The Bigs 2

The Bigs 2 doesn’t try to replicate the sport of baseball any more than the scrolling lights of Rock Band strive to mimic real guitar chords. Both games are more about feel than authenticity, and The Bigs 2 feels like a playable Baseball Tonight highlights package. Pitches catch fire, every home run is a towering shot, and hyper-elevated between-the-legs basket-catches are commonplace.

Because it isn’t beholden to a slavish “It’s in the game” mentality, The Bigs 2 finds novel ways to capture the essence of baseball. The hitting mechanic, for instance, hinges on a hitter’s “wheelhouse,” a highlighted strike zone where pitches are easier for him to hit. A pitcher can work around the wheelhouse, but if he instead challenges the batter, the wheelhouse shrinks and the pitcher gains “turbo” to cheese up subsequent pitches. Sure, this system has only a tenuous connection to reality, but it still evokes the risk-reward tension between the mound and the plate in a convincing—and more importantly, accessible—fashion.

The constant mini-challenges infusing the rest of the game aren’t as well-considered. To make a tough fielding play, you have to complete a series of quick-time events, those “Press X NOW!” moments that have become steadily less fun since Shenmue popularized them 10 years ago. The idea is to give players the thrill of reacting under pressure. The commands flash by so quickly, though, that the more common result is outright bewilderment.

The biggest difference between baseball and The Bigs 2 is that the latter refuses to be boring. Baseball is often mundane, after all, and that’s no crime, as the sport’s quiet stretches bring its pivotal moments into sharper focus. The Bigs 2, conversely, keeps the volume up so high that it occasionally drowns itself out.

Beyond the game: A quintuple-layer facial-hair customization scheme lets you create a player with a beard just as awful as the ones major leaguers wear.

Worth playing for: The “Big Slam,” a power-up mode in which you load the bases with rapid-fire singles, then unleash the mother of all dingers.

Frustration sets in when: Your spastic fielders let the opposing team stretch a single into a triple.

Final judgment: Crass, bombastic, ridiculous? Perhaps. Fun? Definitely.