Slide Charlie Brown, Slide...

TV Sports Baseball logo

MINDSCAPE * £25.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out now

TV Sports Baseball is the third release in the TV Sports series. American Football was the first, and it just so happens that it was rather good. I say was, because the game has now been superseded by the highly acclaimed John Madden's Football. Next in the series was TV Sports Basketball, which oddly enough received a number of mixed reviews. Now here's TV Sports Baseball, and you know what? Baseball is a funny old game (Acme Jimmy Greaves quote).

The idea behind it is simple. Whoever scores the most points wins. A point is awarded by running around all four bases. It is just as simple to play. A pitcher hurls a ball at the batter - and when I say "hurtles" I mean it, because some of these pitchers can throw balls at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. The batter must hit the ball - if he doesn't it's called a strike.

If the batter misses three times, it's three strikes and he's out. If he manages to hit the ball, he must run to first base or further depending on how far the ball travels.

If the ball is hit over one of the surrounding fences, the batter scores a home run, everyone goes a bit bonkers and the batter is allowed to trot around all four bases looking very smug indeed.

Unfortunately for the batter, there are many ways of getting yourself out. One - you can be caught out. Two - three strikes and you're out. Three - while running between bases you can be tagged with the ball and you're out. Ahem. Four - while running between bases, the fielders can throw the ball to the base where he's running to and stump the base - the poor hapless batter is out. Five - if the batter hits the ball behind, it's one strike. If he does it again it's two strikes, but if he does it again he doesn't get out.

I told you it was a funny game, this baseball lark. So he's not out, but it improves the pitcher's chance of getting him out. As you can see, the odds are heavily weighed against the batter.

Well, that's the game and some of the rules explained. What you're probably wondering is if this TV Sports Baseball malarkey is any good. The answer is no with a capital N. It's rubbish.

For starters, take a good long thoughtful look at baseball. What did you see? Just kidding! When I look at baseball I see atmosphere, I see thousands of completely mad Americans screaming and shouting for their teams. In TV Sports Baseball you could hear a blooming pin drop. There are a few samples of the umpire shouting "Ssstttrrikkkeeee Onnneee" and so on, but the only crowd sound is when you score a home run and the crowd suddenly spring into action. No, nein, non , zilch atmosphere.

The second problem is batting. I know baseball is a tough game, but at least let me hit the ball. The ball comes at you like a nuclear missile - well sort of - and you swing your bat in hope that you're going to hit it, and miss. Next ball, you swing, you miss. And again and again until it's time for you to field. When you eventually hit the ball, you haven't a clue how you did it.

Most of the time it's a foul shot, or you smack the bugger, it looks as though it's going to be a home run and it drops pathetically into some fielder's hand and you're out.

Fielding is much more fun than batting, simply because it's easier. As I write, I'm on my fourth match in the league and still haven't won. It's not because I'm rubbish - no one else in the office can do it either.

On the press release it says, and I quote: "The most complete computer-baseball game ever developed". I think that should have had a great big "Not!" at the end because someone somewhere's been telling porkies.

The graphics are fairly good, but they're not as good as RBI Baseball 2. In fact the whole game is nowhere near as good as RBI Baseball 2.

To top it all off it needs a megabyte of memory, and I thought one meg games were meant to be good. Take a look at Team 17s Project X and Alien Breed to see how a one meg game should be made.
If you love baseball don't waste your money on this - you'll become terribly depressed. Turn Channel Four on and watch the game instead.

TV Sports Baseball logo

Mindscape * £25.99

Baseball eh? Essentially a souped-up version of rounders, but with more pedantic rules and regulations which the TV Sports version sticks to like glue. You control each member of the batting team until three are out. Then you switch to the pitcher, and attempt to do the same to the opposition. Controlling your players is really simple: a click of the fire-button launches a ball or swings the bat, and the rest is down to luck (and maybe a bit of timing).

TV Sports provides a few good moments: panning views of the baseball field, accompanied by the commentator's speech, but to be honest it's not exactly a world of excitement.

TV Sports Baseball logo

Mindscape * £14.99

Do you remember Accolade's Hardball on the C64? Well, Mindscape are attempting to prove that game technology hasn't moved on at all in the last five years of their TV Sports version of the game on their budget label.

