Review: iOOTP 201213 Apr 2012 0
iOOTP 2012 is a game as beautiful as the sport it simulates. It is certainly not a game for everyone, but for those to whom it appeals, it will bewitch.
iOOTP is to America's pasttime what Football Manager is to soccer. You play as the hybrid manager and general manager of a baseball team in either the real MLB or in a fictional league of your design. The game of baseball - at least since Bill James - has been a game about numbers. Do you know what VORP is? Can you calculate a pitcher's ERA off the top of your head? For whatever reason, American sports have always been rich in statistics as compared to say, soccer, and nowhere is that embodied better than in iOOTP, where huge amounts of statistics are tracked for every player in your team's organization.
Almost every conceivable aspect of managing a baseball club is at your disposable: drafting and signing players, negotiating contract extensions, setting up lineups and pitching rotations.
iOOTP takes place across menus and charts, mostly: when it comes to games you are given the option of simulating them (thus restricting your role to the front office) or managing every at-bat. The game view isn't animated in any way, but the play-by-play commentary is written specifically to inject drama into an otherwise static affair. It works wonderfully, but after enough time with the game you will unavoidably come to know the announcer's entire repertoire.
As the port of a long-running PC and Mac series, the game leaves little to be desired. The game runs butter-smooth and on the new iPad the load times are almost indiscernable. The retina graphics are clear and crisp - no small thing in a game that is largely text. As a sports game that is cerebral rather than twitchy, it is exactly what touchscreen tablets were meant for.
But iOOTP is not without its faults. The iPhone/iPad form factor is necessarily more constricted than the PC monitors that OOTP grew up on - as a result, you're often two or three menus away from information that you need at a glance. When picking a pinch hitter, for example, there's no way to see which of your subs are left-handed hitters and see their hitting ratings at the same time. Or if you're worried about your starting pitcher's arm in the 8th inning, you have to leave the default field view to see his pitch count. In the draft, you have to leave the draft mode entirely to see what positions are filled on your depth chart. These are annoyances - but they're only that. The core of the iOOTP experience is perfectly sound and utterly engrossing.
In the end, what enchants me about iOOTP is how fully it immerses you in the baseball world of your choosing. Games from the 80s and 90s were hamstrung by the technology of the day and had to create spaces for your imagination to inhabit. As our technical capacity to create grows, so does the ability of modern games to impose story onto you. The stories that you told yourself about your X-Com squaddies or the journey of your metropolis in Sim City weren't necessarily deeper than the ones told by Call of Duty, but they were certainly more individual. That is the real beauty of iOOTP: it's a canvas for your imagination. And I can't think of higher praise for a game than that.
5 out of 5
- iPhone/iPad: iOOTP Baseball 2012 Edition, Universal. $4.99 US, £2.99 UK