Beneath the saccharine wrapper of Gamevil’s Baseball Superstar 2009 is a full-featured game, tailor made for the iPhone. Baseball devotees will need to look past all the cutesy players and saturated colors to realize that the pocket size players pack real oomph, and the game is loaded with content.
While it lacks an MLB license, Gamevil has filled Superstars with ten fantasy teams and twelve (imagined) super players. The five modes are normal, my league, season, home run and mission. Normal mode allows you to play through the innings of a regular game, while season mode is for the managerial types and features a full season of games in which you manage teams, player positions and trades – pretty detailed options for a mobile game. When time is short, there is Home run mode, or home run derby. Of course, to make all of these modes available you must put in some time in League mode.
In my league mode you can create and train your own player, both pitcher and batter. Assign your player to a team and tell them how to spend their free time with things like photo shoots and dates. These activities outside the game affect either morale or popularity. There are also game-centered missions to tackle with your invented player, typically placing you in tough spots you have to play your way out of. Winning games or completing the missions unlocks G-Points, which are the game’s currency and can be used to unlock characters or acquire items like energy drinks, bats and other gear that boost your player’s stats. The more you play with your created players the more skill and money you accrue.
It is the game’s mechanics and responsive controls that hit the ball out of the park (and round the bases, and slide into home, et cetera). Batting, fielding and pitching are controlled by touch with a d-pad and buttons. Chose a pitch by tapping the d-pad, move the target around the strike zone and let the pitch fly or bat with the touch of an onscreen button. It is very intuitive, particularly if you have played baseball games before. It may not be as hip as motion controls, but it also doesn’t make you look like a spazz when you play in public.
You control five pitches and can hit, bunt and steal, and when the special players come up you can achieve some out of the ordinary plays both at bat or from the mound. Most of the fielding is controlled by AI with the players automatically catching a ball off the bat, though once the ball is caught you can direct the throw to a particular base with the d-pad.
Superstars is chock full of good looks with four different, equally vibrant, stadiums to play in. The audio – from music, effects and voice work – is all very well done. RPG elements broaden the charming game’s appeal, and I caution baseball zealots to not be put off because while Baseball Superstars 2009 is a seriously cute game is comes with serious features. At $4.99 the price may seem steep, but what you get is a remarkably deep game perfect for both baseball fans and gamers looking to get their own, portable, take on the ball game.