Inside Pulse 12

Review: Baseball Riot (Microsoft Xbox One)

Baseball Riot
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: 10tons Ltd
Publisher: 10tons Ltd
Release Date: 12/09/15

If you missed out on Tennis in the Face, I don’t blame you; despite featuring a title that’s very “does what it says on the can,” it’s definitely a game that’s meant for a very specific audience. As a physics puzzle sort of game, bearing some similarities to games like Angry Birds, but with a tennis (and hitting dudes in the face) theme, it has the sort of appeal of that sort of game, albeit in a slightly more limited format. That said, if you are the sort of person who likes what Tennis in the Face does, good news! 10tons Ltd apparently did as well, as they’ve opted to release a sequel to the game, dubbed Baseball Riot, which allows you to hit dudes in the face with baseballs this time around. That might seem like a bit of a limited descriptor, but there’s a reason for that: while Baseball Riot is presented as a sequel of sorts to Tennis in the Face, it’s as much a reskin of the game as anything else. In theory, that’s not the worst thing, especially if you enjoyed the original, but in practice, it’s basically the same experience, which means it basically has the same positives and flaws as the original, which makes it harder to appreciate as a sequel since nothing’s really changed.

A bit of the old beanball

There’s a plot to the game, albeit one that’s essentially more of a formality than anything, and it goes like this: you play as Gabe Carpaccio, disgraced former baseball player, who has taken to the streets to liberate his former team from the control of Explodz Inc. As fans of Tennis in the Face are aware, Explodz is basically a horrible company that makes horrible products, so Gabe’s rage is certainly justified, but there’s not really a lot to it: Gabe mad, Gabe smash bad guys, and off you go. This sort of presentation also extends to the game’s presentation, as outside of the ragdoll physics, the game doesn’t do much of anything to make itself stand out. The game reuses a significant amount of assets from Tennis in the Face and while the ragdoll animations are fine enough, the rest of the game’s animations are limited at best, making the game feel like a hacked-off mobile phone port more than anything else. Aurally the game continues this trend, as there are only a handful of sound effects to the game and even less musical tracks, and you’ll have heard nearly all of the audio assets the game has to offer by the end of the first game zone.

Still, for a game like this, presentation is less of a concern than the mechanics, as physics based puzzle games don’t need to look great so long as they’re fun to play, and to its credit, Baseball Riot makes an effort at trying to be interesting mechanically. The base mechanics are pretty simple: you aim your shot using an on-screen dotted line to show your direction, then press a button to hit the ball, which will then bounce around the stage until it hits an impediment or runs out of momentum. Your objective is to knock out all of the enemies in the stage with the ball or other tools; succeed and you win the stage, fail and you try again. The game offers over one hundred stages that all work off of that very simple principle, and you can experiment with this to try and get the best scores possible until you run out of baseballs or complete all of the stage objectives. In the beginning of the game, you’ll simply have to bounce balls around corners to knock out simple foes, but as the game progresses, angles will become more challenging to navigate around and enemies will expand their capabilities, so you’ll have to get more creative with your shots. On the other hand, you’ll also have to contend with additional obstacles, such as glass panes that stop your ball in its tracks… as well as useful tools, such as explosives that can set off huge effects when used right. The gameplay isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel or anything, but it works well enough that it doesn’t really need to.

Where Baseball Riot changes things up a bit is in its reskinning of the enemies in play to match the baseball theme of the game. While some of the enemies from Tennis in the Face are migrated wholesale, others are reskinned a bit to make them more baseball appropriate, so you’ll be facing down kids with catcher’s mitts who can catch balls or umpires who are defended from the front, for example. Further, the mechanics of play are also changed up a bit as it relates to scoring, which makes achieving top marks a different experience. In Tennis in the Face, you were scored based on your overall performance in a stage, so your goal was to knock out enemies in as few shots as possible, ideally with headshots, to score maximum points. In Baseball Riot, your score is instead tied to Stars located around each level, which you’ll want to target in addition to the enemies impeding your progress. There are three in each level, and your goal is to get all three and eliminate all of the enemies in order to get the best stage score. You can also unlock points by completing zone goals, as some zones will give you extra score points for earning extra balls (from consecutive knockouts with one ball) or performing specific actions, which adds to your zone score. As you can only unlock the next zone by scoring well, you’ll often find yourself working to improve scores and get extra points in order to keep making progress to new zones with new enemies.

