The sight of fans proudly cheering, hot dogs being scarfed down, and cold beer flowing in the spring can only mean one thing: baseball is back! Fans of America’s pastime have been well served on the iOS platform with some amazing games that have covered the simulation, fantasy, and micromanagement angles. The iOS baseball management simulation was adequately covered for the first time last year with iOOTP Baseball 2011, a redesigned port of the popular Out of the Park Baseball franchise on PC and Mac. iOOTP Baseball 2012 takes a second crack at nailing the management experience on iOS and the results are astonishing.
iOOTP 2012 is a far cry from most of the baseball games that are also out there. It’s not for gamers looking for 3-4 minutes of mindless gameplay or those wanting to use actual mechanics for the three main phases of the game: pitching, batting, and fielding. This game puts you in charge of managing a ball club to victory through strategy and placing your guys in position to succeed.
Pick your poison.
Launching the game will give you the choice to play in a major league, fictional league, or historical league (extra historical leagues are available as DLC). Next, you select the team you want to manage. iOOTP 2012 does not have an actual license from the MLB, but the player names, accurate ratings and bios are all included in the game from the outset. For purposes of our review, we took the helm of the Los Angeles Dodgers, pegged as a mid-level contender for this season in real life.
The management hub that you make moves from is well organized. You have an overall view of your team’s standings and critical statistics, as well as a snapshot view of prior and upcoming games. Two big virtual buttons are front and center to manage your team and also look at overall league information. The information is neatly laid out, taking full advantage of the extra screen space if you play it on an iPad. The UI is clean and minimalistic, which is impressive considering all the data at your fingertips.
Can you handle this many stats?
Playing live games is straightforward, with a commentator covering all the action through a play-by-play text log. You can follow along and influence every pitch and at bat, altering defensive and offensive strategy, or you can skip through to the game at your leisure. The presentation has no frills, so games are not that exciting. Sure, they’re completely serviceable and functional, but it would be nice to have some audio or ambient music. Thankfully, the game supports custom soundtracks through your music collection or even Spotify.
Part of the lore with the OOTP franchise is the random twists and turns that occur throughout a season. In the course of a year, we ran into several challenges that affected our team’s success. Matt Kemp, the National League MVP runner last year, was suspended at the beginning of the year for using performance-enhancing drugs for 10 games. After returning from suspension, he sustained an injury forcing out for another three months. Meanwhile, several players requested to be traded to get more playing time.
You can almost smell the hotdogs.
The point is simple: be ready to run into several challenges that mirror the unpredictability of the real sport. In these experiences we realized that iOOTP not having an official MLB license can be an advantage. For example, we could never envision the MLB approving performance-enhancing drugs as a gameplay element in a million years.
Another very realistic element of the game is the stat tracking and trade logic. At the year’s end, we noticed that the top winning pitcher picked up 22 wins, the Home Run king hit 49 knockers, and the best hitter finished with a .388 hitting percentage. On the other hand, the trade logic seemed a little suspect in the limited experience we had. Twenty-four year old Clayton Kershaw was the National League Cy Young winner last season, and a few times, other teams tried to trade with me offering some pitiful packages featuring middle aged players and average middle relievers. In our attempts to make the trades a bit more equitable for both sides, we were rebuffed promptly. Some would argue this is realistic, but we found it a waste of time in a sense.
If you’re remotely interested in baseball management, this iOOTP Baseball 2012 Edition will have you covered. This is not about pretty graphics, big sound, or engaging mechanics. The substance of this game comes in the vast array of levers, pulleys, and tools to manage and maximize your team. With a great UI powering this beast of a simulation, this game will be a time sink of epic proportions, if you let it.