Hardball
Copyright/Publisher: Accolade, Programming: Bob Whitehead, Graphics: Mimi Doggett,
Sound: Ed Bogas, Release Year: 1985, Genre: Baseball, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

Hardball is the third attempt to bring the American national sport of baseball to 64 owners. The game has a different approach to both its predecessors and involves all aspects of baseball, from playing the game to making crucial managerial decisions.

The game commences with an options screen allowing you to choose between one or two players. In one player mode the 64 either takes over the home or away team, depending on which you choose. Once those formalities have been completed then a list of both teams is shown. Each team has 10 players which are picked frnm the team’s pool of 25 and during this period you can change and reassemble your team.

The players each have their own personalities, weaknesses and strengths which are all shown. The upshot of this amazing depth of player differentiation is that, with practice, you can assemble a team to suit your own playing style and end up with one which becomes a powerful force with you behind them.

Once you’ve sorted out the teams then the game begins. The home team is always put into bat in the first innings, whilst the away team fields. Batting and fielding is all controlled through the joystick, and although being tricky (playing professional baseball for the first time always is) is mastered with a little practice.

PITCHING AND FIELDING
A special screen is used for batting and pitching showing a 3D view from behind the pitcher which includes the striker (batsman), pitcher and catcher. Your pitcher always has four special moves, one of which has to be chosen before you can pitch. These are usually fast ball, screwball, changeup and curveball, although these may differ depending on the pitcher fielded.

To choose a throw, move the joystick in the relevant position (shown in the pitcher information box at the bottom of the screen) and press fire. The nice feature of this is the fact that it’s possible to choose your throw without the other player knowing, just like real life! When the type of throw has been chosen then you can move the joystick up, down, left or right in conjunction with the fire button to pitch high, low, inside or outsid. There is massive potential to pitching and once sussed it is possible to pitch all manner of bails, both legal and illegal.

If the striker misses the ball then the catcher automatically catches the ball and a ‘strike’ is added to your total. Three strikes in a row and the striker is struck out. If the ball is illegal and the striker doesn’t make a swing for it then it is declared a ‘ball’. If the pitcher throws four balls before the striker connects or is struck out then the opposing team are awarded a ‘walk’ where each player on the playing field is allowed to move to the next base.

If the striker does connect with a pitched ball then the screen changes to a panoramic view of either the left or right of the playing field (depending on where the ball is hit). The fielder nearest the ball (whether in the air or on the ground) flashes and the player is given control over him. The player can then intercept the ball and throw it to a base by pressing the fire button in conjunction with up (2nd base), down (home base), left (3rd base) or right (1st base) on the menu. Once the ball is safely back in the hands of the pitcher then the screen switches back to the original pitcher view.

BATTING
Striking (or batting) successfully is the hardest aspect of Hardball: a keen eye and swift reflexes are needed otherwise a player will find himself struck out time and time again. A striker has only a split second to decide whether the ball is low, high, swinging out or in and whether to actually go for the ball or not (remember, an illegal ball becomes legal if you attempt to hit it.

Once you’ve decided that, you can make the player swing high, low etc by moving the joystick to the corresponding position and pressing the fire button. It sounds difficult, but within a few games you’ll find yourself growing accustomed to the split second decisions and whopping even the most tricky pitches home.

Once the ball has been hit the striker automatically runs for the first base. When he has done that then the player can decide whether to attempt a sneak at the second base (a risky move). If a player presses the space bar before the ball is pitched the screen switches to the team list. Here the pitcher is able to change the position of fielders or substitute a relief pitcher.

Likewise the striker can shuffle the order of batting to give himself more of a chance. Hardball strictly follows the rules of World Series and is error trapped for any illegal moves. The game takes place over nine innings, and if the score is even after that then the game continues until a team wins an innings, no matter how long it takes!


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 95%
Well thought out options, and excellently contrived joystick control.
GRAPHICS 96%
Stunning graphics, specially the animation on the giant size players.
SOUND 68%
Roar of crowd and a few jolly jingles.
HOOKABILITY 91%
Ease of use allows the player to instantly become a baseball star.
LASTABILITY 92%
A tough nut computer opponent and two player option means that Hardball will be played long after the baseball season is over.
VALUE FOR MONEY 93%
The second best thing to the World Series.
OVERALL 92%
A truly realistic sports simulation which sets new standards.


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