MLB Slugfest 2006 «

There are lots of sports fans that play video games, but they are primarily divided into two camps. There are those who love the realism, the depth, and the stats. These players clamor for as genuine a recreation of their chosen sport as possible. These are the people who write in to game publishers (and their favorite game review sites) complaining about the outdated pinstripes on their home team’s uniforms, the clearly misguided rating for their favorite player’s fielding attribute, and the lack of condiments provided by the in-game concession stands. We’ll call these the sports nerds.

On the other hand, there are those that look back fondly on Midway’s arcade hit NBA Jam. This was a game that featured simplified yet lightning fast, twitch-based gameplay, and was filled with insane moves, giant heads, and players literally catching on fire. These are the people that couldn’t care less what Alex Rodriguez’s on-base percentage was last year against left-handed batters on rainy days — they just want to hit homeruns and talk trash with their friends. We’ll call these the sports jocks. So are you a nerd, or are you a jock? If your figurative high school years were spent tormenting the kids that wore black, then MLB Slugfest 2006 was made for you.

The rosters haven’t been updated since February, and baseball season is in full swing, but who cares? Randy Johnson is on FIRE (literally), and he’s throwing the heat, in this case with a corkscrew pitch called a Tornado that only the luckiest Shaolin monk would be able to make contact with. Derrek Lee? He’s hitting homeruns and doing the robot for the fans’ entertainment after crossing home plate. If only the soundtrack had licensed Kraftwerk for this bit, the moment could have been perfect. David Ortiz, ticked off after taking a bean ball from Pedro Martinez, decides to charge up Dragon Ball Z-style and rush the mound. While you can’t see the action directly, you can hear the blows raining down on the hapless pitcher, and the wincing infielders are indicator enough of the retribution being delivered. While bench-clearing brawls are far from unheard of in the majors, MLB Slugfest 2006 condenses a lifetime’s worth of baseball hijinks into each game, allowing players to punch each other to jar balls loose and slide into base cleats-high, because that’s how Pete Rose would have done it.

If this all seems entertaining to you, be sure to know ahead of time that this is a very simplified version of baseball, and only an incremental change over previous Slugfest games. For one thing, you can only pitch into one of the nine different locations that the strike zone is divided into. You have two options once you pick your location: try for a strike, or hurl a ball just outside this part of the strike zone and hope to catch the batter swinging. Every location you can pitch to is within reach of a batter willing to extend, though, so there’s no feasible way to pitch outside a batter as you often would in other baseball games.

Sure, you can try and paint the corners, but this isn’t the kind of game where you’re often going to sit a lot of batters. With every five strikes you earn one special pitch, which makes for an entertaining, easy strike or out. Saving the game’s otherwise lackluster pitching are the trick pitches. Before the ball is released, you can input a quick button command to perform a special variation on the pitch. Fastballs can become Cutters or Fireballs, for instance, and changeups can become circle changes or pull off a loop-d-loop. It’s too bad that these super pitches aren’t enough to save the pitching from being ultimately unsatisfying.


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