DUMB AND DUMBER: Poor play control, overcooked animations, and a general lack of imagination hobble this promising game.
The Bigs 2 is in no way intended to be an accurate baseball simulation. Instead of double switches, well-placed bunts, and carefully positioned outfielders, this game is all about leaping catches, monster jacks, and power-ups that set fire to the baseball. All of which is fine as far as it goes. The arcade-style sports game has a proud tradition. But the makers of The Bigs 2 seem to have confused simplifying the sport with dumbing it down.
What's frustrating is that the game does enough right to make you feel you should be enjoying yourself. The interaction between the pitcher and the batter is well implemented. Each batter has a wheelhouse, the part of the strike zone where he hits with the most power; this is represented on screen by a pulsing red field. It's easier to get a batter out by pitching around his wheelhouse, but the game offers incentives for attacking his strength: a wheelhouse strike will reduce his effectiveness for the rest of the game and also earn points for your team.
Here's where we start to go off the rails. The Bigs stacks power-ups one on top of another, adding complexity where there should be simplicity. Filling a turbo meter allows you to boost the power of your next pitch or swing. Eventually, you acquire the superpowered "Big Blast" or "Big Heat" ability, a one-time infusion of superhuman strength for your pitcher or batter. Hitting a Big Blast is cool — these earth-shattering homers make Roy Hobbs's final hit look like a bloop single. As each team earns power-ups, more and flashier duels erupt, until the game wrests control from you and turns into a slot machine. Forget strategy — the whole thing feels like a 10-car pile-up.
The Bigs 2 also sexes up the more routine plays. Almost every outfielder can jump about 10 feet to make a catch, and those whose fielding ability is deemed "legendary" can soar into the air, snagging a fly ball in freeze frame while thunder crashes. Base runners collide with the catcher with alarming frequency. Line drives regularly bounce out of one fielder's glove into another's. This stuff is neat to see — once.
For almost every kind of play like this, a Wario Ware–style mini-game pops up. To make an outfield catch, you have to key in a four-button combination. To catch a pop-up in the stands, you must balance a ball upon a beam. Without any way to practice, you learn only by messing up in game situations. The lack of any tutorial is a killer.
The progression of the game's single-player campaign is also poorly conceived. You not only have to win games — you have to win them while achieving a specific goal, such as getting three hits with your created character. That means you can play through a entire game, pop out in the last inning, and fail to advance even though your team won.
There are smaller failures of execution everywhere. Poor play control and overcooked animations hamper both base running and fielding. That doesn't hurt as much as the lack of imagination. The players are unlikable, all sporting veined muscles and vicious snarls. (They must have missed the memo about MLB's steroid policy.) Rather than exaggerate the athletes' real-life traits, TheBigs 2 depicts them all as preening idiots. The notoriously reticent J.D. Drew could have been portrayed as a robot; instead, he showboats after making a spectacular catch.
It's clear that realism is not the goal. Still, would it have killed the play-by-play guy to pronounce Nick Markakis's name correctly? This is baseball for dummies.