Review by Retro
"Unlike the title, this game does not hit a home run"
In the game with the basic name of Home Run, you get to play games of America's favorite pastime: baseball. There's only one question that needs to be answered: Will it prove to be lame, or will it hit a home run?
You can either play against the computer in a one-player game or against a live opponent in a two-player game. You don't have anybody covering first base, second, third, and not even a catcher or an umpire at home plate. There's also not anybody in the outfield or the infield. It's up to the overly skilled pitcher to do it all when it comes to both defense and offense, even though most pitchers in real life are horrible at hitting.
The basic rules of baseball apply to Home Run. Four balls results in a walk; three strikes is an out; and if a player is hit, he proceeds to first base. Unfortunately, there is no way to make an out by simply catching the ball. Each time you catch the ball, you must then make a tag for it to be an out.
There are eight variations to choose from before you begin playing. Four of them are one-player games, and the other four are for two players. The variations all consist of how many pitchers will be standing together and how close they are to one another. You can choose to have just one man that you and your opponent control on defense, two guys, three guys close together, or three guys far apart.
It is real simple, to say the least, to play this game. Just press the button on the joystick to pitch the ball toward the waiting batter. Fortunately, there are some different ways of pitching to at least provide a bit of replay value. While the ball is on its way to the plate, you can do a few things to make it harder for your opponent to hit the ball. If you hold down on the joystick right after you pitch, the baseball will go to the plate real slowly as if it's a tortoise. If you push up, it will go extra fast like a hare. Also, you can move the ball left and right while it's on its journey to the plate.
When it comes to defense, this game is much simpler than any other baseball game, and possibly easier than any other sports game that has ever been made for any system. When your opponent hits a ball, all you have to do is look to see in which direction the ball is moving and then move a little (the players always run at the same speed, which is fast) to catch the ball by making one of your guys run into the ball and then either tag the base that the runner is running to or tag the player himself. On defense, you are about three times faster than the base runners are. But, if you flip the difficulty switch on the Atari 2600 console, you can make it where the players on defense move much slower than usual.
On offense, you don't have quite as many options. You can move the joystick in any direction and swing the bat, but you can't do other things such as precisely control where you hit the ball, or bunt. However, believe it or not, as the name of the game is Home Run, you can actually hit a home run, but it's even in a weird way that's not true to the game.
To hit a home run, you must hit the ball straight down the screen, and I mean exactly straight down. It has to sail right over the middle part of second base at the bottom of the screen and go off the screen without any of your opponents catching it. Hitting the ball past your opponents, but not straight over second base will earn you a single or double. Of course, since there's not any defensive players other than the pitchers that pitch from below second base, it's also impossible to steal bases in Home Run.
When a ball is hit, if it happens to go to the right or left without going past first or third base, a foul ball and a strike will occur. Don't even begin to think that you'll ever see fly balls, bouncing ground outs, or anything of that sort, because there's not any. Every time a ball is hit, it just seems to move at a constant speed until it reaches the end of the screen and disappears or until somebody catches it.
There's not even any wind to blow the ball off course, rain to dampen the ballpark's spirits, or any other weather conditions. Also, it seems as if all the baseball fans already knew that the game of Home Run would be a dud, because there's not a single fan to be seen or heard.
Finally, there is no way to really judge how you hit the ball; all you can do is swing the bat and hope that it connects with the baseball (it's easy to hit the ball). You can somewhat tell when and how you hit the ball after it's been hit, though. Each time a batter gets a hit, he lays the bat down a certain way over home plate. The bat could be laid straight to the left, diagonally across the plate, and so on, depending on when you hit the ball, which is pretty neat.
Even though Home Run isn't realistic at all, I would've liked the game pretty well if only it wasn't for one thing: it has absolutely no challenge to it. The baseball hardly ever moves quickly after it is hit, and even when the baseball's ass is blistered and it's moving like a rocket, it's still too easy to run and catch the ball. As long as you're a good player at Home Run and as long as the person you're playing is halfway decent at playing it, there probably won't be a bit of scoring in the game. Me and my older brother used to play the game often, and 99% of the time, after the nine innings were up, the score would be tied 0-0. A game of Home Run rarely lasts for more than 4 or 5 minutes.
Also, the computer player is nicely skilled. Unless you're playing a game against the computer in which you use three players that are spread out, you can bet that there won't be much scoring at all. If the score happens to be tied at the end of a game (more than often!), whether it's 0-0, 1-1, etc., there are never any extra innings.
The truth is, playing Home Run is fun for awhile, but after you play two or three games, you'll start asking yourself what the point is in playing the game. It's so easy to get the players out on defense and it's so hard to score on offense (mainly because the playing field is so small; there is no outfield!), and there's hardly any realism. Pitchers don't usually make the bat come in contact with the ball almost every single time the ball is pitched.
It seems like the developers watched an episode of Looney Tunes in which Bugs Bunny does all the batting, pitching, and catching in a game against several humans, and wins the game. They seemed to think it would be a nice idea for a solid Atari 2600 game, but they were dead wrong.
GRAPHICS - There's not really any graphics in Home Run except for the characters themselves, which don't look bad for a 1978 game, but they don't look great either. Every one of the players are always looking either to the left or right; I guess their eyes are supposed to be on the sides of their heads instead of the front or back. The bases are just small squares; the bat is just a line, and the baseball is a small square. The background is just colored green. Nope, sorry folks, but there is not a bit of scenery, not even fans or stands.
SOUND - There is almost as little sound in Home Run as there is graphics. The few sounds that there are, are nothing special, but they get the job done well enough. There is a different sound for throwing a ball, throwing a strike, for outs, for a ball being hit, the trotting sound of a base runner, and for when a player scores. Those are all the sounds you'll ever hear from Home Run; there's not any music.
CONTROL - The control is responsive and real simple. All you have to do is use the joystick to move your players around on defense, and move it in any direction to swing the bat on offense. The base runners run to the various bases on their own and at the same constant speed.
REPLAY VALUE - I sometimes play this game by myself or with my brother to have a nostalgic laugh at how laughably bad and dated Home Run is. Other than that, I never touch the game. It's so easy and simple that it's hardly any fun at all.
OVERALL - Like I mentioned, the game is so easy and simple that it is not a challenge and it's not very much fun. The graphics and sound also aren't anything to brag about. I wouldn't recommend getting this game unless you absolutely have to have it as a collector's item.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 04/11/01, Updated 05/26/02
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