Domark's latest sports sim hits a home run

RBI Baseball 2 logo

Distributor: Domark Price: £29.99

BATTER UP! The pitcher eyed me with a determined look that said "your head comes off in three seconds", the fielders banged their gloved fists in anticipation, and the 25,000-strong crowd roared like a pack of beer-swilling animals which, funnily enough, was just what they were.

Holding the bat with trepidation I stepped into the limelight, the pitcher wound up like a turbocharged alarm clock and before I could say "Hang on a minute - this isn't rounders, is it?", the ball whizzed past me in a blur of Doppler distortion.

The catcher grinned, spat, and delivered that immortal line "Steeeeeerrriiike! You're outa there!"
And all this from a game invented by English schoolgirls! Anyone, like me, nurturing fond memories of halcyon summer days playing rounders in the sun can forget it, however.

Our colonial cousins have added overarm bowling at speeds your average Ferrari would be proud of, and stretched the bat and the diamond to more "manly" proportions.
You can think of Baseball as rounders with Rottweilers.

RBI Baseball 2 is Domark's latest collaboration with arcade coin-op kings, Tengen, and betrays its origins in every byte of coding.
It's bright, colourful, and animated, and the control are only as complicated as absolutely necessary. So what about the gameplay?

If you're a fan of American Baseball already, the game plays as a tactical struggle between two sides of players with batting and pitching averages arrived at, apperently, after some weird calculation carried out by a Cray computer.

At this level, the most important aspect of play is when and where to play the best players, who to use as openers, and when to substitute tired pitchers or switch from, say, a right-handed to a left-handed player.
When you get into it, the gameplay at this level is absorbing and addictive.

In the World Series competition, which turns seemingly fit and active Americans into couch potatoes as soon as it hits Tv, you have the oppurtunity to play a long and extremely testing series of games against such famous teams as the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

As it is very difficult to win a World Series game against Major League opposition, the option adds a great deal of long term appeal to the game.

In a single match, skill levels can be varied from Little League, through Minor League, to the numbingly difficult Major League, so there's enough variation to give beginners a chance and maintain the challenge for experienced players.

If you're not a baseball fan (trivia tip: the word "fan" was originally applied to baseball "fanatics" and shortened to the word we all take for granted today) RBI Baseball 2 will initially seem just a little shallow.

The play actions for pitching are limited to slow, fast, and curve balls, and batting is a choice of a full swing or a bunt, nothing more.
However, once the statistical gobbledegook that is the Stateside sports' fan's staple diet starts to make sense, the game opens up and takes a real hold.

After a couple of Little League games with the same side, I felt confident enough of my team's strenghts to try a game in the Minor League, but the experiment proved to be a little premature.
Some people might think 15-4 is a trashing, but just you wait and see. My lads'll show 'em next year.
Now, where did I put that video of The Manageress?

RBI Baseball 2 logo

DOMARK * £29.99 Joystick

Baseball is an essentially simple sport that takes a lifetime to fully comprehend. Being Brits we lack a deep cultural understanding of America's national sport, so can a baseball simulation succeed?

Strike one
RBI 2 takes a physical approach to baseball. You swing each bat and pitch each ball for your team. The game assumes a base knowledge of the finer points of baseball, which may look like rounders, but it is entirely different.

In baseball the whole team bats in sequence in every innings, until three men are either struck, run or caught out. Each batter gets three swings (strikes) in which to hit the ball and run to first base. Once on a base the runner can sneak to the next base while the pitcher is getting ready to throw or when the ball has just been hit. Anyone getting to the home base scores a run for their team. That is all you need to know to start playing. And it is when you start playing that RBI is transformed into an edge-of-the-seat sport simulation.

Each match is divided into nine innings, with both sides batting and fielding in each inning. When batting there are only two considerations: position and timing. Before the pitcher winds up you can shuffle around the plate, influencing the ball's eventual flight and your swing's power. As the ball is pitched you decide when, and if, to swipe. Only precisely-timed swings will result in a clean hit. So, if you are unsure, or the ball is going off line, leave it alone. This proves hard though, with balls whistling past your bat.

