It can be hard being a video gaming baseball fan. With the officially licensed MLB game being both a Sony exclusive and the game to beat in the genre, other platforms are a little short on worthwhile options. RBI hopes to remedy this situation by taking an arcade approach to the genre rather trying to compete with the sim juggernaut that is MLB: The Show. Unfortunately RBI is a bit of a foul ball.
You might get a good first impression – it has a CGI intro, recognisable music, glossy, animated menus and everything you’d expect from presentation in a sports title – but things start to sink in once you take to the field for the first time. On Switch in particular the game is underwhelming, if not ugly. It is surprisingly free of aliasing on all but the crowd and stands in the background, but generally just looks a little outdated. This is clearest in the brief cutscenes between plays, when animations look awkward at best and neck-snapping at worst, there are noticeable frame rate drops, the jagged edges return with a vengeance, and players’ faces look like permanent residents in the uncanny valley.
RBI has a more arcade approach to baseball, so if a simulation is what you are looking for you are already out of luck, but you may well be either way. RBI is simple to a fault; it’s the shallowest baseball game I’ve ever played. When pitching, you can move your pitcher around the mound before throwing, then throw a standard pitch, or throw a fast or slow ball by holding up or down, and then curve whilst throwing by holding left or right. These are all of your options, already fewer than basically any other baseball game.
On top of this, it feels very imprecise, especially in comparison to other games in the genre, which allow you to aim at a specific area with much greater control. There is no feedback on screen for where you are pitching beyond where you are stood, instead relying on the player to simply get a feel for it, which manages to make the game less accessible and more infuriating.
It’s worse when batting. Pitchers don’t need to focus on timing, but batting is ruled entirely by it. Here your option is a regular hit, one with more height, one lower to the ground, or a bunt, with the only positioning involved being where your batter is standing before swinging. You won’t be aiming for a specific part of the strike zone and power, direction, and distance are all decided by the timing of your swing. This means it takes some time for you to even compete against the AI as you adjust to the game’s own timing. Batting goes from infuriating whilst you try and get the timing down to fun for a couple of hours and then right to boring due to the lack of engaging mechanics.
There are a few other issues that present themselves as well, such as players clipping through each other regularly and frame rate drops particularly in handheld mode on Switch, which is also the only version that doesn’t have online multiplayer. It does have local multiplayer, but given inaccessible nature of the batting it doesn’t strike me as a game that would be ideal for some couch-based multiplayer due to inevitable frustration for newcomers.