The dark times are here.
The World Series is over, and that means five long, cold months without the life-giving light of baseball.
Also, the sun. I live in Portland so it’s quite possible I won’t see the sun again until April either.
Fortunately, just as science provides artificial sunlight for those suffering from Seasonal Affected Disorder, it provides artificial baseball for those suffering from [insert clever acronym for baseball withdrawal here].
For many, artificial baseball comes in the form of the latest versions of Out of the Park or The Show, but this is Old School Gamer Magazine, so I’m going old school. Real old school.
Micro Electronics Baseball was first released in 1976 and is believed by some to be the first LED-based electronic baseball game ever produced. Early versions have a five button control panel and switches to select fast, normal or slow game play for each player. Later versions have a four button control panel, no difficulty switches (presumably to reduce production costs) and a reconfigured scoreboard. Power comes from either 6 D batteries or one of the extra Atari 2600 AC adapters you have lying around. Neither version has a single player option, but it’s pretty easy to pitch to yourself and play as both teams should you be so desperate for anything resembling baseball to do so. Which I am.
Like most early electronic baseball games, Micro Electronics Baseball plays a pretty basic version of the game. There are no fielders. Players have no control of baserunners and no pitch types to choose from. Instead, the Pitch button sets a row of LEDs flashing in sequence. The Bat button stops the lights and decides the outcome of the at bat. Think of it as a baseball themed game of Press Your Luck, with double plays instead of Whammies and home runs instead of trips to Tahiti.
The two other buttons on the control panel allow players to bit of managing. Pressing either Relief Pitcher or Pinch Hitter alters the pattern of the hit lights, making it more or less likely for the batting player to get a hit. The effects are temporary and each team is limited to 3 pinch hitters and just 2 relief pitchers (a hint, as if you needed one, of the game’s vintage), so choose your spots wisely.
For (possibly) the first game of its kind, Micro Electronics Baseball is surprisingly good. The hit mechanic feels a lot less random than many other LED baseball games, and the relief pitcher and pinch hitter options add a nice touch of depth to the gameplay. Plus, with it’s molded infield, large brightly lit scoreboard and a plastic shell that brings to mind the classic computer terminals of the era, it looks great on the shelf next to your copy of The Historical Baseball Abstract.