Backyard Baseball 2003 (Windows)

Backyard Baseball 2003 Windows Our introduction BBL ad? For shame! Anyway, it has the kids playing ball.


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Written by  :  Mr. Eight-Three-One (1638)
Written on  :  Jan 27, 2014
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars2.8 Stars
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It just HAD to be more of the same, didn't it?

The Good

In my last review, Backyard Football 2002, I had praised it for actually trying to distance itself from its predecessor and not being the original with one or two things changed. Of course, this game takes a step back and can pretty much be considered another "Backyard Baseball with DLC" type of game. Very, very little has changed from the previous game, and it really frustrates me. In fact, the only budget this game had was recasting its voice overs, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Just like with the previous games, the formula is unchanged. Pick a field, pick a team name, and draft your 9-player team. Most of the professional players return in this game, though there are a few that are gone and replaced with new ones, and the total is still 30 in all.

Most of the improvements in this game are subtle at best. The UI was very slightly spiced up and the music for the menus have changed. The Backyard Kids also have their techno remixes that debuted in Backyard Basketball as well. The sound effects were also changed, though I only feel like that was done because it was the only thing they could do to make the game feel different from its predecessors.

There is one major improvement I actually do want to commend the game on: the credits and rewards for winning a season have been reinstated in this game. Seriously, whoever thought removing those was a good idea in the first place should not have been hired. Oh yeah, you FINALLY also get the Big City Stadium and Super Colossal Dome upon winning a season for use in a single game. I don't know why it was rocket science to have unlockable fields for such a long time.

The Bad

I wish I didn't have to end the positive section there, but that's what you have to do when you can't bother to improve the game. If I haven't hammered in my point enough, there are four "new" fields to pick from in this game. Or so one would think, until you realize they're all just reskins of other fields in the game. Casa de Pablo is the same as Dirt Yards, Dubois Diamond is the same as Eckman Acres, Scrapo Field is Playground Commons, and The Paveway is a blatant rehash of Cement Gardens. Unless you had not played any prior games and therefore didn't know these fields were brand new, you are going to notice it and it's incredibly lazy looking. I would like to fault the game for this less, except for the fact that the shape of fields plays a big role in how easy or difficult it is to get a home run. Since each and every field is unique, I can't help but feel cheated that the developers could not bother to come up with new designs. How hard would it have been to make original ones?

Oh, and of course, there's the elephant in the room -- the voice acting is completely redone for this game. So, the way the story goes is that the development team was unsatisfied with the previous voices for sounding too much like adults trying to be kids. They went to Audio Godz and asked the voice actors there if they were willing to do a re-cast. They of course accepted, which leads to a voice cast that sounds absolutely nothing like the original. Now, I'm not faulting the voices for being different, mind you, I'd like them if they were good. They're anything but.

Okay, that's harsh, there are a few voices I do like. Ryan Drummond does a good job as a few of the kids like Achmed Kahn, and some of them are okay. Some of them really sound too childish for my tastes, though. It's really jarring to hear Stephanie Morgan go from sounding like a 10-year-old girl to a 3-year-old. However, the crowning achievement of annoyance has to go to none other than Lani Minella. Look, I don't hate her; she can be good when she has the right role. But dear goodness, what client at the studio thought it was a good idea to have her completely hog the spotlight? She voices not only a good majority of the kids, but she also takes BOTH ANNOUNCERS. It's unbelievably distracting too, because Vinnie sounds like a puppet played by Sunny Day with a New York accent. The first time I played this, I couldn't even tell their voices apart. And even if you can, they're annoying as crap. I just want to reach into the stands and rip their vocal chords out at times. The other kids range from okay to equally annoying. Humongous, was it absolutely necessary to allocate all of the budget to voice acting? I'm sorry if you thought it was, but I think it was money not well spent. I feel like the same time could have been spent fixing other issues with previous games, like, oh I don't know...

...THE FREAKING SEASONS. Nothing has changed here at all, it's just as tedious as it was in past games. Guys, you're THREE GAMES IN to the series, do something! There is no excuse at this point, the something should have been done about the seasons. The gameplay is entirely unchanged along with it, still lacking a two-player mode. Just like the past game, the pros are also still really overpowered in this game. Their voice acting is at least more optimistic this time around, but optimism can't save annoyance.

The Bottom Line

I really don't know what else to say. The game is not awful by any stretch of the imagination; if you haven't played any of the past games, it's still an enjoyable one. However, if you played the original or Baseball 2001, don't bother with this game. It's very clear the only real difference is the voice acting, and it's so unbearable that it almost makes the game intolerable to play. It must have been clear the Audio Godz voice acting didn't go over very well either with the development team, because they only stayed for one game after this, and it would be the final SCUMM-based Backyard game along with it.