Strike two
Pitchers get the same position options as the batters, halting when the wind-up starts. They get six different pitches to use, which influence the ball when it is in flight. A mixed bag of slow, fast and curve balls are on offer. When these are used in conjunction with good footwork they provide enough ammunition for you to keep the best players striking out all afternoon.

Once the ball is hit, fielders must be waggled into a position to stop or catch the ball. Fielding relies on joystick commands that are easy to memorise, but tough to remember. A few games in and it becomes second nature, but at the start it is reassuringly confusing; just like baseball.

RBI's tight focus on the batting and pitching sphere should limit the action. But the lack of flexibility heightens the tension. There is a gunfight feel to it when you are standing at the plate, staring out a demon pitcher. Although the authentic teams offered as opponents are represented well, RBI is best when played against another person. Suckering a friend into a strike is more satisfying than getting a silicon star struck out. Two-player matches can run for a World Series of seven matches, which is where using the right pitchers, the right substitutes and the right tactics is vital.

Strike three...
Backing up the arcade game is a reasonable, but slightly shallow management game. Here you select team batting orders, which pitchers are resting and who is up for the game. These options can help make the most of a weak team, but they end up being skipped through as you hurry back to get to the plate.

RBI does the job graphically, with some neat and initially amusing incidental screens. The playing field is clear enough to allow real skill development. The outfield is disappointing, with small sprites charging around at great distance, but there seems no other way to represent such a large area. The crowd noise is weak, providing more of a hiss than an authentic roar, and this kills some of the hard won atmosphere.

And you're out!
RBI is a good simulation of a great sport. Oddly, it seems to suit computerisation, bringing the gunfight pressures to bear on every ball. It is the score after nine innings that matters, but every ball counts. Each has to be played for. This is what makes RBI exciting.

The stop, start, nature of baseball works against the game's claim to classic status. It cannot have the rolling free form energy of Kick Off simply because baseball is a slower, stop, start, sort of sport. It is excellent fun though, especially after some of the more confusing elements and ideas have been mastered. As a simulation of a strange sport in a strange land, it scores high in the major league.


RBI is one of thos incredibly weird statistics that litter sports like American football, cricket and baseball. No matter how well you think you understand how it works, something seems wrong. Anyway, here goes:
RBI stands for Runs Batted In and is a statistic that reflects how many runs have been scored by a player. This could be either as a result of him rounding the bases and getting to home base. Or if he allows other runners to get to home as a result of his hit. Or at least that is the theory.

Ander Länder - andere Sportler

RBI Baseball 2 logo

Amerika, einig Baseball-Land: Big Ronny ist nich nur Ex-Präsident sondern auch Ex-Baseball-Kommentator, die großen Ligen verbrauchen ehen jahrlich über 100.000 Balle, und überhaupt kennt jedes Kind die Regeln dieses schönen Sports. Und bei uns?

Nun, bei uns findet man kaum zwei Leute, die einem erklären können, daß R.B.I. für "Runs Batted In" steht, also die Zahl der Runs, die durch den Schlag eines Spielers erzielt werden könnten (was immer das bedeuten mag...).

Wie dem auch sei, hier darf der Kenner der Materie entweder gegen den Rechner oder einen menschlichen Widersacher antreten. Im Zwei-Spielermodus ist eine Sieben-Match-Serie das höchste der Gefühlte, Solisten haben beim Kampf der nationalen gegen die amerikanische Liga das selbe Ziel vor Augen, oder sie bestreiten Einzelbegegnungen innerhalb einer Liga.

Die je 24 Spieler der je 26 Mannschaften können eher actionlastig oder mehr strategisch dirigiert werden: Entweder man studiert die Statistiken des Gegners und setzt ganz bestimmte Schlagmänner gegen ganz Bestimmte Werfer ein, oder man konzentriert sich nur auf das Schlagen und Fangen.

So oder so informiert eine schön gemachte Anzeigentafel über den Stand der Dinge, und Time Outs für Auswechslungen sind natürlich auch drin.

Von den größen Hintergrunden abgesehen sind Grafik un Animationen recht ordentlich, der Sound ist durchwachsen und die Joysticksteuerung prima (sobald man das Timing im Griff hat!). Fans des Ami-Sports werden also zufrieden sein, den Rest interessiert's ohnehin nicht. (Kate Dixon)

RBI Baseball 2 logo

Spearheading a bit of a revival in computer sports, Domark's baseball sim hits hard and almost makes it a home run.

