There's a saying that baseball is a simple game until you try and explain it to someone who has never played it. With major league teams gearing up for the 2012 campaign, I would like to amend that statement to "baseball is a simple game until you try and explain it to someone through a Korean role-playing game." That is was Gamevil has done with "Baseball Superstars 2012," the latest iteration in the popular mobile series.
To Gamevil's credit, "Baseball Superstars 2012" isn't missing anything essential to baseball that you might expect a mobile game to strip away. It's all there: full games, ongoing statistics and a degree of strategy familiar to armchair managers.
What makes "Baseball Superstars 12" unique is not what's missing, but the load of RPG elements in which the game's designers have deep-fried in the game of baseball. If you happen to be a person who is very into anime-inspired games and is in to baseball, you'll be in heaven. The likelihood though, is that you're playing this game because you're either interested in one or the other.
For the baseball fans who aren't big role-players, there are a mountain of things to learn. The ratings set for your character, which can either be a hitter or pitcher, are determined as much by your on-field achievements as it is the time you spend in the odd ancillary world of "Baseball Superstars 2012." You need to go places such as the park (as in, an actual park with trees and green spaces), the yard (which looks like a racetrack), the library (!?), hospital and the mall (?!?). In these places, you meet strange scantily clad people who can help you on your journey, as well as power-up your character or your team. I would need an entire book to explain all the intricacies of simply improving your player, let alone the super-players who show up at random times during the game with shotguns and fireballs.
This game is deep and feature-rich to a fault. If you are not already an RPG fanatic, you will be investing serious time before you understand how to wisely spend your health bars and what to do when a green guy on fire shows up to pitch against you (hint: abandon all hope).
I found the pitching controls, which take great advantage of the swipe gesture, much more intuitive than hitting. To hit the ball, you are tilting your device to and fro in order to land a target over the ball, and then swinging with an on-screen button. The speed of the pitching can be adjusted, but I had little success against slow or fast pitching.
As with any "free" game, the money for Gamevil comes with the in-app purchasing of "G-points" — the currency you use for powering-up your player and your team, unlocking extras, boosts and so forth. To Gamevil's credit, I was able to play this game for hours without feeling like I was missing out by not spending real money, but then again, I also was batting a meager .192 in my hitting career.
Credit is due to "Baseball Superstars 12" for being on the forefront of genre-blending titles. Traditional sports games could certainly learn a lot from RPGs, but if you aren't already a big fan of the latter, this game is going to be as confounding as the proportions of the cartoon women you will meet while playing.