Backyard Baseball & Soccer (Plug and Play Game) Gameplay

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Back in my day, we didn't have no stinkin' characters with actual personalities!

Remember back in the day when companies used to make those weird self-contained game "consoles" that were basically only one step above Tiger handhelds? Well, okay, the ones with ports of classic arcade games were pretty good, but then you had...these. These were a thing for a while up until the mid-2000s (with them seeming to have fallen out entirely once the 2008 recession hit), and apparently even Humongous wanted to get in on the action with this one. It was released in 2005 and developed by Hasbro and Milton-Bradley. An Internet friend of mine did a video on the Backyard Baseball half of this a few years back, but this one shows off both halves.

Of all the bizarre things to ever come out of Humongous's legacy, this one is right up there with the Backyard Sports TV special and Big Thinkers. It's not entirely clear whether was this was released pre- or post-bankruptcy as Humongous's name is nowhere to be found anywhere on the product, including the original box. It could have been something that Atari independently commissioned Hasbro and MB to make, but there isn't a huge amount of clarity, given that this released the exact same year that Humongous shut their doors for good.

This thing's bizarreness doesn't end there though. Heavens, far from that. Despite the fact that this was released in 2005 -- well after the series had transitioned to the thick-line character designs and left SCUMM behind -- this game takes the large bulk of its inspiration from Baseball 2001 and Soccer MLS Edition, both of which were simple updates to the original 1997 and 1998 games. This means despite the fact that all the branding on the game uses the 3D-era labelling, the game itself bears way more resemblance to the early era, right down to using the original character designs!

So, how's the game, you ask?

Oooooh boy, it's...umm...it's something alright. The game feels very low budget for starters. Maybe you could argue I shouldn't have expected too much, but I've played a few other plug and play games from this era and they still are a lot better than this. The controls are super confusing and unintuitive -- you have a standard four button layout, but starting from the bottom and going counter-clockwise, it's YXAB (for comparison, an Xbox controller is ABYX and a typical Nintendo controller is BAXY). I have no idea why they couldn't just copy one of the common controller layouts or just use something a little easier to remember like DRUL. I effectively have to look at the controller every time it asks me to press a specific button. Perhaps the most annoying example of the bad and inconsistent controls -- when playing Soccer, if you are defending, you push Y to switch players, but when you have the ball, you push X to pass. Switching and passing should never EVER be different buttons from one another, but somehow they managed to make that rookie mistake. In Baseball, when you are fielding, the four face buttons throw to the corresponding base which is perfectly reasonable, but when batting, you have to push a direction and X to run to a base forwards and a direction and A to run to a base backwards. You have no idea how many times I tripped up thinking Y was what you used to run back only to remember the game uses a really bizarre control layout. Speaking of, the characters run way too slow and frequently you aren't able to make the plays you want in time just because the game doesn't do what you want it to. Ack.

Oh, and just for the record, I know the video looks horrendous. That's not my fault. This game's video output really does look this bad. It looks okay on a small 9-inch CRT screen but put it on anything bigger and it just looks awful. And on a related note, the visuals are...well, I mean, it's the same as the SCUMM games, but the character designs are...well, again, they're something alright. They reuse a few of the character sprites like putting Sally on Vicki's body, Ricky on Ernie's, and Stephanie's on Jocinda's. And as JuniorAdventurer mentioned, we also get Gretchen's long lost twin, apparently.

The games themselves went alright. I ended up putting my foot in my mouth towards the end of baseball by intentionally striking out at the top of the 6th and then almost having the AI come from behind and beat me at the bottom, but I managed to pull through. Soccer is significantly shorter and I have even less to say about that.

Hope you enjoy. Heck of a way to roll in the new decade, huh?

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