The Game: It’s a day at the digital ballpark for two players; the game is very simple – players control the timing of pitches and batting, which will determine how the game unfolds. The highest score at the end of nine innings wins. (RCA, 1977)
Memories: I’m all for a simple game of video baseball. When it got to the point that baseball video games were keeping track of batting averages and other stats, that knocked the genre out of the park for me – I was more than happy to stick to baseball on the Odyssey2 and the Game Boy (the two best video versions of the sport for my money). However, it is possible – even for someone with simple tastes like mine – to go too far in the opposite direction: too basic. RCA’s Baseball for the Studio II goes over that line.
The above description talks about players controlling the timing of batting and pitching – and that’s no exaggeration. That’s about as much control as you have in this game. Beyond that, you might as well be watching a game of baseball unfold in an ant farm for all of the control you have over it. I might even forgive that, but the user interface in this game makes things even worse – the gigantic scoreboard that takes up virtually the right half of the screen is anything but intuitive. Things are made even more counterintuitive by the baseball diamond itself: it’s rotated 90 degrees to the right, so that home base winds up on the left side of the screen. I normally admire it when programmers and game designers set out to exceed the limitations of the system for which they’re programming, but this is a case where perhaps the Studio II was overpowered by running a simple baseball game. Even alternating screens between a more comprehensible layout of the field and a simple full-screen scoreboard would’ve made things easier on the player.
With a graphics scheme that’s barely even capable of depicting the game of baseball, and game play that’s barely a step above watching a game on TV, it may just be that RCA Baseball has the dubious honor of being the worst attempt, among the early systems, to bring the great American pastime home for video gamers. Do yourself a favor: stay on the bench and sit this one out.