Once upon a time, Atari (or Tengen as they like to be known these days) produced a baseball game exclusively for the Nintendo console, and as is the wont of software people, they subsequently got round to producing a sequel. Now their friends at Domark have produced a version of said sequel for the Amiga.

Thus we have something a little strange - a sequel without a predecessor (on this format anyway). Mind you, considering the limited scope of baseball, I don't expect we've missed out on much - I mean, just how different could they have been?

Once upon a time (part two), I loathed sports at school, but at least when the summer came around, and the old baseball equipment was dragged out, I could savor a welcome respite from football and bloody rugby. Ah, happy days.

But enough of this - you want to know about the game. It's not exactly simple, but I'll give it my best shot...

Leafing through the bits and pieces bunged into the RBI Two box, the first thing to hit me was the amount of background stuff included. not only is there a baseball cap (though it did actually look more like a cycling cap, but it's cool anyway) to get you in the mood, but the manual goes so far as to give fourteen pages of player statistics (that's the actual player rosters on twenty eight teams!) and even includes a lowdown on what task each guy (the batter, the pitcher, the baseman etc) actually performs in the favourite sport of our American friends. Very handy for heathens like me.

These aren't dodgy trinkets designed to disguise a dismal game - they help the game shine even more. From the 'Back To The Future' inspired theme music and the presenter, with his cheesy grin fixed for the camera, to the in-game sequences with gruff speech samples, RBI Two Baseball oozes class.

The game offers the usual one player against computer options, but it really comes into its own when there are two players, making it much more of a social affair.

Okay, I admit it - it's very good.

The standard 3D view from behind the catcher is used for the main pitching batting sequence (with some pretty nifty animation), but once the ball is actually whacked, the view changes to an aerial one, panning over the pitch to follow its progress.

Should this leave the main diamond pitch thing (or whatever the technical term is) out of view, the game helpfully super-imposes a little scanner which charts the progress of the runners as they head for a home run. Although the characters are small in this view, they still move in a surprisingly fluid manner, sliding into home base and such like.

For practically every occurrence (home runs, being caught out, reaching a base safely, and so on), there's a cute scoreboard display, just to give that stadium feel. thankfully these can be skipped by a swift press of the fire button (handy after you've witnessed them for the zillionth time) or tuned off completely (much more preferable).

In play, the success or failure of RBI Two Baseball kind of hangs on the various control systems used (as indeed most of these team control simulations do). Batting is simply a matter of moving the guy, then pressing the fire button when the ball is thrown. This leaves it all down to timing, which works quite effectively (after about fifteen minutes practice).

Still, the chance of some extra directional control would have been nice, and the hit rate is unrealistically low (for human players anyway). Pitching is a little more interactive, allowing for curve balls, fast balls, slow balls, and combination pitches. Then there's the fielding and running (which is where I really begin to have problems) but more of that in a minute. All fielders run corresponding to joystick movement, so the trick is to work out just which fielder you should be directing. If it turns out that he's not going to reach the ball in time, then chances are you've moved any other fielders several miles away. So, until a kind of latent instinct surfaces, actually getting hold of the ball in a reasonable amount of time proves a maddeningly tricky task.

Running between bases is another fairly automated affair (rather inevitably really). Other than getting the chance to force runners back to the previous base, or onwards to the next, things pretty much take care of themselves.

It has that baseball 'feel' to it, but as a game in itself it just didn't click with me.

Time in fact for some gripes, the biggest of which has to be the lack of intuitiveness in the control system, particularly the fielding. Working out where the bleedin' ball is going to land is bad enough, but it's once you've actually got the thing in your mitts and try passing it to a base that the real nightmare begins.

Frustrating? The concept of playing baseball with the disk was very tempting for a few fleeting moments. This may be down to personal taste, but a choice between this and a more normal (to my mind anyway) point-in-the-general- direction-of-the-base and throw system would have been a boon.

