MLB Manager Online (www.mlbmanageronline.com) is a new browser-based baseball management game from Sega. And while one might want to categorize it as a “text-sim,” it plays more like a Facebook game without the Facebook. Still, for a “sim-lite,” it’s a fun, addictive and quick way to experience the joy of managing a big league team.
MLB Manager Online reminds me a lot of a card game I played in college called MLB Showdown. In both games -- one paper, one virtual -- you collected player cards, organized a lineup and rotation, and simulated games, all while staying under a “salary cap.”
MLB Manager Online adds a lot to this formula though, too much in fact to mention completely in a single article. Layered on top are training cards, expiring contracts, a morale system and a neighborhood that grows based on your success.
Another great aspect is that you are not playing in isolation; MLB Manager is a multiplayer experience. There is not a lot of required human-to-human contact, but it is nice to know that there is a human on the other end of the line. That said, you never actually manage in a game -- they are simmed at the start of each hour.
The game also does some nice things to keep you coming back. Your "salary cap" or points limit, goes up each day, so it becomes easier to squeeze in those high-value players. There are daily specials on cards, so there is always reason to check in. Games happen frequently enough, and if you happen to be between games, you can always play an exhibition versus a real MLB team. Additionally, you are promoted or demoted through various levels based on your standing at the end of a “season.” Seasons move quickly too, lasting just a little over a week.
The game looks good enough, and it has a retro baseball card feel. The in-game simulations look nice for a flash game, but they move a little too slowly. The fast-forward button is your friend! Why, though, must the game run in such a small window?
The game features over 900 MLB players, and it does offer connections based on your favorite team.
The sim engine does not seem to be too deep, and the in-game manager does some strange things. Basically, the game plays almost entirely station-to-station. However, there is a limited opportunity to adjust your strategy. This is not any kind of ultimate simulator, but more a functional and fun team-building game -- think a step above fantasy baseball.
The best part not mentioned so far is that, as of this writing, this game is completely free. However, Sega has just added some optional micro-transaction-type additions, which, depending on your opinion, may help or harm this game. I think it's probably the only way for the game to remain around seeing as there are very few advertisements. It's not like you need to spend money; I haven't and I have finished no lower than third place in my first three seasons.
MLB Manager Online is a great way to get your baseball management fix. It’s quick, addictive, easy and runs in a browser. It’s not going to replace Out of the Park Baseball or your favorite traditional text sim, but it is still a pretty deep title. I would say it’s a little more engaging than even your standard fantasy league.