So you're deep into your first season as the closer for the Dragons, and you just ended your last game by striking out what appeared to be a robot. Your team manager tells you to go visit the hospital, even though you're not injured. When you do, your excitable avatar breaks into a sweat, and asks the nurse out on a date because he thinks she might be "the one."
Yeah... welcome to Baseball Superstars 2011. The app is one part arcade baseball game, and one part sports RPG, with a little bit of Japanese-style storytelling mixed in.
Players can select between "Exhibition Play," "Season Play," "Home Run Derby," "Mission Play" (where you have to complete tasks to proceed) and "My League," where you take control of a single batter or pitcher, and try to get him to the Hall of Fame.
Regardless of what mode you play, the game basically lets you swing the bat and pitch like any other baseball game, while fielding is handled by the CPU. Once the ball is fielded, the player controls where the throw will go. It's a good system that makes the game, already difficult enough to play on an iPhone, just simple enough to keep it fun.
About the only gripe gameplay-wise is that it's pretty difficult to get good contact on the ball. Even with practice, it feels like everything has to go right to get a strong hit. Perhaps it's just bad luck in picking teams, as none of the teams or players are licensed from Major League Baseball, so they're completely unknown to me (if they're even real at all). Regardless, hitting is more of a chore than a joy.
Pitching, on the other hand, is quite a treat. In particular, pitching in the "My League" mode, where you can watch one player's stats accumulate over the course of the year, is a blast. Within "My Player," you also have the ability to use points and money earned in order to get more skill points that will enable you to throw faster, with more accuracy or develop additional pitches if you've created a pitching prospect. It's easy to get lost in the mode, given its multitude of options.
It's not without its minor quibbles, though. Although you can buy upgrades for your player using his salary or "G Points," points that are earned through exceptional plays, you simply do not get enough of these for it to make much of a difference. It's very hard to upgrade your player without submitting to the game's numerous micro-payment options. This is even more frustrating given you paid $5 for the game in the first place. Having to shell out extra dollars just to keep your player competitive feels like a slap in the face.
Gripes about payment options aside, this is one of the most interesting baseball games I've ever played. For those looking for a straight sim baseball experience – keep looking. Baseball Superstars 2011 is not that game. For someone who likes baseball, but wants to experience a warped J-RPG version of it, this is the app for you. Play ball!