I normally avoid sports titles on any console, I simply don’t enjoy them, but I may have found one that I actually like. The last game I reviewed that could be defined as a sports game was bowling which was my ninth ever review and as it was amongst the early Atari releases it was nothing to look at. But unlike with bowling, baseball had several versions released starting with Home Run in 1978 and ending with Pete Rose Baseball in 1988, I think we’ll review the latter of those two today. I still find it amazing that there were 2600 games still being sold by the late 80’s, when P.R. Baseball was being sold, the Sega Megadrive was being sold in Japan, that’s just a weird thought isn’t it? Let’s get back on track. P.R. Baseball was published by Absolute Entertainment; Absolute was founded by Gary Kitchen and one of the original Activision founders, David Crane, was a part of it as well. Perhaps Activision was becoming too much like Atari was and so they simply left the company to create another, as the founding members of Activision did before. Absolute’s fate is an unfortunate one, after a good streak programming for the NES and Genesis amongst others; they declared bankruptcy in 1995 and Absolute was no more. So without further delay let’s look at the game.
This is without a doubt the most visually complex sports title on the 2600. The first screen you’ll see is a behind the shoulder perspective on the pitcher and my goodness it’s some real eye candy. All three of the players on the screen are absolutely gigantic, and are well defined and well animated to boot, the pitcher especially. The game consists of six screens that cover the entire diamond and the outfield; there are three screens for the outfield two for the infield and one for the pitchers mount. Every player is represented right down to the shortstop, and even though the sprites are all a single color in the field screens they are still large and well drawn. There is also a handy map at the top of the screen when you’re in the field screens that indicates here the other teams players are on the field, which bases they’re on, and if they’re trying to steal a base. Overall this is a spectacular looking game especially for the 2600.
The sounds in this game are disappointingly sparse; all you’ll really be hearing is the white noise of the crowd, there is a snippet of the national anthem to start the game but otherwise it’s just a bunch of beeps and smacking noises whenever you catch the ball.
Like with all baseball games on the 2600 the controls are a bit confusing at first. Starting with pitching you can pitch four different types of pitch by holding the joystick in one of the four cardinal directions and pressing the button, you can also adjust your position horizontally in an attempt to influence the trajectory of the ball. On the field if the ball is going to the outfield you’ll only be controlling the one player in left, right, or center field which eases up on confusion. Controlling players infield is a bit tricky since you have to hold the joystick in one of four directions and press the button to select the player, certain players have jurisdiction of certain horizontal strips of the screen so if the ball is a bit too low for second base to get and a bit too high up for the pitcher to get you have to get first or third to run over, even if second is closer; just hope the ball doesn’t get hit infield. Another major problem of baseball games on the 2600 is throwing to the bases, thankfully P.R. Baseball alleviates that headache with that little minimap that’s at the top of the screen, it will show arrows pointing to all of the bases in the four cardinal directions again, and you simply have to hold the joystick in one of those directions and press the button to throw it to that base and as soon as the ball is in possession of one of the basemen the game automatically cuts to the pitcher’s mound removing the need to throw it to the pitcher like in other games. Batting like with any baseball game is more about luck than timing, you will be hitting a lot of foul balls in this game; I’ll leave it at that.
Out of all the baseball games on the 2600 I’d say the Pete Rose baseball is my favorite, the game looks good and the game plays good, which is more than I can say for it competition. At the moment of writing this there seems to be a small influx of NOS which are being sold for 12.75$ Free Shipping, otherwise loose carts are sitting at around 13-40$. I really don’t want to put this game in the Collector’s Zone but once the NOS dries up I simply can’t recommend it. Buy it now, while you still can!