Played in a very similar fashion to the aforementioned game, Baseball puts you in control of a team of from the American leagues, competing in a stadium of your choice. The decor of the stadia doesn't really affect the game of course, but frivolous additions such as this are necessary to show that the Amiga is being used to at least 10 per cent of its full potential.

As it stands, the game isn't that bad at all. THe problem is there just isn't enough fun involved in playing it. Control the batting team for a while, and hope that luck's on your side so that you can hit the ball; then move into fielding (where you have a bit more input to the game), and throw the ball around each of your players for a while.

Much like Hardball, this is fun for a short while when you play against the computer. Competing with a human the fun will last longer as you attempt to make your opponent drop the ball more times than you do. Nice graphics, shame about the playability.

Kanal fatal

TV Sports Baseball logo

Arme Company: Erst ging Cinemaware die Kohle aus, worauf die Firma von Mirrorsoft geschluckt wurde, dann wechselte man zu Mindscape, weil Mirrorsoft nun selbst pleite ist. Arme Fans: Auch die aktuelle PC-Konvertierung kann nicht an den Ruhm vergangener Tage anknüpfen...

..was aber keinesfalls heißen soll, daß wir ihr generell ein Amutszeugnis ausstellen müßten. Nein, der US-Sport spielt sich hier ganz nett, auch im Duo-Modus, wo zwei Werfer und Schläger gegeneinander antreten dürfen.

Noch während des Abwurfs kann die Flugrichtung des Balls beeinflußt werden, beim Schlag natürlich auch - die Kamera schaltet dann automatisch auf die Ecke im Stadion, wo die Kugel gerade liegt oder fliegt. Scrolling und Animation gehen dabei voll in Ordnung, aber die Grafik hat halt trotz des obligaten Reporter-Screens nicht mehr die Klasse von Klassikern wie "TV Sports Basketball" oder "Football". Und auch der Soundteppich mit seinen wenigen FX, dem bißchen Sprachausgabe, und den ganz netten Musiken bei den trocken präsentierten Menüs scheint uns ein wenig dünn gewebt zu sein.

An Features wird so das Übliche geboten: Man darf sich für eines von 26 Teams entscheiden, Statistiken begutachten, zwischen Einzelspiel und Ligamodus (bis zu maximal 162 Partien) wählen, die Mannschaftsaufstellung ändern und mittels Editor Spielereigenschaften verschlimmbessern. Das ist nicht unbedingt die Welt, zumal lange Ladezeiten die Freude an der gelungenen Joystick-Steuerung und dem simplen Gameplay trüben.

Alte Cinemaware-Fans werden somit von der Präsentation ein wenig enttäuscht sein, und alte Baseballer warten ohnehin auf die Umsetzung des viel komplexeren "Hardball III"- schade. (pb)

TV Sports Baseball logo

Cinemaware's acclaimed TV Sports series returns, this time under the Mindscape label. First up to bat (ahem) is this long-awaited baseball simulation.

Almost a year ago, RBI Two Baseball arrived on the Amiga scene to mixed reactions. It wasn't that the game wasn't up to scratch. Everyone agreed that it covered the sports of baseball fairly comprehensively and was on the whole (ignoring a few gameplay niggles) a thoroughly professional and well produced package.

The problem was with the sport itself. Don't get me wrong, no one was of the opinion that baseball was the pitbull C5 of sports, but there was a strong tide of feeling that the game simply isn't suited to a home computer. The people who felt this most strongly argued that the thrill of baseball is in getting out in the fresh air, having a slog with your mates in the summertime and generally - well, getting physical. Playing baseball on the computer is like trying to fly a computerised kite - a pale, shadow of the real thing that totally misses the point of doing it.

On the other hand though, there were those baseball aficionados who waved to fingers at such poncy theologists and thoroughly enjoyed playing RBI Two Baseball on their Amiga all the same. OK, so this is all ancient history, but the arguments have resurfaced with the emergence TV Sports Baseball from Mindscape.

Now it must be said at this point that I find baseball great fun to play in the park, but find the thought of slugging out a long season at home a tad daunting - and not just a little boring. Sorry, but there you go.

