HardBall! is the second classic Accolade title from the bunch I mentioned in my Law of the West write-up. When it arrived, I don't think I'd ever seen baseball before, and it genuinely felt like they'd put a little piece of America in the corner of my bedroom. The game blew me away.
It was presented so well that it was hard not to be drawn in. The huge player sprites and unusual but effective viewpoint were, of course, the main draw. I actually played this before the slightly earlier World Series Baseball, and the difference between the two was (and still is) like night and day in that respect.
About to bring the heat...
The computer opponent was quite tricky, but that didn't matter because I only really played the two-player game, which was great fun. I didn't have that option here, so I was forced to take on the computer opponent in a test of my mettle.
I have to say, HardBall! is still exactly as I remember it. And for all today's games are considerably flashier, much more detailed, much more in-depth and generally better, it hasn't really lost anything from back then. The player graphics are still pretty impressive for the age and platform we're looking at, and for all its little flaws, it still plays a pretty good game.
Success! Another homer, and I've tied the game.
It might seem very limited now, but back then the ability to substitute players and construct a starting line-up of your own choosing was quite revolutionary. And then there was your pitching strategy to take care of... and it certainly seems to matter, it's not just there for show. My first pitcher lacked a fastball, that staple of most pitchers, and went for two homers in the first inning. Not a great start, and although he improved in the second I soon yanked him and sent in someone else.
Batting was always the hardest part of HardBall!, and so it was proving again. I managed just one hit in the first three innings... which for those of you that don't know the game, means nothing... you don't actually score anything for a hit. However; all was not lost, and I tied the game at two in the fourth, with a couple of home runs.
Fastball! The exclamation mark makes all the difference.
Sadly, no sooner did I have the game tied then it all went wrong. A feeble hit from my opponent dribbled to my fielder, but I accidentally threw the ball to the wrong base and the runner made it to first. The very next pitch saw a two-run shot blasted to centre field, and I was down 4-2. I pulled that pitcher and threw in a guy with a very low ERA (Earned Runs Average). Not only did he have a fastball, he also had a fastball! The exclamation mark meant it was really fast. So I threw one of them for his first pitch, and it was dispatched to the car park. 5-2. I never got back into the game after that.
HardBall! takes me back in all the best ways. The big players, the roar of the crowd, the lovely incidental music from Ed Bogas (his speciality... he was one of those whose music you could always tell was his), and the feel of America combined to make HardBall! a classic of its time. I had a lot of fun with it today, and having lived in America and developed a love of baseball, I have a new appreciation for it now.
Thanks to Steve for the corrections. :-)