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Baseball Mogul 99 (PC) Review

Background Info

Have you ever opened the local paper to see that your favorite baseball team traded a favorite player, or signed a big-money free agent, and said to yourself "What are they thinking?" Baseball Mogul (BBM) gives you the opportunity to run a franchise as you see fit--free agents, trades, lineups, and even the price of a hot dog are under your control.

Graphics : N/A
I'm not even going to issue a score in this area- since BBM is basically a text-based game, the graphics have no bearing on the gameplay. That said, the overall look is easy to read, and does what it sets out to do quite well. The biggest drawback? No real player photos or team logos.

Audio : N/A
Just like the graphics, there's no score in the audio area. What sounds there are have no effect on the gameplay.

Interface: 80
If you can use Windows, you can figure out the interface for BBM. All team management selections are made via drop-down menus, with a few exceptions--but even then, the interface is exceedingly simple and effective. Some of the buttons for roster moves can be less than intuitive, but the manual (short as it is) does a pretty good job of explaining things. All in all, a simple, easy-to-use interface that will be familiar to any Windows user.

Gameplay : 70
This really depends on what you're looking for--if you want on-field action, stay away. If you want to make strictly off the field decisions, take a look.

BBM is a management game in its truest sense--you are responsible for signing players, making trades, setting starting lineups and pitching rotations, placing and removing players from the DL, and setting prices at the ballpark, among other things. The main objective is to produce a consistent winner, which takes a little planning and financial sense. There is no bonus awarded for making a huge profit, but making money is a necessity when contracts come up, or when signing free agents. The financial aspect isn't just an afterthought in BBM, but an integral part of the game.

After choosing the team to control and a difficulty level (there are 4), you can be as involved in day-to-day operations as you choose to be. Games can be played in blocks of one day to a month at a pop, and there is the option of watching a play-by-play of each game (which is sort of fun, but very time-consuming). During the season, you can fiddle with the lineups, promote and demote players to and from the minors, and try to keep a handle on the team's finances. Once again, the goal is winning--but keep an eye on the bottom line, or your best players are liable to leave at the end of the season if you don't have the funds to pay them.

There are several ways to make and spend money in BBM--profits come from ticket sales, concessions, and television contracts. Each of these is adjustable, and tracked on a game-by-game basis. Expenditures are in the form of salaries, farm system costs, medical staff (more money spent here will reduce injuries to players), scouting, and, of course, taxes. Keeping these in balance is an important aspect of long-term success in BBM.

The biggest drawback to BBM is the lack of a MLB license--the teams are unnamed at the start, and all the player names are fictional (close to the real names, but still made up). All this can be changed by editing each player individually, but it takes a big time commitment to do it. There are a few bugs I happened upon, such as the pitching rotation not being utilized towards the end of a season, but no real showstoppers. The AI team owners seemed inconsistent, too--sometimes you could get a top player for a song, and other times they bargained like Attila the Hun, so making trades gets to be mostly trial and error.

All in all, BBM succeeds at what it sets out to do. It provides a little insight into the complexity of keeping the fans and players happy, winning games, and making money.

Difficulty : 70
With the four difficulty levels, BBM has a good amount of flexibility here. Good thing, too, because it needs it. The easiest level is just simply too easy--I found it a snap to get the players I wanted, and my version of the Yankees won 112 regular season games en route to a World Series title.

After bumping up the challenge level, I found BBM a lot more realistic. Trades came harder, fatigue was more of factor, and the fans would simply not provide income unless you met their expectations. At Mogul level(the highest)BBM is quite a stiff challege, and I found one of the two middle settings about right.

Overall : 73
Infinite Monkey is targeting a pretty narrow market here, in my opinion. I enjoyed BBM, but I've always liked the management end of sports sims, which is why I've been a fan of the Front Page Sports Baseball series. BBM offers a little less depth than the FPS games, but adds the financial aspect. I guess my real advice would be, if you want a way to spend several quiet hours mulling over ticket prices and pitching rotations, give BBM a try. If you're looking to reproduce a day at the ballpark, grab one of the action-based baseball games.

By: Scott Moore 4/22/99

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