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Scouting The MicroLeagues

Welcome to the December edition of Apple II Incider. By the time you read this, Thanksgiving and Black Friday will have passed and we'll be on our way to Christmas. I am actually writing this column early for once. As I noted last month, I had settled on talking about MicroLeague Baseball so that made things easier. I have a couple of interesting news items to pass along so read on for some interesting bits.

REVIEW - MicroLeague Baseball

MicroLeague Baseball Box
As I have noted many times throughout the years, Computer Baseball was my favorite baseball simulation. I love the ability to change lineups, warm up pitchers and do a few other things that managers could do. As I noted last month, most of the baseball games I played after Computer Baseball were more arcade / action simulations rather than strategy simulations.

However, there was one game that I had wanted during my youth but never did pick up. That game was MicroLeague Baseball (released in 1984). Despite the fact that I have covered my share of baseball games in this column, I never covered MicroLeague Baseball.

I decided to give the game a spin last month, and after my first play, I was impressed. I had finally found something worthy to compete against Computer Baseball. I just gave the game a second spin and while it is still worthy, there were some holes I noticed. Some of them are no big deal while some others can be frustrating.

From a game play perspective, you can have two human players play each other, two computer players play each other, or as most people would do, have one player play the computer.

When you start, you pick two teams (one home / one visitor), determine if you want a designated hitter, select your starting pitcher, then choose lineups and off you go.

If you are up at bat first, you are presented with some options, such as if there is no one on base, you can hit or bunt, or if there are runners on the bases, you can tell them to steal. Additional hitters can hit and run or do a sacrifice bunt.

If you are playing defense, your pitcher can throw fastballs, curve balls, sliders, change ups and specialty pitches. The defense can be adjusted slightly by moving infielders around (surprisingly, no outsider defensive options).

As a manager, you can also pinch hit, warm up pitchers, visit the mound and replace pitchers.

Graphically, the game wasn't much to write home about. The overall field is represented faithfully with a green field, the pitcher’s mound, base lines and bases. There are also fans present as well, though they are literally more like dots than people. The players are either white or purple to differentiate the two teams playing.

Going for a home run!
Game action like hits, steals, home runs and other things are simulated on screen, though I didn't find the animation that impressive. In fact, unless you turn it off, the game defaults to having animation of players running to and from their dugouts in-between innings. While I appreciate the detail, it really is a waste of time.

There is minimal sound in the game, though there is music at various points depending on the situation.

My overall impression is that I liked it, but there were a lot of commands to remember. If I were to compare it to Computer Baseball, MicroLeague Baseball had a lot more commands to memorize for both offensive, defensive and managerial functions.

While the offensive options made sense, I wasn't entirely sure why the pitchers were allowed to choose a style of pitch as the game (like Computer Baseball) only throws one pitch to the batter (except for pitch outs) and then the ball is put in play (or the batter walks or strikes out). Comparatively, Computer Baseball simply asked you to Pitch, Pitch Around or Intentional Walk to a hitter.

I found the system for replacing hitters, warming up pitchers and replacing pitchers to be a little clunky. Yes, I know we are dealing with a 1980s game, but Computer Baseball was able to implement a simple system that worked well. The MicroLeague Baseball system has a lot of buttons to push and doesn’t feel intuitive.

There were also some game play issues that I found that could be considered a negative. First, when you warm up a pitcher in the bullpen, there is no indication he is ready. Computer Baseball would display a "+" sign next to a pitcher to let you know.

The second and more major issue was that the game did not keep track of players that were taken out. Thus I could swap players in and out even though they had already played. The game kept indicating that some changes had been made and I needed to look at my lineup. However, I kept playing with no repercussions.

Overall, after playing the game a couple of times I did enjoy it. In many ways, MicroLeague Baseball is a successor to Computer Baseball. MicroLeague Baseball attempts to keep the simulation aspects of Computer Baseball while adding just a little more graphics and sound to the experience.

I'm not sure the game is entirely successful with the issues noted above, plus the graphics can be redundant after awhile. However, if you did enjoy Computer Baseball and wished for a game that was similar with more graphics, MicroLeague Baseball is definitely a worthy choice.

NEWS & NOTES

Thanks to a2central.com:

Karateka Remake Trailer: http://a2central.com/4602/karateka-remake-official-trailer/

Karateka, the 1980s classic is being remade for current systems by original author Jordan Mechner. Check out the link above for the announcement and two trailer videos!


Eamon #255 Announced: http://a2central.com/4614/eamon-255-announced/

Eamon is a long running text / adventure series and #255 was recently announced. Despite the long history of the game, I have never played it though I will make an effort for a future issue!