show 16 and Out of the Park Baseball 17, while vastly different experiences, feature top level gameplay and almost flawless accessibility. Baseball Daily, while a brilliant idea, cannot match Out of the Park 17 in terms of quality and polish.
Strat-O-Matic needs to study their competitors closely and take a long look at accessibility and ease of use before we could recommend this game. This starts with an overhaul of their UI, a user friendly introduction to the Strat-O-Matic system to help new players learn the ropes, and an overall better understanding what disabled gamers require in order to play. I truly hope Strat-O-Matic makes the necessary changes and delivers on their vision and the immense potential of Baseball Daily, because flawlessly syncing real sports and fantasy sports can lead the way into the future of sports video games, if done correctly.
As for MLB The Show and OOTP Baseball, the decision is purely left up to preference. If you enjoy playing baseball, taking control of your favorite players and watching them smash home runs and striking out the side, MLB The Show 16 offers that experience better than any video game of its genre. However, if you love getting down and dirty in statistical analysis, farm systems and the managerial aspect of Major League Baseball, Out of the Park Baseball 17 lets you tinker with numbers, lineups and roster moves in depth.
Both games having near perfect accessibility features just makes this choice sweeter. Instead of picking and choosing which game you can play, you can pick the game that you want to play and not have to worry about accessibility after the fact. Major League Baseball games are in a special place right now, and even casual fans of the sport owe it to themselves to check out these games as they are the prime example of accessibility.