Backyard Baseball 2003 – PC
Developer: Humongous Entertainment
Release Date (NA): June 7th, 2002
Nerd Rating: 7.5/10
One of the biggest gems of my childhood, Backyard Baseball 2003 graced me from even the early age of 5. I always looked forward to playing it, and even though I wasn’t all that great at it, I still always asked my mother to use the family PC to play it on the weekends. All these years later, I figured I’d give it another look, especially now as the baseball season is over.
Years later with video game skills obtained, I can actually say that this game does hold up. Even though the idea of it is simply a baseball game for kids, it still manages to be enjoyable for a grown man like myself. The main draw to the “Backyard” series is the licensed, pro players as kids. In this game, you get old favorites like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Todd Helton as playable, 10 year old kid characters.
In addition to one kid MLB player for all 30 teams, you also have a large roster of “backyard” characters that all have unique and comical voices, nicknames, playstyles, and demeanors. I was quite impressed with the depth to the characters, and yet not when realizing that Humongous developed this game. Always giving their games some charm, all of the characters, sounds, music, and unique playing elements add up to create an incredibly interesting and enjoyable playing environment.
Loading up the game, you have two distinct playing modes and a practice mode. In free play mode, you can pick whatever players you want for your team in a draft style of choosing against a computer player. You can then play them in 3 inning games, 6 inning games, or 9 inning games. You have a wide arrangement of stadiums to choose from, all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, and then, you’re off for some baseball fun! In the season mode, you can be a coach of a backyard baseball team, choosing whatever group of players you’d like, a difficulty, a home stadium, and then playing a long season to determine the Backyard Baseball champion!
I had a blast with season mode, loving the different combinations you could have your teams be composed of. Do I want a run heavy team, or do I want to swing for the fences? Do I want to be defense savvy, or perhaps just focus on offense? The choice is all in the group of players you select. An interesting point of depth for this clear children’s game is the element of rivalry or chemistry between two players.
Depending on who you select, your players can have different chemistry with their teammates that can ultimately hurt or help their performances. In addition, who they’re playing against can also have a BIG impact. For example, there is a brother and sister pair named Angela and Tony. When Angela is playing against Tony, her batting becomes phenomenal and her overall ratings increase. This is also the case in general when your players just have bad days, or if they’re playing at a certain stadium. Their overall ratings can differ game by game, and can have an impact on how you do during a game.
For the actual gameplay itself, it’s tremendous. Functioning about as well as a PC baseball game could, this game uses click batting mechanics to simulate a real baseball game. You click and have to time your swings correctly and make sure you’re swinging at strikes to hit the ball. The baserunning is easy to understand, and functional, and pitching is a breeze. With pitching, there are a number of strategies to go about per different pitcher. Some will be really good throwing hooked pitches, others might be better at throwing a straight heater.
Figuring out your pitcher is half the fun! Everything is streamlined and easy to understand, and the functionality of everything really surprises me. The only major complaint I have is the fielding. While everything else is easy and works well for the kiddies, the fielding is just awkward, frustrating, and slow. No matter how good your players are at fielding, getting the ball always is a chore, and catching it when it’s a fly ball seems to never work as planned. Some of the A.I. is ridiculously derpy as well.
On your side of the coin, none of your players seem to be able to hold onto the ball as often as realistically expected. On the other side, the other team always seems to drop the ball as well. (Pun intended.) Even on the hardest difficulty, the other team never seems to be able to totally handle the ball, though I understand the need for lax difficulty. And lax difficulty is what you’re going to get. Although fun, the game wears you out simply because of its lack of challenge.
Even on the hardest difficulty, I never lost a single game, and that was on minimal practice or recent experience with the game. I can’t imagine anyone over the age of 10 having much trouble with any game you’ll play in the season mode, especially if you give yourself the best players. To try it out, I even stuck what I considered the worst players in the game on my team, and even then I was unable to lost even once. So, while it’s an enjoyable ride, I can’t really say older gamers are really going to have much fun with this one.
But, for its target demographic, this game is perfect. Keeping a lighthearted, fun, and inviting game playable for young ones, this game focuses on a lot of mechanics that make it easier for the audience. They include things like an autoswing, a t-ball mode, and other great features for keeping your little one in the game! So, while you may have a good few hours with this game (maybe more if you want to continue your season mode and experiment!) it’s your kids that will especially enjoy this game.
If you have a little one that you want to get into baseball, look no forward than to this game as a great teaching tool and spark for a lifelong interest in the sport and other sports video games. While not as complex as actual sports titles, this game provides great mechanics, characters, and surprising depth to deliver an enjoyable PC experience for any sports fan, particularly the younger variety. The only flaws I can think of other than fielding, is the commentary. The commentary (like in any sports game really) is mind numbing, repetitive, and mostly unfunny, even for younger kids. I’d keep the mute button handy.
For its few flaws, and its easy difficulty, it’s still a game I’d recommend for a try by older players, and a definite recommendation for the younger crowd! I give this piece of my childhood, a nerd rating of 7.5 out of 10!
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