And now, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Or rather, from a wonder of modern technology (Bug Princess) to the height of simplicity. My number six iOS game of 2011 is X-Baseball.
Baseball. America's game. Nine men on each side, taking turns to try and belt a ball out of the stadium. Trying to outwit them is the pitcher, standing atop his mound with his array of different throws. It's a classic strategic battle.
That one might be sailing for the fences, but the pitcher's already winding up another...
X-Baseball distills the battle considerably, and instead makes arguably the most addictive time-killer I've played all year. It's unquestionably the simplest. Many's the time a game's controls have been whinged about as too complicated or unresponsive. I don't care how picky you are, you can't say that about X-Baseball. All you do is tap the screen to swing the bat.
It's not exactly a reaction test game... X-Baseball presents you with a side view of proceedings, where you, as the batter, must hit every ball that's pitched at you. It sounds simple, and really, it should be. But you'd be amazed at how easy it is to lose concentration and miss.
And that's a birdie. Oh, wait... wrong sport.
As you probably know, in baseball it's three strikes and you're out. X-Baseball is a little more generous than that. If your strike count reaches three, you are indeed out, and it's game over. Luckily, someone is on your side. Every so often, after you've had a strike, one of your fans in the crowd will throw you a bunch of bananas. If you manage to hit the bananas, a strike is wiped from your count.
X-Baseball is not a game where you score home runs, or in fact any kind of runs, actually. Instead, you score points for successful hits, with the value depending on your timing. That makes X-Baseball a very addictive high score game, too. And there are other ways to get points. Various things will fly overhead during the course of the game... birds at first, but don't be surprised to see men wearing jetpacks and even UFOs if you get far enough. Hitting any of these with the ball will net you bonus points. I love this, it reminds me of arcade games like Track and Field.
OK, this seems like a bit of a mis-match.
If you survive long enough, the starting pitcher will get worn out, at which point a replacement is brought in. Unfortunately, the replacement is a massive gorilla looking not unlike a purple Donkey Kong, and he puts some real oomph into his pitches. It ramps the difficulty up a fair bit, and if the game was quite frantic before, it's quite mad by this point.
For a baseball game stripped of so many of the game's characteristics, XLarge have really knocked it out of the park with X-Baseball. It can be maddeningly addictive (or frustratingly addictive, depending on how badly you do), and games don't last very long, so if you're hanging around waiting for a lift or something, this fills your time in perfectly. It's not the best game ever, but I've been thoroughly hooked since I downloaded it, and that's what's important with a game. X-Baseball is free, so there's no reason why this shouldn't occupy 2.4MB of your iThing's memory, whether you like baseball or not.