Derek Jeter Baseball 2005 is head and shoulders better than Gameloft’s last baseball outing. In fact, surveying any competition in the wireless and smartphone space, you simply cannot find a better baseball title than this. The Achilles heel for this would be juggernaut? It lacks an official license to Major League properties. Other than Derek Jeter on the Yankees, you won’t find anyone you’ll recognize here.
That said, Gameloft did not play fast and loose with America’s old pastime. All of the cities are present here, although Montreal and Washington are misrepresented twice (which in my heart will always be Montreal). The game is also faithfully represented. There aren’t any variants of the rules played here, except the configurable default of a 3 inning game.
What Gameloft does better in Derek Jeter Baseball 2005 is bring the complexity of baseball titles found on consoles and PCs to another level. Most baseball titles can be boiled down to three aspects of play: pitching, batting and fielding. In terms of pitching, the developers here have put in an intuitive model that will let you choose a type of pitch and the location you want to throw at in the strike zone. This lets you lead the batter to chase for impossible to hit pitches like sliders or curve balls in the corner. As your pitcher gets tired, his accuracy will degrade so those pitches in the corner of the strike zone will eventually turn into balls rather than strikes.
The batting has also been improved tremendously. Rather than testing your reflexes by letting you swing when the ball will come, Derek Jeter Baseball 2005 takes this a step further by allowing you to attempt to control where your ball will go. You can try to hit it left, center or right in order to induce line drives or steer a fly ball away from a standing outfielders. Pulling these higher difficulty hits off will enable you to make a sacrificial fly or at the very least steer the ball away from a player trying to steal the next base.
You can now instruct individual players to steal bases too. It seems no matter how complex the controls might need to be, Gameloft has found a way for it to fit naturally on a phone. That’s perhaps the greatest thing about the game.
Fielding can also be directly controlled now. At least for outfielders or line drives, you will have a chance to influence the nearest player to go catch the ball for a quick out. Once you do catch the ball, you can do a snap throw of the ball or hold down on the button and charge up for a speedier ball to your base of choice.
In spite of the overall polish of Derek Jeter Baseball 2005, I still found myself encountering strange situations. Balls that are home runs sometimes look like they are actually caught by the outfielder and vice versa. There was also one time when fielding wouldn’t end because the game assumed one player was still not at base, although to me, the opponent was on base. A quick around the world pass through all the bases quickly eliminated that opponent and ended the inning.
Graphically, Derek Jeter Baseball 2005 is able to deliver the goods. It’s colorful and the player models are large enough that you can actually tell what they’re doing from their animations. But the kudos for this game has to go to the audio. That’s hard to say for any mobile game but this one is true. From the revved up ‘take me out to the ballgame’ tune to the umpire’s calls, this game makes you want to bother other people you’re your cell phone’s sound effects.
I showed this game briefly to my friend one day. When we had a spare moment afterwards, he actually asked me for the phone to play the game again. That’s how addictive this game is.