RBI 2 - Runs Batted In 2
Copyright/Publisher: Domark/Tengen, Release Year: 1990,
Genre: Baseball, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

It's a new fast and furious baseball-a-rama, and the latest diamond in the Domark team's crown. Is it the best thing since the baseball boot, or is it just a big stee-rike out? Join us in the studio as we whack it around the park to see who catches it...

This is not, as you would expect a flight simulator, but a king baseball game. The game opens with a comprehensive options menu. The first option is the straight forward one player game, obvious choice. This is followed by the two player option, the watch option (a demo mode), the continue option and finally the erm, options option.

Continue allows you to enter a code which lets you carry on a previous game. The options option lets you set the difficulty level of your opponents and toggle the sound effect on and off if they start to annoy you.

The first task in hand is select your team, your opponent's team and the strengths of players you wish to use, which can have a big effect on whether you win in a blaze of glory, or get booed off the field.

The game is played over two separate screens. The pitching/batting screen shows the view from behind the backstop in a strip up the middle of the screen, while the other two thirds of the screen show the first and third bases. If you're pitching this means you can keep an eye on the runners in case thay try to sneak a base before you've pitched the ball. If this occurs you can tap the shift key to throw the ball to your man on the base to try and get the sneaker out.

The second screen of play is a scrolling overhead representation of the field which pops up when the ball has been hit. Unless you can find some way of squeezing a whole load of team mates around your 64, then you're on your own, a one man team. You take the part of pitcher, batter, fielder and base man all rolled into one.

This isn't much of a problem though, as the controls are easy to grasp. So although there is a large range of moves available to you, you can play a much more skillful and tactical game the more you play.

Your very first taste of the game is as pitcher. You can, if you want, just hit fire and the pitcher throws the ball any old way. Have a browse through the manual though and you'll discover another nine ways of pitching the ball. By pushing in one of the nine joystick directions immediately after you press fire you can play a slow, normal or fast ball either straight ahead or skewed to the left or right. On top of this you can also curve the ball's flight while it is in mid-pitch.

Batting is a simplier concept to grasp but no easier to master. Yoy position the batter then press fire to swing. The length of time you hold down the button chooses between wacking and 'bunting' the ball. A bunt is a slight tap of the ball which, with luck, should get you safely to the first base, handy if you're on the last strike.

Fielding is a doodle. As soon as the opposing batter has hit the ball you take control of each and every fielder. You don't have to concentrate on all of them though, you merely focus on the one nearest the ball. If you position a fielder correctly he will automatically catch the ball.

If on the other hand your judgement is slightly off (and let's face it, Andy, yours often is - Ed), you can redeem yourself by diving left or right, or even jumping into the air to catch the ball. Once it's in your sweaty mitt you can throw the ball to any of the bases by pushing the stick in the right direction and pressing fire.

That's basically it. There are loads more hidden features which only become clear as you get more skillful. This means that the game is great fun right off the bat, but will also keep its grip on you even after several weeks of hard hitting play.

The graphics work well despite being a bit business like. Ordinary colours and bland textual stuff make it a little bit dull to look at. The animation of pitcher and batter are excellent and the rest of the sprites look the part.

But it's in the gameplay stakes that RBI2 really shines. I've only scratched the surface of the game in this review. Its mound of features can only be appreciated after extended play. It's more of a sports simulation than an arcade style version of baseball. But that doesn't make it boring, far from it. It's great fun right from first pitch to the last drop of humiliating defeat. Flawed it may be but RBI2 makes a home run!

THE DOWNERS
The graphics are generally business like.
Players 'stats' are a bit cryptic.
THE UPPERS
A wide range of teams to choose from.
Each team member has his own individual stats.
The animation is very good in every respect.
Screen presentation is neat.
All the play options are easily accessed but tricky to perfect.
Masses of subtle features only appreciated after extended play.
Game is structured well to provide fast, uninterrupted play.
A great two-player blast

INTRO SCREEN

POWER RATING 86%

Yes, fans, the players are on the field and before the game can begin they all compete for who has the funniest name.
It's the end of the second innings and Baltimore have scored one run. Or is that two? Er, read the manual before tackling the scoreboard


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