Big strikeouts and even bigger homers make The BIGS a great arcade baseball game.
- Fast-paced gameplay is a great alternative to the slower pace of sims
- Pitching and hitting are equally satisfying
- Home Run Pinball is a unique and fun minigame.
- A bit shallow, even for an arcade-style game
- Fielding controls are poor.
As good as baseball games have gotten, many people feel that they're too complex and yearn for the old days where you could play an entire game in 15 minutes but didn't have to have a college degree to figure out the controls. If you've ever felt this way, or you just like fast-paced, over-the-top baseball, The BIGS should be right up your alley.
The BIGS has a lot in common with Midway's Slugfest series; the games move along at a brisk pace and there are plenty of gargantuan home runs, as well as some absolutely filthy pitches. On the mound, each of your pitches is mapped to a face button on the controller. To throw a pitch, you simply press the corresponding button and hold it until you've gone past the mark on the meter. If you wait too long or release too early, your location will be off and you'll tip your pitch to the batter. Each pitch is rated according to the pitcher's ability to throw it. This ability decreases as the game goes on, but the change can be accelerated by giving up hits. The harder the pitch is hit, the less effective it will be, and eventually, you'll lose the ability to throw the pitch completely. This isn't a huge problem when playing a single game because you've got plenty of pitchers at your disposal, but it's an issue in rookie challenge because a pitcher's stamina level carries over from game to game.
For every strike you throw, you'll fill your turbo bar a little, and when you've filled one of your bars, you can press a button to activate turbo. This adds some extra zip to your fastball and adds some break to your breaking pitches, making them very difficult to hit. Above the turbo meter is the power-up meter. On defense, this can be filled by striking out hitters, making great plays, and robbing home runs. Once it's full, you can use it on either offense or defense for one at-bat. When it's used on defense, your pitches are all powered up and nearly (but not quite) unhittable. You'll also steal some of the points from the opposition's power-up meter depending on how many strikes you throw. Even when you're tossing regular pitches, it's a blast because the pitches are so darn nasty.
Hitting is just as simple and just as satisfying as pitching. You've got one button for a contact swing and one for a power swing. You don't have to worry about lining up cursors or using the analog stick to try to match the pitch location--it's all about timing. The left analog stick can be used to aim your shot, but there's no reason to be intimidated--it's easy to do and not all that necessary. You can earn turbo by taking balls, but the pitches move so fast and break so much that judging location is nearly impossible unless the pitcher tipped his pitch.
The turbo that you've accumulated on defense carries over to when you're on offense though, so you'll get plenty of chances to use it. If you activate it before a pitch, you'll add some power to your swing and force the pitcher to throw a strike. If you use it after you've hit the ball, you can run extra fast. While you might not be able to fill your turbo meter much on offense, you can increase your power-up meter fairly quickly by getting base hits, walking, or getting beaned. Activating your big hit power-up will guarantee a home run, provided you make contact. But this isn't just any old home run, it's a titanic blast that will spark as it hits the fair pole or explode when it hits the scoreboard. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety with regards to where the ball goes when it's hit because it seems to go to the same few spots over and over again. It also would have been nice to not get home runs taken away by the CPU several times in a game (even when you use turbo to hit), but for the most part, hitting is a lot of fun.
Where The BIGS stumbles a bit is in its fielding and base running. Once you've practiced (and when it works) mashing a button to run faster and using buttons to select the runner, moving the analog stick to direct them works OK, but too often the runners don't make the turn when you want them to or they stop in their tracks just shy of the base. The ability to run full-speed into the catcher like a freight train is totally awesome the first time you see it and makes up for some of the base running woes, but not all of them. The rest of the game is so simple you wonder why base running is so complicated. In the field, you can use boost to run faster or throw the ball faster, but the game plays so fast that you'll rarely have time to discern that you need turbo and press the button before it's too late. You can rob home runs by running up to the wall, pressing a button to jump, and then replicating a sequence of button presses shown onscreen. But unless you're playing another person, these opportunities are few and far between.
Once the ball is hit, you're given control over the player in the best position to make a play, but the ball is hit so hard that it's often already passed you by the time you figure out who you're controlling. This issue is exacerbated by a fielder's inability to change direction quickly; if you take one step in the wrong direction, you can forget about getting to the ball in time. Finally, the plays where the ball hits a fielder, knocking him down as it ricochets away are far too common and are all the more frustrating thanks to the lousy fielding controls. But even these issues don't prevent the game from being a ton of fun to play.