What We Liked
America's Fastime: Ernie Banks would have trouble breaking a sweat in The BIGS 2 -- forget about playing two, you hardly play one here. Games only last five innings -- it's like baseball on amphetamines. (Um, maybe that's the wrong choice of words...) Regardless, the shorter format has two advantages. One, you can quickly sprint through a game any time you have a couple extra minutes in your day. Two, it takes you far less time to advance your career in Become a Legend Mode.
Homer Happy: It may seem odd to release a baseball game in the middle of the season, but after seeing all the fireworks on the field it just makes sense that this title hit stores only a few days after the Fourth of July. Hulking sluggers smash dingers with vapor trails to all corners of the park. If you're looking for a late-inning surge, leave the rally caps at home. Just top out your power meter and the Big Slam feature jumpstarts you from batting with the bases empty to smashing a grand slam in four consecutive pitches. It's like baseball on steroids. (Oops, there we go again...)
Next Level: Nothing ups the ante in sports games like a turbo button. While the more realistic sports sims continue to struggle with whether or not to include such an unrealistic feature, a cartoonish fireballer like The BIGS 2 would seem lost without it. You can use turbo to boost a pitcher in a tough spot, a batter looking for a big two-out hit, or a fielder looking to make a game changing throw. In other words, the turbo button : your player :: Brian McNamee : Roger Clemens. (OK, we'll stop now.)
Pinball Wizard: The BIGS 2 has hands down the best non-Wii party game available in sports: Home Run Pinball. Fire up your console, invite some friends over and start cranking rockets off the skyscrapers in Times Square, the bright lights in Las Vegas or Godzilla's honker in Tokyo. You start out on a steady diet of fastballs, but as you rack up points, your pitcher will add a slider and then a curve. The one-on-one mode is easy to pick up, difficult to master, and impossible to turn off.
In the Zone: The new Batter's Wheelhouse function offers you an instant scouting report every time a batter steps into the box. A glowing red circle appears in the strike zone to indicate where the hitter likes his pitches. Avoid that area and you'll be OK. If you're feeling it, you can shrink an opponent's wheelhouse by blowing a pitch by him in his favored area...just beware that if you drop a meatball into his zone, it's pretty much guaranteed to leave the yard.
Right on the Button: The BIGS 2 also does a great job of incorporating button combos into gameplay. When the opposing team's runner is storming home, furiously tap the X button and you'll win the home plate collision. There are also more complex maneuvers. Immediately after the other team rips a screamer, press and hold down a button until a surrounding circle closes completely and you'll pull off a legendary catch in the field. If you don't pull off the combos properly, you won't just give up the hit, you'll suffer an embarrassing error that usually results in extra bases for your opponent.
Click here to see a video of Home Run Pinball and mini-games for The Bigs 2. Here's in-game action as well:
What We'd Change
Swing and a Miss: The hitting is based solely on timing. In other words, where you aim your directional stick is where you're trying to hit the ball, not where you're swinging your bat in relation to the pitch. It takes a while to get used to and certainly isn't realistic. A curveball can start out at your eyes and drop down to your laces but you can still pull a line drive down the line as long as you time your swing correctly. Not a game changer, but certainly not the most natural hitting mechanics.
Legend Has It...: The BIGS 2 spices up its version of career mode by challenging you to become a baseball legend. You'll start out as an established star on the mend, roughing it in a rehab stint for a Mexican league team. It's a cool little twist, but the game play gets bogged down in mini-games. Before you even make it back to the bigs, you're forced to win a wind sprint mini-game that has nothing to do with baseball. The challenges continue to pop-up at an increasing rate as you advance deeper into the game. It's nice to have variety, but you'll find yourself getting frustrated and antsy as the meaningless mini-games continue to keep you off the field.
Stay Off Line: While everything runs smoothly online, there's not much to do. If you run out of friends to dominate in Home Run Pinball, the derby certainly lends itself to online challenges. Other than that, this mode is where The BIGS 2 could use an upgrade.
Baseball purists won't even recognize this game, but avid gamers will embrace it. The breakneck pace of the five inning games will always keep you engaged, while Home Run Pinball is almost reason alone to buy the disc.
-- Reviewed by Paul Ulane