Hands On: Out of the Park Baseball 17 (OS X, Windows)

Baseball management game brings official MLB branding on board

We're a couple of months into the regular baseball season, and for baseball fans, that means taking in games and poring over box scores either in the paper for the old-timers, or on the MLB website for the Sabermetrics crowd. For some fans, it also means fantasy baseball bets with those around the office or the in-laws. This year, you should include that it's time to get a comfortable chair, a cold drink, and start up Out of the Park Baseball 17.

Whether or not you'll enjoy OOTP17 depends entirely on a couple of factors. First, you'll have to have an acute interest in baseball statistics, or at least an interest in learning about them. This game is entirely about baseball team management and how to take your team to the top. No arcade swings, or The Bigs ridiculously lopsided scores here.

Second, you have to be the type of person who is into text-heavy and/or simulation games. This isn't a sports game in the traditional sense. There's no creating your own player, no playing games the way traditional sports games are typically played. Sure, you can manage who goes up to bat and when they do, but you don't play as the player. No, your goal is to manage the team, possibly as finely as pitch selection for every play, and make the best choices with what information you're given.

Provided those conditions are met, the Out of the Park series has been hailed as the cream of the crop in not only baseball-centric games, but is regularly praised in statistics and simulation circles as well. You get to control everything. You manage the team, you can name the team, design the players, you even get to pick the type of team you're playing with. You want to manage a minor league team? You can do that. You want to manage the New York Yankees in 1927? You can do that. You want to manage a randomly generated team that hails from Japan? Sure, that's in there as well.

If you're unfamiliar with the game, there's a big chance that you're going to get overwhelmed trying to navigate the menus this game has, as it takes a long time to get the hang of how to actually get from place to place. We've only played a year or two of the Out of the Park game series before, and OOTP17 is known for being even more menu heavy than the prior games in the series -- we can attest to this. Now, we're not saying that the menus are poorly laid out, or that they're hard to find, but rather the sheer amount of menus in this game is the only actual learning curve you'll have to get over.

However, there are a few things that the game puts in place to make that a bit easier. Don't want to manage a specific task? Then don't. You can pass it off to AI, which will manage it for you. This makes the game a lot less intimidating for a new player to wade into, especially if you're only just learning how to read (and subsequently manage) baseball statistics. It includes managing trades, substitutions, base running, and even coming up with both defensive and offensive strategies, which can help if you're just trying to get a handle on what statistics are going to make or break your team this season.

We played as the manager and general manager of the New York Yankees in 1927 (editor's note -- fired) but couldn't stop chuckling over how the main method of communication with the team owner appears to be email. That being said, your interfacing with most messages is somewhat one-sided, mostly getting feedback about which players are (or aren't) doing well, and how happy the owner is with you at any given point. The real game takes place within the stat pages, as you decide whether or not the player that is doing well enough now will continue to do well in the future, or if he needs to be bounced to another team. It's a game of number crunching, patience, and knowing when to hold or fold.

Visually, the game is nice to look at. The Out of the Park franchise is now officially allowed to use any official branding as opposed to relying on fans to fill in the details illicitly without the explicit written permission of MLB -- and they've taken to inserting it just about wherever they can. Menus are team-colored and striking, logos are gratuitously sprinkled about, and it just makes for a much more aesthetically pleasing experience.

We also thought the little 3D simulation of the game that appears on the game page (should you choose to simulate just a single game, rather than a week, month, or full season) was a nice touch. We especially liked the little text broadcast at the bottom of the 3D simulation that told us just how well our team was doing that inning.

If you happen to enjoy the statistics portion of baseball, we really think that Out of the Park 17 is the perfect game for you. It's bursting with all sorts of stats to pour over, tons of historic information, and even a surprising amount of general baseball trivia. If you're a huge baseball fan, or even just a huge statistics and simulation fan, this is a solid game with a lot of polish, and we think you might want to give it a try. You can score your own copy of Out of the Park Baseball 17 from Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux/SteamOS for $40.

Who would enjoy Out of the Park Baseball 17:
If you love fantasy baseball, baseball stats, and the craft of baseball managing, this is absolutely the gold standard for baseball statistics and management games.

Who may not want to purchase Out of the Park Baseball 17
If you're looking for a game about actively playing a baseball game, or if you're easily overwhelmed when games offer you too much information to easily process in a few moments, this isn't the game for you.

-Amber Neely (@SurferAmber)

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