Sammy Sosa Softball Slam

It’s hard to believe that only two games have been based on a sport as popular as softball.  While it may lack the television coverage of the major sports, it’s played by more Americans than its big brother inspiration.  Every night across the lower 48 you’d be hard pressed to find a local park that was not filled with blue and white collar schmoes defying their age and expanding waistlines taking pleasure in swinging and missing.  Few office workers cannot be drawn into the chase for the elusive “ping”created by making contact with an aluminum bat.

Dusty Diamond’s All-Star Softball was the first softball game way back in 1990.  It was to be ten years later when for the second and final time that softball was once again the focus of control-pad jockeys when Sammy Sosa Softball Slam was released for the Playstation.  For those of you who are un-American,  Sammy Sosa is the 8th all-time home run hitting player in MLB history. His fame peaked in 1998 when he hit 66 homers in a single season.  He is also infamous for dodging congressional inquisition in a hearing on performance enhancing drugs by feigning a lack of English speaking skills. While much is known about Sammy Sosa’s baseball career, his softball experience is less documented, but for this amazing 3DO release.

Since the sport of softball has nothing to do with baseball, the lack of an MLB license doesn’t hurt the game.  In fact, having Sosa play on the same roster as the staff of Shorty’s Diner is made more interesting by the fact that a professional ball player would take time out of his 162 game season to hammer softballs out of municipal parks.

The developers did not squelch Sosa’s power hitting.  Each time he comes to the plate you can be assured that he will hit a home run. It’s an awesome sight to see him turn on a ball thrown by a waitress and convert it into a flame-throwing missile far out of whatever chain-link fenced venue he happens to be terrorizing. Even when not playing as Sosa it is fairly easy to get a hit (as it is in real-world softball), but it cannot be understated how hilarious and satisfying it is to have a MLB all-star being matched up against ethnic barbers, short-order cooks and hairdressers.

There are plenty of options throughout, including playing in single sex or “co-ed” leagues, a variety of locations including an inner city park, a diamond in the suburbs and a farm (including chickens that run around the field). As with the hardball games, you can make substitutions, change the line-up, choose to hit for contact or power and while pitching use a traditional “heat meter”.  There are even options for outfield alignment adjustment, with the choice to switch between Umbrella and Sweeps assignments.  

There is also a fairly detailed player customization editor, including the ability to change any of the pre-set characters (though you cannot change their gender).  Left alone each of the pre-set characters has their own game play profile, so each time they come to the plate they are not random personalities.  You’ll soon learn that Hambone is a power hitter with poor defensive ability or that Meridith is a weak hitting gal who is a threat on the base paths.

In terms of fielding, batting and pitching, the central determinants of quality for a game of this type, Sammy Sosa Softball Slam cannot be faulted.  Graphically, the game is on par with comparable games of the time, as is the audio.  The commentary is over-the-top in an endearing way, and if you play enough you’ll be quoting the game for decades to come.

Sammy Sosa Softball is not only a faithful rendition of a sport cherished by the underclass, but a good video game in its own right. It balances the absurdity of its premise with game play that many baseball games of the time would envy.

- Phil Fogg

8/10