Review: The Bigs (Nintendo Wii)

The Bigs
Developer: Blue Castle Games
Publisher:2K Sports
Genre: Arcade Baseball
Release Date: 6/28/2007

I love a good Baseball game. One of my most favorite games of all time is Baseball Stars by SNK for the NES. From the RBI Baseball series to the World Series Baseball franchise on the Saturn to even Home Run Kingon the Game Cube, I’ve owned a Baseball game for every console in my collection. So it’s no surprise that I was chomping at the bit for the massively underproduced Wii version of the Bigs. Sure I could have gone for one of the other versions as it IS a multi-platform game, but I wanted to see what the Wii would do. How would I bat, field, and pitch? The potential was unlimited here. My only reservation is that I’ve never been a big fan or Arcadey baseball games. I like to have seasons and statistics and standings. The 3’s of baseball, and The Bigs didn’t offer it. Could the game still pass muster? Even other arcade baseball games like the aforementioned Home Run King had a season mode. It’s 2007 for crying out loud.

So would the lack of the main reason people buy and play baseball video games hurt The Bigs? Would the controls and gameplay make up for it, or would it turn out to be Wii Sports without all the other games built in?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

The game is missing a Season mode. I hate this. I really do. This is the first Baseball game since the NES I can remember that didn’t have one. That kills me because I really like doing seasons. However, it’s not here so let’s move on to what is.

There are two main modes of play: Play Now and Exhibition. Play now is just jumping into a game. You pick a team. Pick your opponents team and BAM! The game starts. No messing around with lineups, starting pitchers or fields. It’s perfect for a quick game between friends, especially as the default innings are only five instead of the real life 9.

Exhibition allows you to have options that Play Now is missing, along with a choice of jerseys. Man, have MLB jerseys gotten ugly in the past decade. Yuck. It’s not much, and personally I never deal with Play Now. I want some feeling of managing the team after all.

There’s also a Tutitorial Mode which is excellent. It walks you through the Wii stylized controls and allows you various forms of practice so you can learn all the nuances of the game. It’s great and you really should try it before playing the rest of the game. It’s one of the best tuitorial modes I’ve seen in any game.

Next up is the Home Run Derby. It’s a player vs player contest where the first one to hit ten home runs wins. It’s very basic, but it can be quite fun.

The second to last choice is the Rosters screen. This allows you to trade players and also create new ones of your own. I guess I don’t see the point in this option when there’s no season mode. It just seems kind of..useless to me. I guess more anal retentive people will want to make every change that occurs in the 2008 season, but for me, without a season mode it’s a waste of space.

Last there is the closest thing to a Season Mode in The Bigs. It’s called the Rookie Challenge. The Rookie challenge allows you to create a player from scratch but it also allows you to level him up. It’s very similar to the Street Fighter Alpha 3 World Tour Mode. With this mode you make your rookie, and you have a certain amount of points you can assign. In order to build your character up, you’ll have to play through various mini-games and some spring training games. Eventually you’ll hit the actual “season” and participate in scenarios, the ability to steal players from other teams and eventually event he All-Star Game, Playoffs, and the World Series. It’s not quite a season mode, and although Serpentor became an excellent clutch hitter, it just didn’t have the zing of a real season mode. For fans of CAW’s in games like Smackdown vs Raw, this might be right up their alley.

In all, The Bigs is a bit lacking in modes. It’s fun on occasion, but there’s no real hook. Rookie Mode is fun but it should be an alternative to a Season Mode and not a replacement for the real thing.

Modes Rating: 4/10

2. Graphics

Wow. This is not a pretty game. The backgrounds are quite nice, but the actual players are hideous. The faces are deformed and it’s a drop in graphical quality from what was even on the Game Cube, Nintendo’s PREVIOUS system. I was really disappointed in the clunky, almost blocky character graphics. It’s no wonder almost all the screenshots showing close ups of the players are for the PS3 or 360. The Wii version just doesn’t cut it here.