One, two, three strikes you’re out

You can generally get through a single stage in a couple of minutes if you get it right the first time out, but even so, with over a hundred stages you’ll still be at the game for around six to eight hours or more. As later stages can get quite complex, though, you can easily expect to get around ten or so hours out of the game, depending on your skill at these sorts of puzzles. Once you’ve completed the game, you can always go back to it any time to try and earn higher scores if you’ve missed out on Stars or to complete challenges you’ve not done, so there’s definitely some appeal to coming back for the dedicated puzzle enthusiast. The game also offers your standard compliment of Achievements to unlock for various things, so hunters will have some fun trying to earn everything possible here. Honestly, for a five dollar game, there’s a lot to see and do in Baseball Riot, and that’s really a pretty good deal.

On the other hand, the biggest issue with the game is that, frankly, it’s hard to really sit down with the game and play it for any extended period of time. As with Tennis in the Face, the game feels more satisfying and enjoyable in small doses, which isn’t a bad thing if you’re fine with the odd session here and there, but the game is tough to really enjoy in large play sessions. It quickly gets repetitive the more of it you expose yourself to, and it’s hard for the game to keep your attention in the console format over, say, the mobile format the prior game came from. The aesthetic also isn’t that interesting, honestly; the first time you knock someone out with a baseball might elicit a chuckle, but beyond that the game just feels very static the longer you play, especially if you’ve played Tennis in the Face, since the games share aesthetics. Finally, while the scoring system is better in the respect that it’s far simpler to understand what you need and how best to get it, it’s also far more limited; scoring actual points offers far more room for exciting play than collecting specific items pound for pound. It also doesn’t help that you have to take the Stars into account during your hits, which can make stages far more complicated than you might prefer the further you get into the game. Finally, the game honestly just feels like a reskin of a game that already exists, and while that might not be a big deal if you’ve avoided the original somehow or if you’re a huge fan, on the whole it’s just not as imaginative a sequel as you’d want or expect.

Baseball Riot is a fine sequel to Tennis in the Face mechanically, and if you were a huge fan of that game, the sequel promises more physics puzzles and knocking out of dudes, but it’s not an inspired sequel, and it’s not really a game you can enjoy except in small doses. The mechanics are solid and there are some creative missions here, and if you’re into small doses of puzzle gameplay, especially for the price, it’s not a bad investment for the five dollar asking price. The game definitely feels like a five dollar game aesthetically, but it’s not bad so much as it’s simple, and there’s some stylistic novelty here and there, even if it’s a bit limited. That said, though, the game’s hard to really enjoy for decent lengths of time, which is fine in small doses, but ultimately belies the game’s mobile nature, as it’s hard to really invest in over long periods, and the mechanics aren’t as exciting for those looking to get the highest possible scores. Further, the game feels somewhat barren aesthetically at times, as the amusing concept mostly isn’t, and if you’ve seen Tennis in the Face you’ll see assets reused between the two. For five dollars Baseball Riot is fine enough, but you can definitely tell it’s adapted from a mobile product, and the game’s only interesting for its mechanics; it’s neat if you love physics puzzles, but there’s just not enough to it to make it more than a novelty.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Baseball Riot is the sort of game that lives or dies on its mechanics; if you love physics-based puzzle games, you’ll probably find the game to be worth its five dollar price tag, but if you don’t, you’ll probably find it to be a novelty at best and uninteresting at worst. The game has a bright and colorful aesthetic and the gameplay is definitely interesting at first blush, featuring some creative stage layouts and enemies to give you a strong challenge, especially if you love high score challenges or puzzles. However, the aesthetic doesn’t hold up well, as it’s fairly repetitive and the laughs dry up fast, especially if you’ve played Tennis in the Face, which this game liberally borrows from. Further, the game is only really enjoyable in small doses and really shows off its mobile game nature, making it hard to invest in, and the scoring elements don’t make it as enjoyable to try to top your scores on when compared to its predecessor. In a vacuum, Baseball Riot is fine enough for the price and should be worth a look if you love puzzle games a lot, but otherwise it’s too limited and uninspired to really justify owning it, even with the bargain price tag.