Having said that, however, I was pretty impressed with the range of options, choices and decisions that you're given here. That they're so extensive isn't so surprising, however, when you realise that you're in fact lumbered with not only the coach's job, but also those of batter, pitcher and fielder. In fact it would seem that the only job you don't get to have a go at is selling the hot dogs to the crowd at half time - sorry, in between each of the nine innings.

Only to be recommended to the die hard fan

So assuming all of us know roughly what baseball is all about, let's take a look at what you actually get to do under the guises of your four different roles.

Well, firstly (as coach) you have to decided what sort of game you're going to play. Set up a one-off tournament match or enter the league and win the championships, it's up to you. Nothing too taxing there really.

But as head coach it is also your job to pick you team from the squad available to you and then work out the batting and pitching order. Each player has his own stats evaluating skill, stamina and particular abilities, and using these you must select your ball-breaking team.

Some teams are better than others, but with 26 of them to chose from you should be able to pick a fairly useful bunch of jocks. However good they are, though, players tire quickly when playing, so the rigours of team selection boil down to striking a balance between skill and stamina.

Into the game itself, and as soon as play starts you slap on your cap and climb the pitcher's mound with a hardball in your hand. It's your aim to throw a fair ball past the batter without him hitting it, and to do that three times. There's only one fly in the ointment - the computerised batsman are really quite good, dammit. Luckily, in two-player mode the opposition is slightly less on the ball (my little joke there) and pitching heroics are rather more likely. You can throw fast ball, slow balls and bendy balls - they're all just a couple of button taps away.

Some think the game isn't suited to a computer

When (and I mean when, not if - at least in the one player game) the batter connects, you become the fielder nearest the ball's estimated destination. A dot on the pitch indicates where the ball will land, and you must try and get there before the ball does. If you're successful, you'll make the catch and the crowd will go wild. If the ball hits the ground, however, you must pick it up and lob it to whichever base has got a batter running to it. If the ball gets to the base before the batter, he's out. There's not much skill involved, and really everything's decided the second ball makes his with bat.

Eventually (depending how good your pitching was) it will be your turn to bat. You swagger onto the diamond (in the guise of whoever it was you chose to be your opening batsman) and attempt to slug each pitch out of the ball park. You can bunt (tap) or slug the ball, but getting used to the timing is difficult. The direction, height and strength of the swipe is seemingly completely random, so really you've just got to hope that your Amiga's feeling generous. Running between bases is automatic, but you can sneak bases.

And so it goes. After three batsmen are out, it's time to pitch again. Then bat again. Then pitch again. Then bat again. Then - well, you get the picture.

So what did I make of it all? Well, the two player mode TV Sports Baseball is lots of fun, in a beered-up, after the pubs shut, with your mates, kinda way. However, the fact has to be faced that in one player mode this game seriously drags. Monotonous is the word, really.

So, back to the argument at the beginning of the review, and you could quite easily say that this dullness is not really the game's fault, more that of computerised baseball as a whole. OR at least, you could if it wasn't the case that RBI Two Baseball offered slightly more excitement, including comedy scoreboards and natty jingles to accompany the action - superficial novelties maybe, but they sure helped jolly the game along.

In RBI Two Baseball the gameplay itself was also more varied, offering more hands-on excitement - it has to be seen as the better of the pair.

Which all leaves TV Sports Baseball a bit lost really. It is a competent but ultimately tedious game that really can only be recommended to die hard baseball nuts who fancy wallowing in a whole season's worth of stats, player rosters and limited action. In short, baseball should be confined to the park. There, I've said it.

TV Sports Baseball logo

Would-be Pittsburgh Pirate, Steve Merrett, pulls his cap to one side, spits on the ground (nothing new there), and prepares to steal the base with Mindscape's first Cinemaware release...

There was a time when fancy TV-style introductory scenes would fair whet a game-player's appetite. Now, however, it takes far more to get your average joystick abuser drooling. Cinemaware's TV Sports series are a fine example of this, with both Basketball and Football selling in droves thanks to their stunning appearance. Everything the Amiga user could want was featured in these games: incredible graphics, sampled sound to add to the glitzy proceedings, and realistic animation. What more could anyone want? Well, playability would be nice, as the Cinemaware games lost out in this department.

