May 21, 2007 - Every now and then as you play a baseball game, you'll come across a moment that makes you exclaim, "That should be on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight!" Maybe it's turning an incredible double play that no one expected. Perhaps it's striking out a slugger with a closer with the bases loaded. Or it could be smashing the ball over the fence and sending the game into extra innings. Well, imagine if the entire game is based around those kinds of superhuman plays that make you say, "Wow." You'd probably come up with a title like The Bigs, Blue Castle Games' homage to the dramatic moments of baseball that take your breath away. While we stepped into the batter's box at Sony's Gamer's Day, we wanted to take another swing at the game for additional impressions.
Apart from bending the rules of the game of baseball, Blue Castle wanted to celebrate the game and its athletes, making the players seem like superheroes of the sport. As a result, every athlete in the game is a bit larger than they would actually be in real life. No, they haven't been taking The Cream or The Clear, but you'll visually notice that they're a bit bigger, and the players carry themselves a bit little differently, to highlight their extraordinary skills. This visual augmentation hasn't been restricted to the players, either; Blue Castle wanted to make each stadium akin to a coliseum with gladiators slugging it out in battle, and took pains to heighten the scale and dimensions of the park itself. For instance, The St. Louis Arch can be seen from Busch Stadium in real life, but in The Bigs, it looms over the park as if it's watching the game.
Take on opposing teams in larger than life stadiums in The Bigs.
Speaking of the game, Blue Castle wanted a two part focus on gameplay action: the big moments or plays that generate excitement during games, and the duel between pitchers and batters. On defense, the big moments can comprise elements like climbing the wall to rob a batter of a home run or having an infielder snag a ball out of mid-air as it screams towards the gap. For the most part, players can use the X button as an all-encompassing "action jump" button to perform these fantastic plays. However, just to keep the game fair, there's a bit of skill involved. For instance, success at these plays comes down to whether a player is in position to grab the ball, the timing of the button press, as well as the player's individual attributes. If a player is excellent at his position, he'll snag them out of the air nine times out of ten. If he's okay but doesn't have a great glove, it might bounce out of his hands. Stopping balls that are going over the fence have an added bit of difficulty in the form of a button press mini-game. Once a player's in position and the X button has been hit, you then need to input a variety of buttons to successfully catch the ball. Again, this is all governed by stats, so a center fielder like Alfonso Soriano might have to hit five buttons to catch the ball whereas Carlos Beltran might only have to input three.
Another big moment including a mini-game element surrounds plate collisions, which have received their own dramatic presentation. Whenever a runner tries to steal home or beat a throw, the game action slows down and gives the runner a chance to bowl over the catcher or get pummeled. Part of this is governed by how long the catcher has had the ball -- if he's just caught it and has to make the turn to stop the runner, he's going to have a weaker chance of being in position. However, the other part of it is based on size. For instance, if Ichiro goes up against Bengie Molina, he'll probably lose. However, if he's going up against Albert Pujols or Jason Varitek, for example, you'll probably have a fair chance of knocking the ball loose. The interesting thing about the collision is that the mini-game takes on a tug of war aspect, with the Sixaxis controller as the primary focus for the battle between players or the computer. By shaking the controller vigorously, you can attempt to gain enough momentum on your side to successfully score or repel the runner. That means if two players are going head to head, you'll have to tilt faster and harder than your opponent if you want to win. However, you won't be forced to use this if you don't want (players can still use the X button if that feels better to them).
Looks like the pitcher lost that duel.
The other aspect of gameplay is the pitcher/batter duel, which takes place in different ways. For one, batters that manage to take balls or hit doubles or triples can increase their turbo meter, and potentially boost their big play meter if they consistently get runners on base or knock one over the wall. This can be boosted by tilting the Sixaxis controller to the left or right to actively push or pull the ball in one direction or another. On the other hand, pitchers can boost their turbo meter if they always strike out hitters or can have their defense support them with double plays or other impressive moves. Both sides can use their turbo to potentially defeat the other player. For pitchers, it's exaggerating the movement of a pitch. Sliders and changeups break harder than they will in real life, while fastballs scream across the plate. For batters, using turbo locks a pitcher's throw within the strike zone, so you always have a sense of where the ball could be situated when it leaves the pitcher's glove.