Baseball Highlights: 2045 Mobile Review

robasm Right. Well. Let’s get this over with.

Some of you might recall that I freaking adored the Baseball Highlights: 2045 Super Deluxe edition. It’s a great game that plays quickly, offers plenty of team customization, and it’s baseball with robots and cyborgs in it (side note: bring BaseWars back, please!).

Baseball Highlights: 2045, the mobile game, is technically the same thing but ported to mobile devices. It’s something I should be excited about – and I was when I first learned of its existence – but presentation can sometimes make or break a game. Guess what it does here?

The card artwork is still quite nice.
The card artwork is still quite nice.

As this is a port of the vanilla version of the game, it’s lacking all of the expansions found in the Super Deluxe edition. This is fine, really. There are still plenty of players to recruit and plenty of cyborg baseball action to be had. What might be disappointing to some is that there’s no option to set up a game with more than two players. Granted I’ve never been fond of the three-plus player rules, but I’m sure there are some folks who will be bummed out by its omission.

Other than that, Baseball Highlights: 2045 is Baseball Highlights: 2045. You play cards that act as plays – both as batting and as fielding – to hopefully get some runners on base and counter your opponent’s actions. You buy free agent cards using the income generated by the cards you played in the previous round. You cultivate an awesome team of awesome players over several games until you make it to the end of the season. You can even still ogle the fantastic old-timey looking illustrations on the cards.

Ehhhhh...
Ehhhhh…

I love the card game, and I love the idea of being able to play it on my phone whenever I want. That way I have the physical version for when I’m home or with friends, and the mobile version for when I’m traveling or out somewhere (the physical game isn’t particularly portable). In writing it seems like a win/win situation. Only it’s not. As I’ve said, presentation can sometimes make or break a game. In Baseball Highlights: 2045’s case, there’s definite breakage going on.

This port is not a great port. I get the impression that this was done by a single person, so hats off for taking on the monumental task of digitizing dozens of cards along with the gameplay system they’re used for, but a lot of refinement is needed here.

At least 50% of the visuals look like placeholder images.
At least 50% of the visuals look like placeholder images.

For starters, the menus look rather… bad. Simple white boxes with black borders and black text, with many obvious instances of pretty severe stretching, doesn’t leave a positive first impression. I can’t think of any nicer way to put it than that. It looks bad, and it carries a sense of either amateur development or a lack of interest in the development process.

Even I’d call myself out for harsh nitpicking if that was the only issue, but sadly it’s not. While the gameplay works just fine in this new digital format (play cards, move runners, etc), the way it’s displayed is also problematic. I’m also not a fan of how you can’t undo a free agent selection, even if you haven’t completed the trade (i.e. sent another player to the minors) yet.

Play ball! If you can deal with all the "meh."
Play ball! If you can deal with all the “meh.”

The jumping back and forth between player screens could definitely have been handled better. When cards are being played, the screen will shift (usually a cross-dissolve transition) and often make it tough to tell which team is being shown unless you pay close attention to the banners (good luck if it’s NY vs. LA). There’s a little window in the top-left of the player board that shows a simplified display of the opponent’s board so you can tell at a glance where their runners are, but it won’t help with figuring out what plays are in progress or being contested.

Thankfully you can zoom in on a card so you can actually read it, but even that’s awkward. Instead of pinching to zoom or a fairly typical double-tap, you have to tap and hold the card for about a second. It’s not the way I’m used to zooming in on card information in mobile games like this, and it honestly took double-checking the tutorial for me to realize this was even an option. It’s also kind of a pain because you have to switch over to the opposing board and then tap and hold just to see what card was played – rather than, you know, the game showing players what’s being played up close and letting them tap to accept or something.

This is the AI. My own team is in the previous picture. Not so easy to tell the difference, is it?
This is the AI. My own team is in the previous picture. Not so easy to tell the difference, is it?

It’s just awkward. Baseball Highlights: 2045 is awkward to play and that really bums me out. It’s a digital adaptation of a game I love, but the clunky menus, annoying transitions, and clumsy presentation make it incredibly difficult to enjoy. It’s certainly cheaper than the physical alternative, and it takes up a lot less shelf space, but even then I’m not sure it’s really worth it.

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