Baseball Riot calls my fonder, lazier high school days to mind. Ignoring impending homework, I turned to the computer lab for amusement. I discovered some of the Internet’s greatest Flash games during those hours, most more elaborate than Angry Birds or the copycats that played catch-up. Consider Baseball Riot one of those copycats. Although it puts a spin on your typical physics-themed gameplay, Baseball Riot still involves players lobbing projectiles at stationary targets, occasionally at certain angles to earn three stars. This one-trick pony performs its one spell well, but the illusion of enjoyment fades in a single sitting.
Did I complete Baseball Riot in one sitting? No. Did I put down my virtual bat before taking a tangible one to my Vita? You bet. Baseball Riot swells in difficulty at an alarming rate, yet you would never know that from screenshots alone. Like Angry Birds, the only immediate goal is to knock over all the enemies in a level, and players accomplish that by ricocheting baseballs into high-strung fans, umpires, hazmat dweebs, and hipsters. If you pelt three foes or more with one ball, you receive an extra. Simple, right?
Players control professional athlete Gabe Carpaccio, who seeks payback against the Explodz energy drink company (and anyone associated with it) for buying out his teammates. But I don’t find the story’s pitch enthralling. Explodz changes people – it makes consumers rabid – except Sunset Overdrive already capitalized on the mutant soda premise with more well-rounded gags and gameplay. Baseball Riot reiterates a handful of sexual innuendos (e.g., “I have your balls”) that briskly become redundant, even for somebody as juvenile as I.
The only thing more boring than Baseball Riot’s plot is its protagonist. Gabe’s gimmicks never grow beyond hitting a baseball really hard. With every level, players calibrate the ball’s initial bounce, swing away, and watch it rebound out of control. Meanwhile, each set of stages adds another enemy type to stall Gabe’s momentum. Rival pros catch the ball in their mitts, umpires wear pads that protect them from frontal blows, and so on.
Developer 10tons has called Baseball Riot a puzzler of sorts, since the enemy’s numbers often exceed the amount of balls at your disposal. On the easier stages, clearing the level with one strike feels appropriately uplifting, but Baseball Riot still transforms physics-based fun into a riddle-ridden fiasco – around chapter three, regular progress slows and trial and error set in. I would even say that most levels look poorly designed, that you must obtain the bonus balls to make headway.
Baseballs ricochet a dozen times, yet opponents cower beneath platforms or behind glass, an equal measure of rebounds away. Gabe can detonate volatile crates and canisters for a chain reaction, too, though the payoffs are impossible to predict. You might eliminate the remaining enemies or clear a direct path to your next target. Even more likely, the explosives could do nothing, igniting harmlessly and ending that turn.
Much of my progress felt like luck, since Baseball Riot does not depict a ball’s every bounce before players commit to the shot – hence the trial and error. On the plus side, Baseball Riot shows you the trajectory of the previous swing, and balls follow the same course if you don’t adjust your aim. In other words, you can consult videos for the right way to complete the story mode.
That idea – that there is a reliable way to best Baseball Riot – irks me. When I think physics, I think destruction first. Gabe’s anger does offer a gratifying dose of anarchy as adversary after adversary collapses in a cartoonish heap, but dialing my aim in to the nearest millimeter is the antithesis of the genre. The only consolation is that finishing one level opens up the adjacent stages on the world grid. When Gabe stumbles across a particularly tedious level, you navigate around it … kinda. To proceed to the next chapter – eight in total – players must clear a predetermined number of stages and amass the required stars.
I gave Baseball Riot two middle fingers at that point, and it should be noted: Baseball Riot is a spiritual successor to Tennis in the Face, a 2014 title containing identical gameplay. The lone difference is your tool of chaos: racket or bat? Baseball Riot sells itself as a sleazy reskin, a phrase I do not use to sound cliché or exaggerate. Glass panes that stop balls? Ripped from Tennis in the Face. The Explodz Inc. energy drink? Also pasted from Tennis in the Face. Even enemies have their analogues. Baseball Riot’s umpires deflect attacks the same way the police with riot shields do.
But whereas I stopped playing Tennis in the Face after an hour, reviewing Baseball Riot did not afford me the same luxury. Only with other deadlines looming did I make the choice to review what I could complete. Baseball Riot went from a game I enjoyed before bed to something I’d prescribe pre-workout to amplify adrenaline. It looks like a Flash game, plays like a Flash game, and costs more than a Flash game. And from start to finish, Baseball Riot bats foul after foul.
This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game, which we were provided.
Baseball Riot teases cartoonish destruction, but an over-reliance on luck and the repurposed enemies and obstacles cheapen the physics-related fun.