Baseball seems like an easy game to simulate, but there are nuances in the pitching and batting that can severely hinder the game’s playability if they’re done poorly. Homerun Battle 3D does not encompass the entire sport, focusing instead solely on batting. It’s too bad, because with its smooth presentation and excellent controls, it could easily be a full-fledged arcade baseball experience.
This is a Home Run Derby game, plain and simple, so its scope is inherently limited, which may turn off those who are looking for a fuller take on the sport. But what it does, it does well.
Out of the park.
There are four modes of play (Training, Classic, Arcade, and Match-Up), although you’re likely to spend all of your time playing only the latter two. Training teaches you the ropes and lets you gain experience with the controls and various pitching styles (nine in all, including changeup, knuckle, sinker, and split). Classic mode is a straight-up Home Run Derby, awarding you solely for home runs hit.
Arcade mode is where the real action is, awarding you points based on the type of ball hit, distance achieved, and even hitting the wall if it’s not knocked out of the park. There are at least fifty “missions” to complete with varying parameters to be met.
The better you do, the more extra items you’ll be able to unlock to enhance your character, and these can affect your performance. You can customize your player’s clothes (jersey, pants, facial ware, etc.), facial features and equipment. With 114 unique elements to unlock, you should be able to make a customized avatar to your liking.
What really sets Homerun Battle 3D from the pack, though, is its head-to-head online mode. Pairing you with a friend or complete stranger, these PvP online Home Run Derbies are a blast to play. You can watch your opponent in a picture-in-picture window in the upper right corner of the screen as you hit balls. It’s a true test of your ability to buckle down and focus instead of being distracted by watching your opponent as you play.
Keep your eye on the ball.
Controls are handled exceedingly well. By slightly tilting the iPhone or iPod Touch, you can adjust your bat’s position in the strike zone, and tap anywhere on the screen to swing. This gets trickier with more complex pitches, but we never had a problem knocking a ball out of the park once we grew accustomed to the various pitching styles.
The game also has an incredibly polished look, with a detailed 3-D stadium (but only one), day and night effects, a solid framerate and silky smooth animations. The game’s soundtrack is less ambitious and a tad repetitive, but it does allow you to play your own tunes instead. We had some issues getting this to work without the game crashing, and preferred to not utilize this feature to avoid potential headaches.
At $2.99, Homerun Battle 3D is a bit more expensive than we would have expected for a game with such a narrow focus, and although the online mode is wonderful, we doubt that this alone will keep us playing for weeks on end. However, this engine would work extremely well in a full baseball game, a project we’d love to see the developer tackle in the future. As it stands, though, this is a solid game that baseball and Home Run Derby fans will enjoy, but its overall lack of depth keeps it from being a top tier game.
Editor’s Note, 6/27/09: The review originally stated that items are only cosmetic, but they actually affect gameplay by changing your character’s attributes. STP regrets the error.