Tornado Baseball, Hockey, Handball, Tennis - Bally Pro Arcade, 1978
These must be popular sports. Let me just point something out here.
Magnavox Odyssey 1972
Fairchild Channel F 1976
Tennis (built in)
Hockey (built in)
RCA Studio II 1977
Tennis / Squash (Handball by another name)
Atari VCS 1978
Home Run (Baseball)
Video Olympics (1977) (Tennis, Hockey and Handball included)
Blackjack and some kind of Fun with Arabic Numbers variant also seemed de rigueur for the period.
I just don't wee WHY the marketing departments of the world thought this was what we still wanted in 1978. I guess that explains why these three games were all crammed onto the same Bally cart, as if they were saying, "if you have to have 'em, here they are."
The Hockey, Handball and Tennis games on the Bally are a little bizarre. It is nice of them to replace the paddles with actual human figures, so thanks for that. Control of their movement is strange, however. Your paddle/knob moves your Hockey/Tennis/Handball players up and down, but the joystick moves them from side to side. Different? Yes. Awkward? Also Yes. Effective? Well, maybe after a while, but we would've fallen asleep if we had played too much longer. I mean, these games are essentially PONG all over again.
Baseball, no wait, I mean Tornado Baseball is a different story. This was probably based on an arcade game of the same name which I vaguely remember seeing in an actual arcade back in the 70s.
Hmm, I'm sorry, I've completely lost my "let's pretend we've journeyed back to 1978 " attitude.
Okay, after watching brand new episodes of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley we put in this new Bally cart that has Tornado Baseball on it, just like the one in the arcades! The players run out on to the field, just like they do in a real baseball game! Damn, that expression gets old quickly.
The gameplay is a lot like the other Baseball games we've seen. The team at bat only has to worry about hitting the ball. There's no lineup to choose or running strategy. Team in the field only has to worry about pitching (with direct control over how the ball curves and passes over the plate or not. Still, no beaning the other player, which would've been fun.) and moving the outfielders around.
The infield is all automatons who perform their duties well enough, but there's never any chance for an error. It is interesting to see a player in the field catch a ball and watch the ball bounce around to the other players. We hit doubles, triples and homers (EDIT in 2021: DOH! (sorry for anachronistic Simpson's reference.)), but mostly singles and fouls. It was hard to get a triple or double, harder than it was to hit a homer, even. I can't say this game offers great gameplay, although this is probably because I'm not a real life Baseball fan.
That being said, this is still the best Baseball videogame, in the purest sense, that we've seen. It certainly knocks Atari's Home Run right out of the park. The sound is acceptable, though I don't know why they couldn't have included a few ballpark melodies since the machine can sing circles around anything else out there. The graphics are good. The players are animated as they run, they don't just stand still while they float out to their positions. No flicker, either.
If you find yourself stuck in 1978 and you just gotta play a Baseball videogame, this is the one to play, at least for now.
What's kind of astonishing is how little the design of this, the best Baseball game so far, has changed since the Odyssey Baseball in 1972. Basically, a pitcher sends the ball, controlling the curve and the batter hits it, trying to aim it for a particular zone to get a some kind of hit, while the outfielders move back and forth to catch it. Frankly, I think the Odyssey version had more variation and possibility for interesting situations. Pinch hitting, base stealing, player stats, balking -- I may not have enjoyed it much, but that game had a lot more to it than the recent crop of Baseball games, even though it was more boardgame than videogame.
Okay, next entry will be a new system. There are only two left for 1978. Please look forward to it.