Still the backgrounds are amazing and each stadium looks wonderful. The thing to remember though is that when playing a baseball game, you rarely have time to enjoy the stadiums. You’re just too focused on the players, and here you really wish you didn’t have to. As much as I hate to say it about a current generation game, this is the ugliest game I’ve played this year due to player design and models. It’s not hideous. It’s just poor and like the modes, I know 2K Sports could have done a lot better here.

Graphics Rating: 4/10

3. Sound

The Bigs really excels here. The music is incredible, running the gauntlet from Rollins Band to White Zombie. It’s one of the better “actual band” soundtracks I’ve seen in a long time. As well, the color commentary is much better than in a lot of baseball games. It’s 2K’s usual team, but the inane chatter is kept to a minimum and they bring up things you wouldn’t normally know on an arcade style baseball game, like what a player’s last at bat was or that they are 3 for 5 this game.

Sound effects are great to. The crack of the bat, the exploding of a light when a ball hits it, the roar of the crowd. This is something The Bigs is excellent at.

It might be a big ugly and a little lacking in options, but aurally you won’t be disappointed with this game.

Sound Rating: 8/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Really, this is the crux and the reason I chose to review this game. I felt I would either absolutely love or loathe the controls. It turns out, both were correct.

I love batting in this game. You actually have to hold your wiimote like a baseball bat. At first this was odd for me because I am right handed but bat left handed, so I had to make adjustments for how to play the game. You also use the control stick to aim and hold the A button down for a power hit. There is a small problem with the batting controls and its that there is a bit of a disconnect between the wiimote and the actual game. Thus you’re going to swing the remote a little earlier than you would want to swing in a normal game. If you hit the button with the timing you would on say a PS2 or Sega Genesis game, you’ll miss every time. So it’s a big aggravating at first to have to swing early, but once you get the hang of it, you don’t even notice. Instinct takes over.

Pitching is fun too. You’ll actually wind up and throw the ball. Just do it lightly or you’ll wreck your TV like a lot of early Wii Sports players. You’ll spin the wiimote either clockwise or counter-clockwise in combination with some buttons to pick one of nine types of pitches. I had a lot of fun with this because it increased the realism. The better you time the pitch with the pitch meter, the more likely you will strike your opponent out or cause them to hit the ball foul. After a little bit of playing, you’ll become quite good at this.

Fielding however is completely awful. It is so annoying that I just became a crazy good pitcher instead of even trying to deal with the horrible fielding controls. My big beef is throwing the ball. In theory, if you flick the wiimote to the right, it will go to first base, flick it to the left to go to second and so on. However, the majority of the time the game will not go with your original flick, but with your moving the joystick back to your start position. Inevitably the game will throw to home, allowing people to get on base.

Throwing isn’t the only issue though with fielding. Whenever a ball is hit, your fielder are constantly off position or in an area guaranteed to not let you catch the ball. They’re also very slow unless and error prone. You’re sure to see a pitch that comes back to your pitcher be dropped at least twice a game. Fielding is as piss poor for this game as the other forms are great.

Finally there is running. To go even faster, you’ll have to shake the wiimote. The faster you shake it, the faster the player goes. This is pretty fun and it reminds me of the old Track N’ Field games for the NES.

There are also arcade aspects to the gameplay like Big Heat and Power Blast. They will cause a guaranteed strike out or home run unless you royally screw up. Thankfully you don’t have to use these if you want something a little more realistic and/or fair. The computer will use both every chance it gets though.

In summation, most of the controls are quite enjoyable and make The Bigs a blast to play, but fielding’s awful responses and positioning really drags things down for me. I know the majority of gameplay is a pitcher vs battle duel, and the game excels at that, but one bad pitch and your mildly retarded defense is going to let ball after ball roll through their legs.