My second gripe concerns the actual game time (though I admit defeat on finding a better alternative which addresses the proper rules). With each game lasting a marathon nine innings each, and an even more daunting seven games per series, it would probably be less exhausting and time consuming to find a field and play the damn game for real. Seasons come and go, but the series still goes on (yeah, I'm exaggerating just a little bit). Now to me, these gripes seem fairly important, and they've coloured my overall opinion of the game somewhat, but I'll be the first to admit that they are things which aren't simply defined in terms of good or bad, but are perhaps more down to the tastes of the individual.

Much as I like idea of playing out sports on a computer, there seem to be precious few which not only capture the flavour and underlying concepts behind a sport, but which are also very playable. Sure, RBI Two is slick, and it has that baseball 'feel' to it, but as a game in itself it just didn't quite click with me, particularly in one player mode. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. And that's not to say that it doesn't really excell in some areas.

But it comes across as more of one of those luxury games (you know, the ones you ask your Granny for at Christmas) than one on which you'd be ecstatic about forking out £29.99. I freely admit that it could well be down to me rather than RBI Two (I know several people who think that it achieves what it sets out to do perfectly), but for £29.99 I expect to get a game which will not only be fun to play for an hour or two, but one which I'll come back to for weeks, maybe months to come. One which I'll run around telling my friends about. You know the kind I mean.

It's good. Okay, I admit it - it's very good. But it could never be mistaken for a classic. Me, I think i'll find myself a nice shoot-'em-up to while away those hot summer nights.

RBI Baseball 2 logo CU Amiga Screen Star

The many rules and complex structure of baseball makes it a difficult game to reproduce as a computer game and few attempts have come close to capturing the excitement of the real thing. Luckily, that's all about to change with the impending release of Domark's RBI Baseball 2, a game that is both highly absorbing and incredibly addictive.

RBI 2 features all 26 major league teams and most of the rules of the real game have been included. Each player has his own strengths and weaknesses based on the 1989 statistics of actual pros. Players who stole a lot of bases or archieved a high batting average in real life will have a high speed in the game, whereas those players who frequently wacked balls out of the stadium will have an excellent power rating.

It's not merely a question of standing on the home plate and spraying the ball in all directions. You have to carefully examine the strengths and weaknesses of all your players and make timely substitutions. This is particularly important in the case of pitchers. Starting pitchers have more stamina than relief pitchers, but a careful eye must be kept on the speed at which they throw the ball. Too many fastballs will zap your pitcher's energy and he'll start to throw easy-to-hit balls which will result in a deluge of home runs. As soon as he begins to tire, it's best to substitute him immediately.

The game offers a choice of playing in minor league or mixing it with the majors. You can also choose to play against the computer or a friend. It's best to start off in the minor league to get some batting practice as it's quite hard to judge pitches at first - the majors will hit you with so many fastballs you won't know what day of the week it is.

The game begins with both teams taking up their positions in the field or at bat. The pitcher has a number of throws available such as slowball, fastball, curveball or normal speed pitch as well as jigging from side to side to accentuate the ball's angle.

Pitches are accessed by a quick tug on the joystick in the required direction - up for a slowball, down for a fast delivery and either side for a left or right curving pitch. Batting is merely a question of positioning your player within the batter's box and timing the swing of the bat to meet the incoming balls. It's a bit of a hit or miss affair at the beginning, but once you've played a couple of games you'll be able to time your shots to perfection.

When batting, the screen shows a view from immediately behind the batter. It was intended to have a view from behind the pitcher, but this was dropped to keep things simple. Once the ball is hit, the screen changes to a grandstand view of the infield and will pan to follow a shot into the outfield.

If a shot reaches the outfield, a clear view of the bases is lost so a neat radar appears indicating which players are running to which bases. By collecting the ball and flicking the joystick, it's possible to send it to the correct base and tag the offending base runners. It's also possible to catch a runner as he attempts to steal a base in-between throws by making the pitcher chuck the ball to the bearest baseman and tagging him out.

The animation and graphics in RBI 2 are excellent. The pitch is finely rendered with textured grass, surrounding crowd and detailed sprites adding to the overall atmosphere of the game. It's also fast moving which helps give a flavour of the real thing - the first time you manage to collect a ball, throw it to a baseman and tag someone out as they attempt to slide into base gives a real sense of archievement.

