On-Field Baseball
aka Star League Baseball
Copyright/Publisher: Activision/Gamestar, Created By: Dan Urgin, Scott Orr & Bruce Mitchell, Adapted By: John A.Fitzpatrick & Programmers 3, Music By: John A.Fitzpatrick,
Release Year: 1985, Genre: Baseball, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

This game comes hot on the heels of Imagine's World Series Baseball (reviewed in this issue) so it's inevitable comparisons will be drawn between the two.

As far as graphics are concerned, there's no question which is better. In this one a reasonable looking baseball ground is impaired by the presence of titchy, indistinct players, who wouldn't go amiss in a game of Robotron (No offence, Robotron players). The batter looks like a crippled golfer, about the tee off, and the catcher bears a resemblance to ET at times.

The animation of the players is crude and jerky by today's standards - the fielders look as if they're skating across the grass (but they do produce a pleasing throw on the run). Sprite priority is virtually nonexistent, as players run through, instead of around, each other. Also the flight of the ball is sometimes unrealistic - it appears to skate along the ground after bouncing and at other times it actually bounces off the crowd!

Nevertheless, it's gameplay that really counts, and thankfully this is good. Indeed in some ways it is better than the Imagine game.

For a start, the pace of play is greater - you do not have to wait between each ball to select outfield and steal options. Secondly, many people will find that the actual 'feel' of striking the ball is better. The sound of bat hitting ball is more authentic and the ball doesn't stop dead on bouncing as it does in the Imagine game.

Another useful feature is that the fielder turns black when he has possession of the ball, making the moment of pick up absolutely clear.

At start of play there are several choices to be made. You can select a pitcher - either the fastthrowing 'Heat' Muldoon, or the tricky 'Curves' Cassidy. In practice they appeared to play very similarly, although 'Heat' has pne almost unplayably fast delivery. (Well, the computer can play it.) Both pitchers tire during the game, especially if you use too many fast balls, so at the end of the seventh innings you're allowed to bring on a relief pitcher.

You can also select one of two batting teams. The Sluggers are supposed to hit for the fences, the Liners are average, but I haven't spotted any real differences.

The game is played over nine innings, with extra innings should a draw result. The computer always fields first, leaving you the arduous task of batting.

Sound during the game is pretty good and includes some short musical strains at the beginning of the game (complete with the American national anthem), at the end of an innings and on hitting a home run. There is also crowd noise and a pleasing thud as ball hits glove.

The two player option adds further excitement to the game, and a practice mode allows you to bat away for as long as you like, without fear of losing - an excellent feature.

Gary Penn
The graphics of the game are very offputting but once you get down to its great gameplay and 'feel' this becomes less important. The action seems very realistic with fielders having struggle with good outfield shots, but the batter at a disadvantage with infield shots. The inevitable comparsion with Imagine's baseball game leaves this a close second but with more variability in the pitching and game options.
Julian Rignall
There is a similarity to Imagine's baseball, but I found Imagine's to be easier to control, especailly with the big TV screen. On Field Baseball's graphics were certainly lacking in detail and the animation was pretty awful. Judging the pitches was extremely difficult since everything seemed so far away. Even so, these niggling details didn't stop me from enjoying the game immensely.
B.W.
There are obviously comparisons to be made between the Activision game, and the Imagine one. Both are new releases, and both have some very strong points about them. In my opinion though, if you just want a good game of baseball on your computer, then fine, get On-Field Baseball. If you want to bring all the fun, excitement and razmatazz of the game into your home, then go for World Series Baseball - it's got better graphics and is three quid cheaper.
DEVELOPING BATTING TECHNIQUE
There are three main skills while batting:

TIMING
Timing is essential to hit the ball at all. You have to press the fire button before the ball reaches your batter so that he has time to swing. But since the pace of the deliveries varies, this takes some getting used to. The practice mode is very helpful here. When you're desperate to at least hit the ball, you can opt to 'bunt' - use a dead bat. This gives almost certain contact, but the ball won't go too far.

JUDGING
Judging the nature of the delivery is also crucial. Even the computer will sometimes let fly balls which are unplayably high or low. If you swing at these, it'll count a 'strike' against you.

BLUFFING Bluffing your opponent is the third skill. As in the Imagine game it is possible to 'steal' bases at a moment when your opponent is off guard. You can even trick the computer that way - try running a man from second to third base at the same time that the computer is pitching a delivery. You'll sometimes make it.

WHEN YOU'RE IN THE FIELD
As in the Imagine game, you have considerable control over what type of ball you pitch. The joystick allows eight different options, two of which are illegal and used only to try to trick your opponent.

When a fair ball is hit, the player nearest the ball's path will come under your control. This isn't always the player you think you should control though, which can be annoying.

Once the fielder has picked up the ball you can use the joystick to make him throw it to any of the four bases or the pitcher. Alternatively you can make him run with the ball (normally to try to 'tag' a runner.)

In certain situations you can make the exhilarating 'double plays', getting two batters out at once, say by tagging one, and then throwing the ball to another base to catch another.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 74%
Good instructions and game options.
GRAPHICS 32%
Rotten stick men, badly animated.
SOUND 64%
Authentic baseball sounds and stadium tunes.
ORIGINALITY 72%
Not quite as many new touches as Imagine's
HOOKABILITY 72%
The graphics put you off, but hitting the ball feels very good.
LASTABILITY 81%
You'll still want to play even after beating the computer.
VALUE FOR MONEY 73%
More expensive and overall not quite as good as World Series.


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