9 Innings: Pro Baseball 2011 Review (iPhone)
There have been a number of baseball titles that have graced the iPhone, but now we are finally starting to see officially licensed games featuring real teams and players. 9 Innings Pro Baseball 2011 is the latest, incorporating real-player likenesses through the MLBPA license. However, the lack of real teams is one of this game’s few faults. With that said, 9 Innings 2011 is still a worthy addition to your iPhone library.
From a gameplay perspective, it is pretty standard hardball on your phone: computer-controlled fielding, touch-based pitch location/accuracy and timed hitting. While it’s nothing terribly new, it is handled in a superb and relatively straight-forward fashion. Little things, like being able to touch anywhere on the screen to hit or throw to a cutoff man, make it a pleasure to play on the mobile device.
The game boasts over 750 real players. The players are represented by cards and basic stats. Teams do not feature full 25-man rosters, rather a starting lineup, five-man rotation, and a healthy collection of bullpen and bench players. It’s not exactly sim, but it works in a game like this.
The best way to play the game is in the Season mode, which has your team playing a full 162-game schedule. What makes this mode interesting is a card level-up system that is layered on top of a standard arcade season. Instead of trading or signing free agents, you earn points for completing various tasks. These points can be used to buy packs of cards (hopefully with better players), or to level up your existing players. Additionally, coach and cheerleader(!) cards can have sweeping impacts on your team’s performance.
There are varying degrees of card values that range from common to "hero." Theses cards have slightly different stats and boosts. With so many players and cards to collect, it’s easy to upgrade your team as you play. There is also an inherent addictiveness to collecting cards, boosting players and constructing a solid team. It’s not as deep as it could be, and truthfully the interface could be a tad easier to grasp, but it is a lot of fun, especially in short doses.
What’s important here, though, is that the computer teams also feature cards of varying quality, so the game sort of adjusts to you. The game remains a challenge, and through about a third of a season, I am only at .500.
While it’s essentially an arcade game, it’s not over the top like other similar games. The pitches in the game are real, but they are not always accurate to the pitcher -- I’m not seeing Jamie Moyer unleash a 94 mph fastball in real life. In other words, there are no rising fastballs, spirally flaming pitches or any other fantastical pitches like that. Hits are not automatic, and runs can be difficult to score. Home runs, too, happen at a reasonable frequency.
Simply put, this is not the ultimate baseball simulation, either on the iPhone or amongst games as a whole. But it is a lot of fun and makes for a great airplane diversion. Of all the baseball games I have played on the platform, this one has been the most enjoyable to play on a daily basis.
On the Diamond: Simple and engaging gameplay that is made more enjoyable by solid touch controls.
Graphics: Well animated players and ball movement highlight a 2-D game that’s clean and pleasant to look at.
Sound Design: Good sound effects with very little commentary ("strike out!") or music.
Entertainment Value: $5 is an average price as far as iPhone games go, and this one is worth it.
Learning Curve: Things could be explained better, and the interface is a little clunky.
Score: 8.0 (Very Good)