Soundwise, the game includes the roaring crowd, the sound of bat meeting ball, and the shouts of the umpires as they record another home run or safety. Between each play, an optionl scoreboard appears to record the state of play so far, and includes some nifty animations each time a special play takes place. It's totally irrelevant to the gameplay, but is an indication of the finishing touches that have gone into the game.

Unfortunately there's no league system so matches are only on friendly basis. Some of the excitement of the game is lost because of this omission - a series of friendlies becomes midly irritating when you could be marching up the league in pursuit of a pennant, the play-offs and a place in the World Series. Doubtless, if the game's a success, we'll see such improvements as a league system and a save option in a sequel. Another quibble is the deceptive angle of the ball once it's been hit into the air. It's almost impossible to second guess the direction it's going to travel until it starts to drop and by then the opposing team are halfway round the bases.

Conversions are often said and sordid affairs with little effort, skill or original thought brought to bare on the new game. As with many licences of popular coin-ops or films, conversions of bestselling console games are sometimes seen as easy money and often churned out for a quick buck. Fortunately, RBI Baseball 2 on the Amiga is one of the best conversions I've seen. Domark's creative development house, The Kremlin, have kept the basics of the best-selling Nintendo game, but have also totally revamped the graphics and greatly enhanced the gameplay.

A refreshing and original game. The best since Hardball hit the C64 all those years ago.

JOE DiMAGGIO DiMaggio became the game's first $100,000-a-year player, although this is peanuts compared to the multi-million dollar contracts of today. In his 13 seasons with the Yankees he helped them to win 9 World Series. He also holds the record of 56 consecutive hitting games.

DiMaggio retired from baseball in December, 1951 explaining that 'I haven't got that feeling that I used to have, that I can walk up there and hit any pitcher who ever lived'.

RBI Baseball 2: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth is a legend. He's credited with having the most powerful swing in the game and holds the record for the most home runs in a season, hitting 60 homers in 1927. He hit an incredible 714 home runs over his playing career, a feat only beaten when livlier balls and shortened outfield fences were introduced in the 1960s. In the opener of the 1919 season, Ruth hit an astonishing 600 foot home but his longest home run, or sol the legend has it, travelled more than 2,000 miles after landing in an open top sports car.

At one point, Ruth was making more money than the US President. When this was pointed out to him, he modestly replied, 'maybe so, but I had a better year than he did'. Ruth was eventually forced to quit the Yankees after his boss offered him only one dollar to play the 1935 season. Joining the lowly Boston Braves, he was to play only 30 more games of professional baseball. He died of cancer in 1948.

  • Most pitchers can throw a ball into a paper cup form 60 feet away.
  • Teams play on either grass or Astro turf (so named after the pioneers of plastic grass, the Houston Astros).
  • The baseball Diamond was devised by Alexander Cartwright in 1846. * The Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park has such a small Outfield that a 37 foot fence had to be built to prevent masses of home runs being scored.
  • A left handed batter is at a distinct advantage when battling as he stands nearer to first base than a right-handed player.

The first officially recognised baseball match took place on 14 June 1846, when the Knickerbockers club of New York took on the New York Nine in Hoboke, New Jersey.

Two importan milestones were incorporated into the game that day when the bases were fixed at a distance of 90ft from each other and the match was broken up inot nine innings.
The first professional team, the Cincinnati Stockings, took the field way back in 1869. Many other teams were professional in all but name, receiving high sponsorship money while companies insisted they were paying the players wages for non-existent office jobs.
Today, twenty-six major-league teams each play an amazing 162 games a season in less than 182 days! The best clubs from both the National League and the rival American League then battle it out in a series of play-off games until only two remain to contest the prestigious World Series.

Unfortunately, the early years of the sport were blighted by corruption. Players were paid small fortunes to throw games by dropping balls, missing hits or pitching badly.
The most famous incident happened during the 1919 World Series when members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the series in favour of the Cincinnati Reds.

Charles Comiskey, the White Sox's owner, eventually learned the truth and eight players were banned from playing baseball for the rest of their life.
The Chicago team was devastated and the club didn't win another pennant for forty years.

Baseball is played by millions of people all over the world and is the national sport of the US, Japan, Cuba, Nicaragua and many South American countries.

