The subtle addition of “MLB” in Tap Sports Baseball 17 may not seem like a big deal upon first glance. The big deal is that it means that the MLB officially licensed the game letting you play on official MLB teams. If you played Tap Sports Baseball 16, you’ll notice there is no evidence of what team your favorite major leaguers play for. It’s about as bland as getting a generic baseball jersey of your favorite baseball player with no team logo. The worst part is that the cover of Tap Sports Baseball 16 features Kris Bryant in a generic grey uniform making it look like he is on the Yankees. It’s unsettling to think of Kris Bryant on the Yankees. MLB Tap Sports Baseball 17 took no time featuring official teams throughout the game, which is an upgrade in my book.
MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 (TSB 2017) is a baseball game that uses a simple tapping interface as its only control. Hitting is the only part of the game you control, where everything else is simulated. Regardless of its limited controls, I found this game to be incredibly fun.
The game is played in a turn based format against real people. You’ll hit for one inning until you get three outs and then it’s your opponents turn. Sometimes, players will not play their turn for days, which can get quite annoying. There is a full-game ticket you can earn to play a 9-inning game. In the beginning, there is an abundance of these tickets. As you progress throughout the game, the tickets become increasingly rare. You can still buy these full game tickets in the store.
The pitching is realistic when it comes to the movement of different pitches. In my previous review of R.B.I. Baseball 17, I was disappointed at how a curveball was depicted in the game. The ball defied physics, moving left and right in a squiggly line where it inevitably fell in the dirt for a called strike. TSB 2017 did a great job making pitches look realistic, when you face them as a hitter. Curveballs have a slow, looping motion, while a slider comes at you faster with less of a break. Pitchers who can gas it in have a significantly faster pitch compared to a precision pitcher. I’ll be honest, hitting a 100 mph fastball in this game is so hard. I strike out half the time because I’m always guessing fastball.
Timing is key if you want to be a successful hitter. The hitters with better stats have a wider timing window making it easier for them to get hits. The best advice is to sit on off-speed pitches until you get a fastball down the middle. The other parts of the game take more of a managerial role. You can tell baserunners to steal or relieve a pitcher who is tired. The pitching is completely done by the AI and will pitch well or poorly based on stamina and pitching stats. The only criticism I had about the baserunning was that it was completely based on luck. If you choose to steal, there is no way to go back to bag if the pitcher tries to pick you off. In addition, you can only steal on the first pitch of the current batter. You’ll have to wait until the next batter to try and steal again.
Building your team is based around a randomized drafting system. The game’s currency, which is gold and cash, is used to buy #1 draft pick, first round draft pick, second round draft pick, and late round draft pick. The #1 draft pick costs 300 gold, which is a scarce resource in the game. Free agents can also be picked up that change daily and cost either cash or gold. There is something exciting about the idea of potentially unlocking a five-star player. It can be compared to getting Pokemon cards when you were younger and hoping for that holographic Charizard.
You can upgrade either the team or a specific player. Team upgrades consist of things like hitting coach, base coach, pitching coach, etc., to increase the overall stats of your team. For example, upgrading base coach will allow your players to have a better chance of stealing bases and taking extra bases.
Specific player upgrades will improve three categories: hitting, power, and speed. You will have to spend EXP, which can be collected by selling players on your team that you aren’t using. The three categories are confusing because they don’t cap out at 100. You can have players like Ryan Braun, who have 134 hitting, 131 power, and 122 speed. This makes absolutely no sense. Why not just cap it at 100?
There are game modes such as home run battles and tournament mode. These modes are used to earn cash or gold prizes. Tournaments are really hard to win because the opponents teams are usually loaded. You can also join a club of 20 players. There are various events that your club can participate in to earn club points and earn rewards.
There are a ton of ads, even for a game that is free. This was my biggest complaint towards TSB 2017. It’s almost impossible to navigate through the menu without opening a video advertisement of Kate Upton telling you to build cannons. I don’t mind ads especially for games that are free, but this game is on another level. The only way to consistently earn gold is to watch a 30-second video advertisement.
This leads to another big problem. The only way to be good at this game is to spend money on in-app purchases. The game rewards these pay to win users making it impossible to have a good team if you don’t spend money. I played against an opponent who had a complete five-star team and crushed me by 30 runs. If you want to casually play for free, don’t expect to ever win any tournaments. It seems almost insulting how many ads are thrown in your face, coupled with only rewarding players who spend money on the game.
MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2017 has a lot of great features. You can tell they spent a lot of time working on the graphics of this game. The graphics look incredible compared to last year. It is also great to see your favorite players with their team jerseys on. The tap control is effective at simplifying the game, while still keeping it entertaining.
Despite all the great features, this game has some major flaws. This game would be so much better if the player wasn’t penalized so much for not spending money on the game. Most people aren’t looking to spend $20 on a mobile game. If this major flaw is fixed, this game has the potential to be the best baseball game in the App Store.