Control and Gameplay: 6/10

5. Replayability

There’s a lot to The Bigs, and the fast nature of the gameplay allows you and a friend to play several games in quick succession. Due to the nature of the controls, this game can make a great party game, especially with the home run derby option.

The two minuses here are the lack of season mode (as no one really wants to play Rookie Mode more than once) and the poor fielding. This can drop enjoyment greatly. The good thing is that both players can set options so even a rookie to The Bigs can have an even game against someone who eats and breathes this game. Even better, four people can play at once! With two human players on each team, it really helps to crack down on the defense issues.

For now, this is our only MLB game on the Wii, and it will satiate baseball fans need for a non Mii-field baseball game, even if it doesn’t SATISFY them.

Replayability Rating: 6/10

6. Balance

Yeah yeah, I know. This is the perfect chance to harp on the poor fielding, but why beat a dead horse. Besides this flaw, the game is pretty well balanced. There are four difficulty setting,e ach very distinct from the one above or below it. You can also control the amount of innings, and whether you have fielding aid on, or things like the strike zones showing on the screen. You can pretty much customize the game to be as hard or as easy as you want. Each player can have a different difficulty level as well!

What’s great about The Bigs is that it’s made to reallt suit each player’s personal tastes and skill levels. Who knows? Maybe I’ll eventually master fielding!

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

It may be yet another baseball game, but its the first fully fleshed out baseball game on the Wii and the controls are very fun and innovative. Now, Wii Sports did something similar, but it wasn’t as deep as The Bigs, and it didn’t feature real stadiums and players.

Rookie Mode is quite neat, but it’s also the old real mode that isn’t cookie cutter. Still, the controls really kep The Bigs from being yet another below average Baseball game. I just wish there was more packed onto the disc.

Originality Rating: 6/10

8. Addictiveness

As fun as the game is, it’s hard to play more than a single game in a row. It will hurt your wrists and elbow after a while, especially if you have a very close game or one side is really out hitting the other. Even thought the game is set at a default of only five innings and I play a lot of games, this still hurt after a while. Then again, I’ve put more time into The Bigs then any other game I own for the Wii besides Pokemon Battle Revolution and the DS is the controller for that, so it could just be my arms aren’t used to the wiimote yet. Still, when i did multiplayer, my friends noted the same thing. Remember to take it easy for your first few times.

As well, without a Season Mode, it’s hard to stay attached to the game. There’s nothing to draw you back repeatedly to the game. There’s no sense of accomplishment except for Rookie Mode, and even then, it pales compared to a true Season Mode.

The Bigs is a fun game. It’s just not a deep one or one that will keep you glued to the screen.

Addictiveness Rating: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

Even if you’re not an MLB fan, you’ll really enjoy The Bigs. Doubt me? Look how popular Wii Sports has been. With four player baseball action, you can have a lot of fun with this game. Even if it’s just you against the computer, the arcade aspects of the game along with the sliding difficulty and real life players and locations makes The Bigs a nice addition to your Wii library, especially as it’s not yet another collection of mini games.

Appeal Factor Rating: 7/10

10. Micellaneous

There’s not much here left to talk about. There are no Easter Eggs. There are no hidden modes or codes. It’s just an MLB game with a scant amount of modes, some poor graphics for its generation, but some enjoyable gameplay. There’s a lot of room for improvement here, such as fielding and a Season Mode, but it’s a nice first attempt at a licensed sports game for the Wii.

Miscellaneous Rating: 6/10

The Scores
Modes: 4/10
Graphics: 4/10
Sound: 8/10
Control & Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 6/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 6/10
Total Score: 59/100

Final Score: 6.0/10 (Above Average)

Short Attention Span Summary
The Bigs isn’t a bad addition to your Wii lineup, regardless of if you’re a hardcore baseball fan or someone who doesn’t know a single player on any roster. The controls can take a bit of getting used to, and I have to say it’s pretty limited options-wise for its price, but I had a lot of fun with and can’t wait for the sequel!