Wii Sports and 1-2-Switch both brought the noble game of baseball into the homes of many a family, probably grazing a few vases and TVs in the process. The sense of satisfaction felt when timing your swing perfectly to score a home run against a parent or sibling was arguably as good as nailing a power serve in Wii Tennis or a curving strike in Bowling.
We are yet to see a decent (sorry, RBI) baseball experience on Switch, but Finnish developer 10tons has brought its second sports related single-screen puzzler-cum-destroyathon Baseball Riot to the system. Calling it a sequel to the Angry Birds-esque Tennis In The Face is a bit of an understatement, as the physics, art style and gameplay are carried over almost verbatim, but is there anything that expands or mixes up the formula to make it stand out?
Our protagonist this time round is Gabe Carpaccio, a handlebar moustache sporting, formerly illustrious baseball pro that has a dramatic fall from grace outlined by a series of front page headlines. The only way for him to redeem himself is by saving his teammates from the Electrolytes - his former team that is being used as an advertising pawn by the evil manufacturer of 'Explodz' energy drinks. The characters still have a dry wit and banter, the presentation is still bold, the colours are vibrant and the percussion-based, fuzz funk soundtrack bops along with a wealth of squelches and grimacing sound effects from knocked out foes, but aside from the fact that it's portraying different sport, there really isn't enough to differentiate it from its predecessor.
You'll be firing off baseballs at fans and rival players, among others, in order to work through the games one hundred levels, collecting stars as you go and unlocking more areas of the grid like map. The star system is actually more of a challenge and feels more gratifying in Baseball Riot because you physically have to hit the stars in order to collect them within the level, rather than getting a proficiency based bonus awarded at the end like many other genre titles. Aside from this, mechanically the game plays out identically to Tennis In The Face - moving either your finger or the left stick to guide your shot, and a tap or press of A to fire.
You'll have a specific number of balls to dispose of various enemies in order to progress and later levels will again introduce multi-ball canisters or explosive boxes. Progressing through the stages introduces a decent amount of variety regarding new enemies, such as umpires that wear extra protective gear and have to be hit from behind or fielders who can actually catch the ball. The same can't be said for the levels they are in though, as there are typically only one or two types of enemy. Furthermore, the over use of ball stopping obstacles such as ice blocks feels like it takes away some of the momentum and randomness that made Tennis In The Face fun.
Each section of the map has a stadium, which lists different statistics from the levels you've beaten, and a baseball field which has two additional missions for you to complete that area. These range from 'get at least two stars in each level' to 'knock out five enemies in one swing'. You'll have to beat a set number of levels to open up the next section of the map, and it's easy pick up and play nature does allow you to opt for a different level if you get stuck. Both the requirements to move on and the levels themselves do get tough, relying more on strategically placed angles, chain reactions or just a wee bit of luck from time to time.
However, Baseball Riot seems to lack some of the charm and chaotic outcomes of its tennis-based relative. While the rag doll physics and the kinetic energy of seeing an enemy wiped out in slow motion is still really satisfying, the are a number of instances where the game requires you to be much more accurate, rather than encourage or reward experimentation. Part of Tennis In The Face's appeal is the Rube Goldberg-like set-pieces and witnessing the continual carnage that could be caused, which just isn't as prominent here. With a combination of the level design and the more resolute enemy types, the sense of challenge can be replaced by frustration quite quickly and easily.
While Baseball Riot has a simple, quirky, challenging and meaty campaign, there is a real sense of deja vu. The art style and core mechanics are virtually the same as its prequel, and although it is aesthetically vivid and satisfying to beat a difficult stage or line up a perfect shot to obliterate a row of nasty foes, the grind you go through to beat it might deplete that addictive nature that puzzle games such as this strive for. All in all, the game ends up being a solid, but often frustrating and wholly unoriginal experience.