You might not know this, but I have 21-month-old son. He's not quite old enough to show any interest in baseball, but he sure does love it when I sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." The song captures the essence of the sport beautifully and makes me long to be sitting in a stadium cheering on my favorite team.
Luke Whittaker's latest game Baseball does exactly the same thing. It's a stripped-down baseball sim where you simply bat and run, which—if we're being honest with ourselves—is all we really want out of a baseball video game anyway.
You're given a choice between Arcade mode and Bottom of the Ninth mode. In Arcade, you're given 10 pitches to score as high as possible by trying to hit the ball close to a target in the field. Bottom of the Ninth mode is the real nail-biter, in which it is naturally the bottom of the ninth inning, and you're down by several runs and must use your superior batting and running skills to climb out of the hole and win the game.
In each game mode the basic hitting mechanic is the same: once the ball leaves the pitcher's hand you're presented with a cross-hair target that indicates where the ball will cross the plate. Using your mouse move the circle to the cross-hairs and click on the left mouse button, timing it just right so your bat meets the ball over the plate. By aiming higher and lower of the center of the target you can try to hit a line drive or a fly ball, and by aiming left or right you can hook or slice the ball the opposite direction. A red "landing zone" indicator gives you some guidance as to where the ball may land in the field.
Once the ball leaves your bat, you run automatically to first base. When you get close to the base you're given a "Slide" button near the runner that you can click to, you know, slide. Once you're safely at the bag you can click a "Run" button that pops up if you want to keep running. The computer automatically fields the ball of course, and will try to throw you out at the nearest base.
Analysis: Luke Whittaker's Baseball is easily one of the best online baseball games I've ever played. The gameplay mechanics do a perfect job of capturing what it feels like to be several runs behind in the final innings of a ball game, and have only three outs to fashion a miraculous come-from-behind victory.
The graphics are superb, and even better is the sound. Luke has included many different cracks-of-the-bat sound effects, and you can very quickly get a feel for the strength and effectiveness of the hit from the sound effect alone. Your heart sinks when you hear the weak "crunk" sound of the ball hitting near the handle of the bat, and watch in dismay as the shortstop plucks the ball out of midair. You similarly cheer inside when hearing a good, solid "THWACK!" and you know your hit is headed into home-run territory.
My only problems with the game are minor. First, it's hard, at least at first. The first few times I played I felt like I could never get a man on base, much less score. Second, I came across somewhat of a bug, or hopefully an unusually rare occurrence.
At my fourth at-bat (you can get further at-bats if you tie the game: the computer gets an imaginary "at-bat" in which it scores more points, giving you another scoring target to hit) I tied up yet again, with two outs still left, then cracked a good solid high line-drive to left field. The left fielder overran the ball and wound up at the outfield wall, while the ball bounced a couple times and stopped in the middle of the grass. I kept running, rounded second, kept running, heading into home, and scored! I won! Except I realized that no one had chased down the ball. No one. Since no one chased the ball, no one threw the ball back to the infield. The game never ended. I won, but the game wouldn't advance to the "You Won!" screen. The ball had probably landed on that magic pixel in between fielders where no one wanted to chase it down.
I don't think that ever happens in real baseball.
There are also a few liberties taken with the rules of course, which given the nature of the game doesn't really affect your play. The fielding is also sometimes quirky (see above), but that seems to be a necessary compromise to keep the game simple, fast, and fun.
A couple of suggestions: play once on "Easy" so you can get a feel for where the strike zone is. That's all you'll need. Move up to Medium or Hard after that, where you're given a higher score to beat. Overall I wasn't too enthusiastic about Arcade mode, though I guess that's a good place to make and compare scores. Also, you can press the [spacebar] as an alternative to pressing the "Next Pitch" button, as Luke himself points out in the comments. Let's play Baseball!