The Cages Pro-Style Batting Practice Review (Wii)
The Cages: Pro Style Batting Practice is a product, that in my opinion, fails in two critical areas. First, despite the name, it certainly does not succeed in re-creating a "pro style" batting cage. Secondly, it's not much of a game, at least in the traditional sense of games being "fun" and "entertaining."
The Cages attempts to be a virtual batting cage, offering you batting practice from the comfort of your own living room. To this end, I found little to like about the game.
The swing mechanic, while it is supported by Wii MotionPlus (and near one-to-one on-screen movement), seems really floaty. The bat is locked onto an invisible body, and the knob of the handle is only allowed to move around this unseen sphere. Thus, your bat is not truly moving the way it would in a normal setting -- there are no lateral or vertical adjustments of the hands beyond that sphere.
This forces you to adjust your swing to what the game expects, which essentially invalidates this game as a training tool. I had as much luck swinging with one hand as I did trying to retain my normal swing. The MotionPlus option actually makes things more difficult since it does not really solve any of the existing problems, but instead makes them more noticeable.
On top of these issues is the fact that the game gives you no feedback other than a simple replay of your disembodied bat crossing the plate. A simple "late" or "below" message flashing across the screen like in MLB 2K would help make this more of a training tool. With no guidance from your $30 piece of software, you are left wondering why exactly you missed or fouled a pitch off
I am not a pro by any stretch, but I did play (and now coach) high school baseball. So I think it is reasonable for me to believe I should consistently get around on a 60 mph fastball. But my first hours with the game were an exercise in frustration. Even after adjusting my swing to improve my success on-screen, I could not even hit a basic fastball with much consistency.
There are more types of pitches beyond the fastball, but they are unlocked through a series of training exercises. These exercises are logically ordered, but slowly paced and seem to take forever to get through. They are not always clear either. As an example, one of the goals in an exercise was pushing a ball. I (a right-handed batter) did not get credit for hitting a sharp grounder near first. I suppose the game views that as an out, but it would be nice if it that was clearly explained. Similarly, in a drill requiring me to simply hit three curveballs, a line drive up the middle did not count either. These small but unexplained issues simply add to user frustration.
Beyond the training drills is something called "Panel Baseball." This is the game’s answer to Wii Sports baseball, but for a game that has "Pro" in its title, does little to top the quality of the Wii launch title.
First, the screen/field is littered with indicators that detract from the beauty and simplicity of baseball. It's a busy look that is not pretty to stare at, especially considering the Wii's already outdated graphics.
The actual gameplay is also not very "pro." Would it be that difficult to program runner logic so that runners on second score on a single? Also, any ball put into play that does not hit one of the scattered indicators on the field is a single. I once hit a pop-up that came within virtual inches of hitting the pitching machine, but because it did not hit any indicator, it was ruled a single. While this is silly, it's even worse that this occurred with runners on first and second -- meaning it should have been ruled an infield fly.
Find a Real Batting Cage
Graphically, this game looks no better than Wii Sports, perhaps even a bit worse. There are three camera angles to choose from when batting, but I found two to be nearly unplayable. One always looks into the field (?), the other tracks the pitch -- but in doing so removes the bat from your line of sight.
Some other tools and modes, such as the stat tracking and calorie counter, seem tacked on and do little to raise the value of the product. While I suppose Panel Baseball is a suitable but flawed replacement, a full-fledged baseball game (with fielders, a real pitcher, etc.) would have made this game more interesting.
What’s here, though, is a trainer that does not train you very well (or correctly), and a game that is not much fun to play. In this case, it's two strikes and you're out.
On the Diamond: Because it offers little feedback and does not feel right, expect lots of headaches and cursing.
Graphics: Good as they need to be, I guess, but that is not saying much. There is no Mii support, and the game has an ugly user interface.
Sound Design: Annoying music and mediocre bat sounds.
Entertainment Value: I suppose you could spend a lot of time with this game and become a consistent hitter (which would in no way help you become a better real baseball player). There are a lot of drills and pitches to unlock, plus free batting is always an option.
Learning Curve: Unfortunately, it is high and unnecessarily so. It will take you even longer if you intend to use the Wii MotionPlus add-on.
Score: 3.0 (Terrible)