Arcade baseball is back and BIGger than ever with the release of 2K’s The BIGS 2 and, if you played the original, then you know what the sequel is all about: over-the-top catches, hard hits, fast pitches and fast throws. 2K hopes to repeat the success of the first game by adding some new features and even adding online play to what was one of the most entertaining mini-games (I guess you can call it a mini-game) in any baseball game, Home Run Pinball. So do they make a sequel worth picking up? The answer is…it depends.
When I first booted up the game, the first thing I noticed was that it didn’t look too different from the first game. Now that’s not a bad thing because this game isn’t supposed to be taken seriously. So the look fits the feel of the game. Although they have all the major league’s ball players and their likenesses, they are hit and miss. At times you will find yourself saying “that looks nothing like Joey Votto.” But The BIGS 2 isn’t about looks, it’s about gameplay, and it plays pretty good.
It plays like a normal baseball game, but adds some serious arcade elements. You can bunt, hit normally, and steal bases like normal, but you can add some twists to all of those elements. If you are up to bat you can earn turbo by getting on base, hitting a home run or by walking. If you are pitching, you can earn turbo by throwing strikes and striking a batter out or by picking off a runner. Turbo can give a nice advantage over the opposing team. Let’s say that you hit a groundball to the short-stop. Now there is no way you are going to beat the throw to first, so use turbo, although, it might be more beneficial to save your turbo. Once your turbo meter is filled, you can earn some powerful hits and pitches.
These hits and pitches allow you to come up big for your team. If you are on defense and you are facing the likes of Albert Pujols and afraid he is going to hit a home run, just hit the LT+RT or R2+L2 buttons at the same time. This uses all your turbo and enters you in Big Heat mode. When in this mode, you can throw three super fast pitches that are nearly impossible to hit, giving you a better chance to strike the power hitter out. On the opposite side to that, if the offense has their turbo meter filled, they can enter Big Blast mode (by pressing the same buttons) allowing you to put a ton more power behind your swing, which usually results in a home run. Beware though, as both teams can enter their respective modes and that enters Duel mode. This allows both the pitcher and the batter prove that one can hit the super fast pitch or strike out a more powerful hitter.
However, the batter gets a new kind of hit when the turbo meter is filled, and that is called Big Slam. Here is how that works: when a batter is up, hit the RB+LB or R1+L1 and enter the mode. The point here is to load the bases then hit a grand slam. You are pitched three quick pitches in which the first three batters, if they make contact with the ball, all hit singles. This loads the bases. The fourth batter then comes to bat and is pitched to. At this time you want to hit the power hit button to ensure you reap the rewards of knocking the pitch out of the stadium.
During a game, both the batters and the pitchers have to be at their best because the batter can be injured, and the pitchers can lose their pitches. Allow me to elaborate. Say you are pitching and you keep throwing fastballs and the batters are just eating them for breakfast. Each type of pitch has a strength meter, and if the batters keep hitting that certain type of pitch, the meter eventually is depleted and the pitcher will lose that pitch. The batters have a few things to look out for. First, if the pitcher gets frustrated enough, they could just bean you in the head with the ball. If that happens, the batter will be injured and some of his stats will go down pretty much making him ineffective. The other thing the offense has to look out for is running home. If you are on your way to the plate and the ball reaches the catcher before you do, you are entered into a mini-game that has you mashing the A or X button as fast as you can. This is the first time I got really frustrated with the game, because sometimes you can win the battle easily and crash into the catcher throwing him back and dropping the ball. Other times, there is just no way you can win the fight as the catcher knocks you back toward third base. I honestly cannot figure out how the game decides who will win the battle.
Like in the previous version of the game, there are multiple game modes to play. There are four different mini-game modes which are power, contact, glove and speed. The purpose of these modes is to get you acquainted with them because you will encounter all of them in Become a Legend Mode. In Become a Legend, you create your own player and guide him through the BIGS and help guide your team to the World Series. Of course when you first start out, your stats are low and you have to earn them as the season goes on by completing different challenges in the city you are playing in, and this where those four mini games come in. When you complete those mini games in Legend mode, you will earn the respective attribute. For example, you complete the speed mini game; you will earn a star in your speed category. So by the time you finish Legend mode, your character will be the best player baseball has ever seen. If you don’t want to bother with this mode, you can always play through season mode which all you do is pick a team and take them through an entire MLB season.
This year, besides just playing an exhibition game online, you can now play the Home Run Pinball mode as well. If you aren’t familiar with this mode, the point is to hit as many objects and as many points as possible. It’s just like home run derby but instead of playing in a stadium, you play in different cities. And instead of having ten outs, you start out with three and can earn more the longer you stay in the game. Starting, the pitcher has only one pitch to throw but can earn more as you go on. As stated before, this mode is awesome and being able to play it online, lag free with your friends is amazing.
Having already touched on batting and pitching, let’s talk a bit about running. This game probably has the easiest running controls in any baseball game. To effectively run to first when you hit the ball hold the left stick to the right. If you hit the ball in the gap and want to take extra bases, just hold the button up for second, to the left for third and down for home. Now, if you are already on base and a new batter hits a single, you can either control the new batter or you can control the guy on first by hitting the Y or triangle buttons (think of the face buttons as bases and you will get how to switch between runners with the only difference being home is assigned to the LT or L2). If you want to steal, first you have to lead off by hitting the Y or triangle button, then hit the button again to take off. If you are daring and want to initiate a double steal, all you have to do is hit the RB or R1 buttons after leading off. That’s all there is to it for running, simple.
The rest of the controls are: A or X button is for a control (normal) hit and pitch one, the B or circle button is power hit and pitch two, X or square bunts and pitch three, the Y and triangle button, while holding the LT or L2 button allows you to try a pickoff attempt. But use that sparingly, as you can only do it once per inning. So, if you have played a baseball game before, these controls are very similar and they respond very well.
The highlight of The BIGS 2, however, is the awesome catches you can pull off. You can pull off a great catch by hitting the A or X button when the cursor that shows where the ball is going to land turns green. All the other catches come randomly and are initiated by hitting the A or X button when you see the cursor over the fielders head. If you hit the button at the right moment, a couple of different things could happen for you to do in order to catch the ball. You might have to hold down a face button and release it at the right time or you might have to hit a sequence of face buttons. These happen at random so you really have to be on your toes if you want to make a legendary catch. My only problem with the catches is the new dugout catch. I have only experienced this a couple of times and still have no idea how to complete the catch. The event you have to do happens so fast I never had time to see what I had to do. The other problem is that no matter what team you are playing against, they will always make the legendary catches. This gets a tad frustrating.
The BIGS 2 is a great game, but not for full retail price. Even though it adds a few new modes, I believe they could have added them and the roster updates as DLC. But if you enjoyed last year’s version, then you should at least rent it or wait until the price drops. If you are new to the BIGS, well this is the game to start off with. With easy to learn controls, great arcade gameplay and some fantastic catches, this game should be played by any baseball fan.