With HIT THE DECK Baseball HD, developer Smashed Fly has beautifully recreated both the look and feel of the classic 80s’ era pinball-ish arcade baseball games like Williams’ Slug Fest. If you were expecting a modern-day baseball game with manageable Major League teams, upgradeable player stats, and user-guided pitches and batting motions, then find another ball park.

Depending on which of HIT THE DECK Baseball HD game modes you choose, you’ll have anywhere from 2 to 4 buttons at your disposal. A button on the right swings the bat and you’ll and either have one (or three buttons) to control the pitches (CPU or slow ball, fast ball and curve ball). There are five game modes to choose from, Arcade, Two Player, Player vs CPU Easy and Hard and Home run derby, but regardless of mode, overall gameplay mechanics remain the same. Depending on how much time they have, players can choose from 3, 6 or 9 inning games. The ball is pitched through a hole that opens up in the table near the pitcher (a really cool 3D effect) and the metal ball starts rolling toward you. You tap the ‘BAT’ button to take a swing, a miss is considered a strike, otherwise a hit ball rolls freely along the table/field toward the outfield where there are a series of targets for single, double, triple and out. Whichever one of these you hit determines what base your player ends up on. Randomly a section of the infield will lift up like a ramp. If you can hit this ramp then the ball will fly up to the upper deck and you’ll get a Home Run.

HIT THE DECK Baseball is not really a pinball game per say, instead, it would be better classified as more of a mechanical baseball machine that happens to use a pinball as the baseball. According to the developer, “HIT THE DECK Baseball was made after one of the great baseball pinball games of the 80’s. It was the first mechanical baseball game to use solid state electronics which adds digital music and voices from “Take me out to the ballgame” to umpire calls and boos and cheers from the crowd, the game comes alive.” The team at Smashed Fly have a done a rather nice job of recreating the look and feel of the classic cabinet games. From the calls of the umpire to the sound of the ball rolling against the wood of the “table”, the audio effects add tremendously to the ambiance of the game. The indicator lights spread about the field and bases that light up as your player makes his way around give it that pinball feel. This game looks absolutely stunning on the iPad and no attention to detail was spared.

While the game may be simpler than more modern baseball games, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun, nor does it mean it isn’t challenging. The physics and responsiveness of controls is perfect and I never noticed and slowdown or stuttering in the motion of the ball or bat. Fast pitches require some speedy reflexes (this is even more so on the iPhone release). For the more competitive player there are both local and global leaderboards for the game’s “vs. CPU” and Home Run Derby modes, or you can challenge a buddy head to head on the same iPad.

I’ve had the opportunity to play both the iPhone and iPad releases, and unfortunately in order to fit the entire “table” on the iPhone’s smaller screen, the game’s assets had to be really shrunk down, losing a lot of it’s crispness and fidelity, making the “out”, “double” and “triple” targets virtually unreadable. If you own an iPad, this is definitely the way to go, HIT THE DECK Baseball seems like it was made for the iPad and then ported to the iPhone (even the help screen graphic is the exact one from the iPad). I really wish the game had been offered as a universal app seeing as the combination of both versions is still under 20MB.

In Conclusion

With baseball season right around the corner, HIT THE DECK Baseball HD is bound raise some feelings of nostalgia. Simple controls and familiar gameplay make HIT THE DECK Baseball HD easily approachable by even the youngest baseball fans. Pinball Wizards and classic cabinet arcade game devotees will get a kick out of the game’s retro feel and authenticity. Though a more relaxed and casual outing, HIT THE DECK Baseball HD will take a combination of both skill (good reflexes) and luck to pull out a victory.