Baseball Slam is a crazy new action-packed arcade game that has you launch balls at targets to launch missles, burn down buildings, and spin giant slot machines, all in the name of racking up lots of points. It is a truly over-the-top game that features head-to-head multiplayer and over 100 single-player challenges. I spent a few hours with it today so you can know what it’s all about before you download it in your local App Store.
In Baseball Slam, it’s just you and the pitcher. Tap the home plate to start the pitch and then swipe to your target once the ball is headed your way. You have 10 balls to swing at before the game ends and you receive your final score (the number of balls you have left is shown on home plate). The game is very much like pinball in that nearly every object you hit will grant you points, but certain groups of objects reward you with many more points if you hit every object in the group. These groups are called chains and they’re the key to getting the biggest scores.
There are three different stages: Rooftops, Carrier, and Wild West. Each has their own set of gimmicks and chains that you will have to learn to take advantage of. Chains vary in difficulty, with some being very simple like hitting three stationary cacti in the Wild West stage and some being more difficult like the Carrier’s that has you hit three tiers of a distant crane to swing parts of a circular target into view, and then you need to smash the target. Completing a chain earns a good chunk of bonus points, but more importantly, it generates bonus targets. Bonus targets can be big chunks of points, extra balls, diamonds, or fireballs. Diamonds increase your multiplier by one for the rest of the match while three fireballs will make you become On Fire. When you’re On Fire, your multiplier will temporarily double and the pitcher will automatically throw five bonus balls at you, one right after another. When the five bonus balls have been pitched and it goes back to your normal baseballs, your multiplier will return to its previous value.
The targets are constantly shifting, some just moving back and forth while others will randomly enter and exit the stage. Because of this endless flux, choosing when to pitch and what to hit actually involves quite a bit of strategy. Cars, helicopters, bandits, and more will pop up, get in your way, move around, and leave the stage. It’s very busy, but if you focus you should have no trouble finding an opening for the shot you want to take. I really appreciate the constant flow of the levels, as it prevents the screen from looking boring and it makes it so that no two games feel exactly the same. The levels get a little repetitive because there are so few of them, but the shifting targets bring much-needed variety.
You have one more tool to boost your scores with: powerups. In the single-player challenges, each level will come with its own preset powerups. In multiplayer, you get one random powerup for free and you can pay in-game coins to buy up to two more or upgrade the powerups you already have equipped. Powerups are one-time use items that can be manually triggered at any time. The Freeze powerup makes the entire level stay still for about 10 seconds while the other powerups directly affect your ball. There are powerups to turn your ball into a big explosive, to make it split into multiple balls, to make it ricochet between targets, and to make it boomerang back to you several times so you can hit the same ball at numerous targets. The powerups are all pretty fun to use and they feel really powerful when used at the right time.
The single player challenges are divided evenly between the three stages. Three stars can be earned on each challenge based on how well you score. The challenges can be score-based, but more often, they ask you to complete other objectives like reaching a certain multiplier level, using a certain number of powerups, or hitting specific chains or targets. When you finish a challenge, the game ends and you get 10,000 points for each remaining ball. The challenges themselves are pretty easy, but earning three stars can be very difficult. It’s an interesting balance to get your score as high as possible but still complete the challenge. Once you get a decent multiplier going, it’s pretty easy to get more than 10,000 points per ball you hit, so sometimes the best strategy is actually to delay the challenge as long as possible, but still make sure you finish it before you run out of balls. The challenges are fun and could easily provide at least two hours of solid entertainment — a great value for a free game, if you ask me.
Multiplayer lets you start a match with a Facebook friend or random player. You will each play three rounds in the same level, and whoever gets the most total points will win the match. The only additional gimmick is a blimp that floats by once per game. The blimp has a scoreboard that shows how many times each player has hit it. Every time it is hit, its jackpot becomes more valuable and whoever hit it the most across all three games wins the jackpot. There are some pretty serious problems with the multiplayer though — you can pay your way to winning by purchasing coins. Before the game starts, equipping more than one powerup or upgrading the powerups you already have costs coins. In the middle of a game, you can pay coins to recharge your powerups after you use them up. At the end of a game, you can pay coins for a few more balls. Free-to-play games don’t have to be pay-to-win, but this one definitely is. I don’t like playing games where my opponent only needs to outspend me to be victorious as it makes my skill feel completely irrelevant.
Coins can be slowly earned through single-player, multiplayer, and free scratchcards that you earn once an hour. However, coins can be gained in much bigger numbers much faster through in-app purchases. Coins do serve other purposes: you can unlock a female batter, multiple costumes for each batter, leopard and tiger skin patterns for the batters, multiplayer locations, and new bats. The bats can also be unlocked by performing certain tasks in-game, but the tasks are honestly pretty challenging, in most cases I think even players who don’t spend anything on coins will still be able to get bats faster with coins than by accomplishing their other requirements. The bat you equip does make a huge difference in your scores, as they can provide various benefits such as increasing the number of balls you start with or giving you a percentage boost to your entire score. I don’t have a problem with the bats though, as even the best one could be reasonably attained for free and once its unlocked, it will stay that way forever.
The game is also plagued with awful ads that take up the entire screen and make you look at them for several seconds before a button to close them even appears. The ads only pop up in-between games, but they are still very annoying and I ended up tapping on them on three separate occasions because they pop up without warning.