In the copycat world of sports video games, it's unusual to find a game concept that's never been done before. So it's something of a wonder that the preferred sport of the bearded, pot-bellied, blue-collar American is just now making an entry into the video-game market. But even though the game may deserve some credit for originality, the sheer lack of quality throughout the game keeps Sammy Sosa's Softball Slam from being anything interesting.
Sammy Sosa's Softball Slam makes an over-the-top arcade-style approach to softball, portraying it as the silly, somewhat outrageous "sport" it is. There are no professional players here - just beer-guzzling guys and well-endowed women out in the park for a little fun. The game does a good job of staying with this theme, as fielders will often flub catches, basemen will overthrow their bases, and runners will occasionally plow over the ball carriers. The gameplay is just about as simple as you could possibly get - when you're pitching you can choose from one of four pitches, and when you're batting you can choose from one of three swings. There are none of the complex ball-angling or pitch-prediction techniques found in most other baseball games on the market - just a simple single-button hit-the-ball-when-it's-over-the-plate technique that gets boring pretty quick. Once the ball is hit, the computer switches you to the nearest fielder and shows you exactly where the ball is going to land with a huge circular icon - stand anywhere underneath it, and you've got a great chance of catching it. Tossing the ball to the bases is pretty intuitive, as Softball Slam uses the diamond button-for-a-base scheme so common in other baseball games. Still, playing the game really isn't that fun, as the overly simplistic nature gives you almost no control over your players. The addition of flaming homeruns and power throws - throws that light on fire and are faster but less accurate - really do nothing to help the gameplay.
The first thing you'll notice about this game is just how ugly it is. Simply put, the graphics are way below par - not only is the animation of all the characters extremely choppy, but the textures and backgrounds are pathetic. There are almost no shading and lighting effects, and the characters look extremely polygonal. The backgrounds are both blurry and pixilated, and making out exactly what's going on while you're fielding is sometimes difficult. On top of that, your batters will often go into a practice animation or taunt in the middle of the pitch, only to suddenly jump into the swing animation when you press the button. This effect not only looks ridiculous, but it also makes it that much harder to judge the pitch. The sound is really bad too. Not only does the game feature an overobnoxious announcer who unsuccessfully tries to get you into the game by screaming things like "It's wild! It's crazy!" when you get a base hit, but the taunts from the stands are enough to make you go insane. You're guaranteed to hear "Hey, your shoe's untied" at least twice for every batter, making this game infinitely better without the soundtrack. There's no in-game music, and the ambient sound effects really make you wish they had put some sort of music in the game.While the game offers you the option of creating your own team, the options are extremely limited. When playing a coed league, you'll have to have an equal number of guys and gals on your team, and you won't be able to change their order. The options that it does give you are pretty ridiculous - you'll be able to change your players' name, size, weight, and a few of their stats, but you won't be able to change their actual faces or hair color. The edit-player mode also features a "transform to Sammy Sosa" button, which, when pressed, transforms the character into Sosa as if he were some sort of fleshy Optimus Prime. Unfortunately, once you press the button you can't change back, meaning Sammy's now stuck on your team. Also, while the mode uses a point system to measure stats on each of the different players, it doesn't regulate your spending, meaning you can simply pump all the stats up to their max without giving it a second thought. All in all, the edit-team options are so limited and tedious that it's not really worth spending the time to use them.
While it's nice that more arcade-styled takes on regular sports are showing up on consoles, Sammy Sosa's Softball Slam is a poor example of how games like this should be done. This game simply screams mediocrity, as almost every aspect of this game is substandard. While casual gamers might want to give this game a rental, those looking to experience a little softball action should simply go outside and do it the old-fashioned way.