MLB Bobblehead Pros arrived on the Xbox Live Marketplace last week (PSN release upcoming) for $10. Made by Konami, the game basically takes the well regarded Power Pros series and re-skins the player models as ‘bobbleheads’ for the HD consoles. The series has always been a sim at heart despite the cartooney look and that tradition lives on with MLB Bobblehead Pros. Considering the price point there is a lot of content being offered with the promise of more support coming down the line through DLC.
For just $10 many will find the offering to be sufficient if not exceed expectations of an arcade game. There are of course the standard quick games along with a full season mode and online play. DLC is planned and will deliver a Home Run Derby mode soon and “Bobblehead Battle” mode later this year. The fun factor here is high overall and that is really all you can ask for out of an arcade game.
For an arcade game Bobblehead excels at getting the basics of baseball down – maybe even better than that other MLB title on the 360. It’s not an over the top experience rather it plays pretty true to a simulation in many respects. Pitch counts and fatigue are pretty well represented, there are broken bats, and injuries make sense (diving into a wall is not healthy). Basic baseball strategy pays off in Bobblehead though its obviously not trying to reach the level of detail that you’d find in a game like MLB: The Show.
Bobblehead presents the first chance to play (essentially) the Power Pros series online. Performance online has been a mixed bag…generally the games function well enough in that they are consistent and responsive but they still run a bit slower than offline. Where this hampers things the most is in fielding where balls are more easily misplayed. The number of options are welcome though with the ability to play ranked games of either 3, 6, or 9 innings. Griefing protection is there with a limit on checking the runner and time paused and even a ‘Mercy Rule’ in effect. The pitch tracer is removed making it a bit more challenging to hit. An online mode involving the Home Run Derby will be out as DLC in the near future.
The CPU is fairly predictable in the way they play. Their pitcher will rarely throw balls – and even those generally just miss. This is the case even in advantageous counts like 0-2. They have a bionic eye at the plate and rarely are fooled into swinging at something out of the strike zone. CPU batters also take the first pitch at probably a 90% clip even if the ball is right down the middle of the plate. Team management is fairly well done but I’ve often seen the CPU bat and then be replaced in the next half inning rather than using a pinch hitter in their place.
One of the first options to seek out when starting a season is the number of games to be played. It’s startling then to find that seasons are locked at 162 games and there is no way to change it. The number of innings in each game can’t be reduced either. At least the season can be simmed through so not every game has to be physically played. Regardless forcing 162 games will be intimidating to many…its just a daunting task to ask of those who purchased an arcade game (or any baseball game for that matter). Rosters are also a bit behind which will bother some and there is no word on if there are plans to update them.
It takes some adjustment to get comfortable with the control scheme. This is most evident fielding where there is no ‘pre-load’ system. Hitting a button to throw to a base too early will result in the player diving or jumping so patience has to be learned. Fielders have very little range and it is difficult to determine how to place them in order to play the ball so user error is frequent. The menus don’t explain all all the options well at all and team management screens are confusing.
MLB Bobblehead Pros is a solid product as a downloadable title with a reasonable price. The game is purely enjoyable despite flaws and certain design decisions with the upcoming DLC providing the potential to expand the life of the title beyond just a typical arcade game.