Saturday, October 14, 2006

Baseball Mogul 2007 Review

Baseball Mogul 2007, developed by Sports Mogul Inc. and published by Enlight Software.
The Good: Straightforward and helpful user interface, real world pitches and players, player mode allows you to strategically place and guess pitches, fast simulation and prompted interruption during close key games, online leagues
The Not So Good: Creating a custom league could be more automated, salary does not time scale
What say you? A terrific sports management game that’s brimming with features and friendly to new players: 7/8

It’s that time of the year again, when the air turns cooler, the sun sets earlier, and America’s attention turns to its favorite pastime: NFL football. Apparently, there are these playoffs for this newfangled sport known as baseball as well, although, as a niche sport, I have never heard of it. As your favorite team fails to makes the playoffs for a 17th consecutive year, you start to wonder if you could do a better job at fielding a competitive team. Well, Baseball Mogul 2007 has your answer in sports management form. Adjust lineups! Develop new talent! Struggle against the financial glass ceiling imposed by large market teams! All the excitement of sitting in front of a computer staring at numbers can be yours! How will Baseball Mogul 2007 stack up against other baseball management games?

Baseball Mogul 2007 looks better than most sports management games. The user interface is easy to read thanks to generally large print; the squinting experienced in most management games is mostly absent in Baseball Mogul 2007. The interface is also extremely easy to navigate: everything is accessible from every screen in the game thanks to the top menu. All too often, games try to be over-stylish in their presentation, sacrificing ease of use. Baseball Mogul 2007 also has some pre-rendered 3-D models during the games themselves; they are a lot like movies and aren’t dynamic by any means, but it’s better than just staring at a square ball going across a static field. While Baseball Mogul 2007 is in the upper echelon of sports management games in terms of graphics, the sound is quite limited. There are only a few effects present in the game, and all of these take place during games and are rather repetitive. Still, some sound is better than no sound at all.

Overall, Baseball Mogul 2007 is a lot like most sports management games: you control the daily operations of a baseball squad, including signing free agents, adjusting lineups, and making managerial changes during the game. But, the game presents several additions to the genre that makes it stand out as the best baseball management game available. First, you’ll choose a team to control from any year between 1901 and the present; Baseball Mogul 2007 uses the Lahman database, so realistic information on every major league player in the 20th and 21st centuries is available. Baseball Mogul 2007 does not have all of the customization options available in ProSim Baseball 2007; making a custom league is laborious instead of automated, but having every baseball team over 100 plus years is still pretty good. Baseball Mogul 2007 features robust online play, where leagues can be coordinated with human managers for each squad, much like fantasy baseball but with more control (and it’s free with the game). Baseball Mogul 2007 has the usual player options: the draft, free agents, minor leagues, trades, and contract negotiations (and arbitration) during the off-season. The AI makes some interesting multi-player trades (usually offering a current stud for young players), although most of the trades appear to benefit the AI in the long run. The game features numerous ratings for each player that are summed up in an overall rating displayed next to each player name for easy organization. In addition to acquiring new talent, you’ll also need to set prices for tickets and concessions to earn money for new talent; Baseball Mogul 2007 gives data suggesting prices based off the league averages and the income of your metropolitan area. Baseball Mogul 2007 has all of the nerdy stats nerdy baseball fans demand, organized over several pages in an easy-to-access format. Organizing your lineup and rotation is very simple, and the game can make suggestions as well, letting you direct just how much control you desire. Baseball Mogul 2007 seems to create realistic results from simulated games and it does this very quickly; there’s hardly any waiting around while games are played. You can choose to simulate a day, week, month, year, or to the end of a significant injury. You can also enable an alert mode that allows you to jump into games when they are close, according to your settings of opponents (division or playoff rivals) and lead (tied, one run, et cetera). This is really useful in skipping blowouts and just adding your input to the important games. During a game, you can watch the action, manage the game by making substitutions and calling plays (bunts, steals, infield adjustments), or control the players themselves. It is this last option that sets Baseball Mogul 2007 apart from other sports management games, allowing the player greater control over the game and allowing for meaningful input. As the pitcher, you can call the pitch type and placement of the pitch, while the batter has the option to call pitch types and locations. This makes Baseball Mogul 2007 play a lot like an arcade baseball game and less like a non-interactive management game where you have little impact on the outcome once your lineup is set. The fact that Baseball Mogul 2007 gives you the option to use player mode rather than forcing it on you means the game has much wider appeal than most sports management or arcade baseball games.

Baseball Mogul 2007 rises above the pack of sports management games due to its gameplay features. While the base game is everything we’ve seen before (player and financial options), the level of interactivity during games sets this title apart. Baseball Mogul 2007 actually makes it quick and painless to play out a disturbingly long baseball season and this is coming from someone who loathes baseball. Despite being primarily text driven, the large text and colorful menus are easier on the eyes than most management games. The intuitive interface makes it easy to learn the game, as everything is just one click away. The lack of 3-D graphics during play does not bother me in the least, as the end result is the same. I would like to have an easier time coming up with custom leagues, and the fact that salaries are not realistic for historical time periods is an extremely minor quibble with the game. Engaging online play should appeal to fantasy players, and the game’s overall polish shines through. Baseball Mogul 2007 is a couple of tweaks away from being a very enjoyable baseball game with wide appeal, assuming you have some interest in the general manager role. Still, fans of either management games or baseball should check out this title, as it has something to appeal to almost every type of fan.