With Baseball, however, things have taken a step in the right direction and whilst the familiar presentation (complete with the obligatory commentator) doesn't seem quite so great as it once did, Cinemaware are obviously aware of this and have tightened up the gameplay accordingly. Maybe Baseball is more suited to the Cinemaware treatment but whatever the reason, this knocks RBI out of the park - and not since the C64 version of Hardball have I played a Baseball game so much.

Having picked your way through the plethora of typically accurate options and menu screens where your team can be shaped and moulded for optimum efficiency, all that stands between you and first base is a change of park - although this has no real bearing on the game.

Following that, it's time to spit on the ground and get ready to knock the ball into next week. As with Basketball and Football, TV Sports Baseball is a doddle to pick up and play. Pitching is simply a matter of setting the speed and position of your throw, whilst batting requites the player to position the batter and swing the bat in the vain hope of hitting the ball.

However, as with so many Baseball games, this proves easier said than done and is initially very frustrating - perhaps a practice option against a computer-controlled pitcher would have been an idea? Also, fielding is just a matter of guiding the nearest player to where the ball is heading before lobbing it back towards the base areas. It is this simplicity, though, that makes Baseball such a dream to play, but that's not to say that it isn't without a few problems.

My biggest gripe lies with players currently on bases. As soon as the batter has whacked the ball, they all dash off to the next base - no problem there - but if the balls shoots off for a foul, getting them back to their previous base is seemingly impossible and often results in the entire team being thrown out. Additionally, in the same vein, whenever the player hits the ball behind them for a foul, it is counted as a 'Strike' - something I have never encountered before.

On a more positive note, though, TV Sports Baseball actually goes some way to capturing the excitement the real sport generates. There's a real sense of achievement on cracking a Home Run and seeing your player stroll from base to base to rack up points, and the disappointment of muffing an all-important shot is similarly deflating.

This atmosphere is further aided by the assorted effects which accompany the game. For instance, whenever a player is currently on third base, a short jingle plays which leads to a fanfare when the player reaches fourth (although this sounded rather like the 'Sale Of The Century' introductory tune). In terms of graphics and sound, it is very hard to criticise Baseball, The pitching and batting sprites are large and well animated, and whilst the fielders are represented by miniscule sprites, these are equally well done and throw the ball about with real gusto.

If it wasn't for the rather dodgy play faults and the computer's seemingly infallible skills, TV Sports Baseball would be a genuine sports sim classic. However, whilst it is extremely playable, these little niggles tend to grate after a while and mar an otherwise excellent simulation. That said, though, this Cinemaware game far outstrips its plentiful competition in terms of quality, realism and atmosphere. Accolade's Hardball used to reign supreme as far as I was concerned, but, despite its shortcomings, Mindscape's first Cinemaware release is the new Joe DeMaggio on the block.


Baseball has thrown up a series of legendary players in its time, ranging from Joe DeMaggio to Walter Johnson. Perhaps the most famous of all, though, is Babe Ruth. Famed for his ability to hit home runs, Ruth was a massive character both on field and off. If George Best was the fastest living face of soccer, then Babe preceded and outdid Best's antics both in years and in scale. Ruth led an extravagant lifestyle and a far from healthy one! Oddly enough for a sportsman, Ruth would often wolf down fifteen egg-omelettes, or would chew his way through six hotdogs during a film or match.

'The Babe' was also a fan of high living and was similarly renowned for his flash cars, fancy clothing and love of night clubs. The latter 'hobby' won him a legion of female 'companions' and between his two marriages, Ruth's reputation as a womaniser spread rapidly, with tales of him satisfying up to three women in a night regularly circulating (what's so unusual about that? Dep Ed.). However, busy as his social life obviously was, it never seemed to affect his prowess on field. He could hit a ball like no other player and it is also listed that he hit a ball further than any other man. On playing Chattanooga's Engel Stadium, Ruth hit a ball which landed in a coal truck heading west. By the time the truck had finished its journey, the ball was picked up in St. Louis, Missouri - a massive 2000 mile journey in all!