If anyone should have been cynical about Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, it should have been me.
I’m not a fan of free-to-play games because it undermines the work of developers, devalues games in general and almost never comes across as anything but a greedy money grab. So when you prate that a big selling point to your game is that you’re going to be sold to, I tend to get a little grumpy about it.
I should have by all means ignored Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, but I’ve heard from more than one place that the mini-games included were good. I have a hard time not believing it, because Nintendo makes great compilations: Nintendo Land, Wii Sports Resort and WarioWare spring to mind. But was I willing to haggle with a virtual anthropomorphic pro-ball has-been to give it a shot?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
The biggest problem Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball has isn’t bartering with actual money; it’s that the gaming press slapped the “F2P” label on it and people made assumptions as they are want to do. Would Nintendo have been better served if they had just given the game a base price and had you dicker with an in-game currency? Absolutely. In reality, Rusty is more like an episodic game – you start off by talking with and understanding Rusty and his ordeal, then buying a Nontendo 4DS game to help a puppy out. Each new mini-game you buy pushes the story along and is even separated out into chapters. $4 looks duplicitous at first blush, but squabbling the price down isn’t hard in the least.
I think once it’s all said and done you’re likely to spend $15 for the whole thing, assuming you play along with the haggling mechanic. That’s still far cheaper than if you were to buy into something more traditional like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us.
I guess I’m arguing semantics really; I don’t think anything I have to say will change anyone’s perception of Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball, which is kind of a shame. The deciding factor for me was actually playing the mini-games on offer, and realizing that I’m willing to spend two bucks on a few hours’ worth of entertainment.
The first game you buy is Bat & Switch, which is as it sounds – you batting at balls. The game does a good job of drilling home the notion of nostalgia. It’s quick to remind you of more carefree days just goofing around during the summer. I’m not much for baseball, but even I got wistful at the wind blowing and birds chirping as I watch the clouds loll by and I knock a few balls out of the park. I wish the sound of a bat cracking was more like it is with a wooden bat, but I guess I’ll go along with using an aluminum one and listing to the ping instead.
The way this game makes me feel isn’t unlike Costume Quest or Attack of the Friday Monsters!: A Tokyo Tale in that it puts you in a certain time and place, and that’s definitely a good thing.
The game sets you along the path of trying to reach a certain goal score, but the parameters in doing so vary wildly. At first you just need to hit the ball; depending on your timing and where you hit the ball you are given one, two or three points based on where the ball lies. It later moves on to forcing you to pay attention as the ball is being tossed by three pitching machine-headed guys versus just one or having the ball go invisible in orbit before quickly reappearing in front of you.
My personal favorites involve knowing where to hit the ball. One set of games has the pitcher throwing bombs at you and if you don’t hit it just right it’ll drop in front of you and blow you up. Another has little flying saucers floating in the outfield and you have to hit them by surreptitiously knocking the ball into them. There are fifty challenges in all, which was enough to keep me playing for roughly three hours.
Like I said earlier, this game is very much an episodic affair. As such, I’ll probably hold off before jumping into the next mini-game. And that’s OK; the game doesn’t ham-fistedly try to goad you into haggling with Rusty or bug you with incessant pop-up boxes trying to get you to buy in. This was definitely an experiment on Nintendo’s part, one that will likely not be replicated due to the negative feedback. I’m not willing to let Rusty’s Real Deal Baseball’s charm go to waste just on principle, so I’ll keep playing it off and on for a while.
Who knew I’d be the one to fall into a bizarre pricing scheme?