Championship Baseball logo

Price: £24.99

With the recent passion that the British have developed for American pastimes, it seemed only a matter of time before software houses, particularly the larger American ones, saw the opportunity to make money producing computer simulations of these games. The first of these to catch on was, not surprisingly, American Football, but with the advent of Channel 4's new series on baseball, Activision have decided to release the first Amiga simulation of this bat 'n' ball game, obviously hoping it will catch on.

Produced by one of their subsidiaries, Gamestar, it was programmed and reviewed last month for the 64, although it has been substantially changed to make the most of the Amiga's graphics and sound capabilities. The company responsible for the conversion, Dynamix, are the same company who produced Arctic Fox for Electronic Arts.

As with most of the recent crop of quality Amiga games, the first thing you are greeted by once the game has started to load is an excellent loading screen. People accustomed to Commodore 64s would be stunned by the colours and resolution. Unlike some other loading screens this picture is actually hand drawn (as opposed to digitised).

Once the game has loaded you have two choices: playi a game, or practice. Initially, practice is very necessary, since for the first ten minutes or so, it seems physically impossible to swing the bat straight, let alone hit one of the 100 mph pitches! Once you have perfected the art of nearly hitting the ball, yo must then take on the most difficult and complicated part of the game - the rules.

For anyone who finds American Football anything but a doddle to understand, baseball will be a nightmare. In my youth I always believed that baseball was nothing more than glorified rounders, i.e. a bit of a girlie game, and certainly greatly inferior to cricket, but having read the manual that accompanies this game I can at last understand why Marilyn Monroe married Joe Di Maggio - he must have been a genius! If you think this is exaggerating, just listen to this quote from the intro: "You're one run down in the bottom of the ninth, two on, two out. Your clean-up hitter steps in at the plate... but as the pitcher uncorks the first high hard one, it's white knuckle time."
What are they talking about?

Anyway, back to the game. Your first task in the role of manager/player is to pick your team and establish a battling line-up, remembering of course not to have your weakest hitter batting clean-up (of course, who could forget that?!?!). Once this is established you can get down to the nitty gritty of slugging a small white piece of leather all over the ground.

Playing against the computer you will soon encounter one small problem. Not only is he a bloody good pitcher, his fielders never fumble. It becomes usual, therefore, that the first two innings provide very little in the way of encouragement. As you step up to bat, about innings three, generally losing by a substantial margin, lo and behold you hit one!

Racing round the bases, you find out how easy the game really is and slide into base three. The crowd meanwhile are going ape. Using sampled sounds, the game's authors have managed to obtain some excellent 'crowd going wild' noises, and soon the tension starts to involve even the most uninterested competitor.

Graphically this game is excellent. They may not quite be up to the standard of some games written especially for the Amiga, but the split screen, with one half showing a full-size player and the other representing the field, is well depicted and well animated. These graphics, coupled with excellent sounds and a game which takes hours to perfect means that, unlike some Amiga games, Championship Baseball should have lasting appeal.