reviews\ Jul 31, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Backyard Baseball - GBA - Review

Those Backyard kids have moved to the GBA, and the result couldn't be better!

Backyard Baseball is one of the games from Humongous, a subsidiary of Infogrames. These games all feature pint-sized versions of current sports stars, plus a plethora of regular kids, too. Designed so that the youngest player can easily jump into playing, the Backyard series is all about playing the game and having fun!

Upon starting up the game, players can choose to play a Quick Game, Home Run Derby, Single Game, Season Play or a Multiplayer game. In a Quick Game, the teams are already chosen and the player just jumps right into play. A Single Game allows the player to hand-pick the team and choose the field and whether to be home or visitor. Season Play takes the team through an entire season, with a save game feature. Home Run Derby allows for batting practice, and Multiplayer lets friends play head-to-head for a Single Game, Home Run Derby and trade players.

If a child has never played a Backyard game before or any other sports simulation, the Quick Game option is the best place to start with either a Tee-Ball or Easy setting on the difficulty level. This lets them become familiar with the game controls and mode of play without worrying about losing immediately. Kids can either direct players to run and throw, or just sit back and watch the gameplay on these easiest settings. The harder settings will require more gamer participation.

When at bat, kids can choose different players on the bases and direct them to run by simply using the directional keys on the control pad, but this option is a little difficult to use mostly because of the small screen - the runners can't be seen while the ball is being fielded. This makes it hard to assess whether a runner needs to go or stay put. Fielding is much easier, and kids can direct the action easily by picking the base to receive the ball with the directional keys. Batting itself is pretty difficult, and on the harder levels will result in many strikeouts for novice players! However, the errors made by the computer's team will offset this somewhat (the AI on the hardest level is fairly easy, this being a kid's sports game).

When choosing a team, careful consideration must be given to the players' abilities, which are detailed under each one. Things like what affects their moods, what skills they have and don't have, and what sort of circumstances dictate their best efforts are all part of the choosing process. The roster can be toggled for the maximum effect.

This game looks wonderful on the GBA, exactly like the original PC games. The players are drawn charmingly, with over-sized heads and puckish looks, and are a nice array of both genders and many ethnic types. Players like Sammy Sosa, Chipper Jones and Barry Bonds are translated well.

Backyard Baseball is an excellent children's handheld game, and one that is easy enough for very young players, but hard enough for older ones, too, although it won't present much of a challenge for kids over the age of twelve. This is all about having fun while playing a sports game, and girls as well as boys will enjoy having a winning season! Kudos to Infogrames and Humongous for a great job bringing this popular sport to the little fry.

Gameplay: 8.5
Playing electronic baseball has never been easier than in this excellent kids edition of the popular sport.

Graphics: 7.5 
Very nice animation on the GBA.

Sound: 7
The sounds are typical baseball themed musical notes and crowd noises.

Difficulty: Easy
For the most part, this game is very easy and won't present much of a challenge for older players, but that's a plus for kids!

Concept: 7 
While there's nothing new about sports simulations as a whole, there aren't many kids oriented ones available.

Multiplayer: Yes
There is a multiplayer option for two players, both with an edition of the game.

Overall: 8.8
A wonderful port of the the Backyard series that works extremely well on the GBA.


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