Monday, October 10, 2005

PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition Review

PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition, developed by Shaun Sullivan and published by Matrix Games.
The Good: Insane customization, support for real baseball stats, realistic simulation of statistics
The Not So Good: Data overload for some, not exactly action packed
What say you? A feature-filled baseball management simulation: 6/8

I loathe baseball. It takes precious time away from the real sports, which are (in order): NFL football, NASCAR, hockey, and college football. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a city that doesn’t have a major league team or because it’s oppressively boring, but baseball doesn’t interest me in the slightest. It is strange, then, that I enjoy baseball management games. It think this is because the actual amount of baseball is kept to a minimum, and these are the best management games around and involve players that I’ve actually heard of (which means not soccer nor cricket management). I played Season Ticket Baseball 2003 a lot (which is actually Out of the Park Baseball), twiddling my lineups in an attempt to not suck. So along comes PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition, another text-based baseball simulation game that’s had several iterations. Will it [insert positive baseball metaphor] or will it [insert negative baseball metaphor]?

Since PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition is a classic text-based management game, the graphics are page after page of text. Surprise! But actually, PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition is one of the most well organized management games I’ve seen in a while. All of the important pages are accessible from the bottom menu bar (which have pictorial icons!), so navigating the excess of information is quite easy. It’s still like looking at a spreadsheet, because, in essence, it is a spreadsheet, but at least PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition attempts to make it easy on the user, and it succeeds for the majority of the time. Some of the menu items are a few too many clicks away from the main page, or laid out in a confusing way, but it mostly works. The game simulations are actually better than most other games of the genre, graphically displaying where each hit goes on a picture of a ballfield. As for the sound, there isn’t much variety to be seen here. In fact, there are a total of 24 sounds for the entire game, and most of those are menu navigation effects. A computerized voice does text to speech for the player currently at bat, which is a nice addition, but the sound is still extremely basic in PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition.

PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition features a level of custom options that is just staggering. You can essentially replicate any season of baseball from the beginning of the major leagues to the present, and even make a custom league of your own. The custom league options are some of the best I’ve seen in any game, and gives the user ultimate control on their league. The game supports a number (say, 30) of different league configurations, each with different numbers of teams, leagues, and divisions. Each of your teams can be located in essentially any major and minor city in America, and corresponding financial support from each metropolitan area is calculated by the game. If you want to see how much a New York City team would dominate the other cities in the state, you can certainly do that. The financial options even scale salaries to the year you are playing (for example, in 1901, they pay you in cheese). You can also incorporate real MLB players by using the Lahman Database, a free spreadsheet of players from every year of professional baseball. For each association, you can customize the starting year, finances, engine settings (such as deadball era), roster size, minor leagues, injuries, trades, expansion, schedule length, and designated hitter rules. You can even play the game as a multiplayer affair, which each player controlling a different team. Obviously, PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition has some comprehensive options for creating the league you want.

The gameplay in a game such as PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition is managing your team. There is much information to be gathered in this game, presented in almost perfectly organized menus and spreadsheets. What makes navigating the game easy is one-click access to the most important menus, which includes information on the current day’s games, standings, statistics, highlights, a league almanac, injuries, trades, and coverage, a website parody that highlights rankings of players and other strange statistics (like RC/27). There is almost too much information in the game, but most of it is superfluous information that you’ll never really need, but it’s interesting to peruse. Some of the more original elements of the game include eight levels of fatigue, changing manager tendencies, and modifying the dimensions of your ball park (which is really cool). You don’t have to mess with stupid editors in most games that let you change where seats are located (Madden); the changes you make here actually affect the statistics of your team, making your home field favorable for either hitters or pitchers. Want to increase your hitting? Move the walls in! Ha!

PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition features three ways to play the games. You can simulate each game quickly in quick sim; it takes about a second to simulate each game. You can also watch the game unfold in PSPNCast, which, I have made clearly aware in the introduction, is not the way I do it. You can also manage the game, which is like watching it except you press enter and substitute players. You can order your players to steal bases or intentionally walk a batter, but it’s up to the stats for the most part. Thankfully, the game skips to the pitches where something happens (a hit, strikeout, walk, or stolen base), and this cuts down on the time involved in the game considerably. For most people, watching or managing the games is not the most exciting endeavor of their day, but really playing the games is just a required aspect of managing a club, and most of the time you’ll just want to quick sim the games until the end of the season rolls around.

PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition is a good baseball management game. The amount of options that are given to the user is quite exciting, far beyond what competitor’s offer. If you can customize the dimensions of your ball park, you can count me in. PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition tries its best to make the flood of stats easy on the user, and does so for the most part. The data are organized in a reasonable fashion and are easily accessible. As long as the game is easy to navigate, the text-based nature of the game becomes bearable. The level of league customization is also appreciated, as you can simulate pretty much any real and fictional baseball league in the history of mankind (I’m currently doing a Southern League). I was quite impressed by the amount of bells and whistles that PureSim Baseball 2005 Gold Edition brings to the table, and it results in one of the best management games ever.