The game has even established a foothold in Britain with regular televised games and a fledgling league taking off.

  • Each year, the President of the USA traditionally pitches the first ball of the new season.
  • Everyone dreams of making it in the major-leagues, even Fidel Castro. Apparently, the Cuban dictator was scouted by the New York Giants (now the San Francisco Giants) but failed to make the grade. Perhaps that helps explain his violent anti-Western stance and pro-communist learnings.
  • In the late forties, Charlie Lupica, a Cleveland fan, climbed a flagpole and vowed not to come down until his team passed the Yankees in the league. 117 days later he came down.
  • The worst crushing single game defeat belongs to the St. Louis browns who lost 29-4 against the Boston Red Sox in June, 1950. To warm up for such an archievement, the team had lost 20-4 to the same team the previous day.
  • In the early days of the sport, a batter could request what types of ball was pitched at him and most deliveries were thrown underarm. He was allowed to indicate how high the pitch should be and at what speed it should be thrown - a far cry from today's 100mph fastballs which come at the player with the force of a Howitzer.
  • The Cleveland Spiders hold the accolade for the worst team ever to play in the major-leagues. In 1899, they racked up 134 losses against only 20 wins and lost 40 out of their 41 games. The following year, the National League voted to reduce the number of teams in the division and the Spiders were relegated to making appearances in stupid lists as this one.
  • Ross Grimsley was definitely the smelliest player. He was acutely superstitious and refused to wash his clothes, comb his hair or use deoderant during a winning streak.
  • George Megerkurth must go down in baseball history as the toughest umpire. An ex-professional boxer, he would often slug it out with players who questioned any of his calls. In one celebrated incident, the six-foot referee dislocated the shoulder of an up-and-coming pitcher, Ivy Griffin, after attacking him in a hotel after a match. Griffin never played baseball again.

Just as Cricket mystifies Americans, so the rules of major-league baseball dumbfound the average Brit. Buried beneath an impenetrable mound of batting and pitching statistics lurks a game which has a billion or more devotees across the world.
For the uninitiated, play takes place on a field divided up into two parts, an Infield and an Outfield. The Infield (or Diamond) is, despite it's name, square shaped with bases located at each corner.

These bases are placed 90 feet apart and are known as Home Plate and First, Second and Third Base.
A Foul Line is drawn at an angle from Home Plate so that it dissects third and first base - if a ball is hit over this line it's adjudged to be a foul.

The team at bat have to hit the ball into fair territory (ie not over the foul line) and run like hell around the diamond, touching each base in the process.
If a player manages to complete a circuit, than its one run to his side. The defensive or fielding team have to try and stop a player completing a lap by striking him out, catching the ball before it bounces or by touching a runner with the ball before he gets to base.

There are nine men on a team, chosen from a roster of 25, and each team takes it in turns to bat and field. The game is split into nine innings with both teams allowed three players to be called out per innings before handing the batting over to the opposing team.
The best shot a batter can pull off is a home run which sends the ball over the perimeter wall and earns the team one point. If all three bases are loaded (occupied) and a player hits a homer, then a total of four points are added to a team's score.

Fielders take up strategic positions around the field depending on the game situation. The pitcher has a number of different pitches in his armoury such as a slow ball, fastball, curveball, screwball and forkball, although most concentrate on one particular throw and make it their speciality.
Each ball must be thrown into the Strike Zone, an area between a batter's upper chest and knees and the width of the Home Plate.

If a batter misses the ball its a Strike and if the collects three Strikes he's out for that innings.
If the pitcher misses the Strike Zone and the batter doesn't attempt to hit the ball, the play is called a Ball. If four Balls are called by the umpire, the batter can walk to first base.
Strike out three players, and the teams wap over and the fielding side get to have a bat.

RBI Baseball 2: Baseball Area
1. Left-field, 2. Centre-field, 3. Right-field, 4. Third-base Umpire, 5. Third-baseman, 6. Second-baseman, 7. First-base Umpire, 8. First-baseman, 9. Second-baseman, 10. Pitcher's Mound, 11. Shortstop, 12. Third-base coach, 13. First-base coach, 14. Batter, 15. Catcher, 16. Home-plate umpire, 17. Next batter.