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Review: Bottom of the 9th – Deceptively playable competitive dice-roller

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Developer: Handelabra Studio
Price: $4.99/£4.99
Size: 232MB
Version: 1.0.3
Platform: iPhone

Bottom of the 9th

Nothing instantly polarises an audience like a sports game. Whether you’re interested in Bottom of the 9th or not is probably directly related to your opinion of baseball.

But that shouldn’t necessarily be the case. At heart this is a 1v1 dice-rolling game with an arbitrary set of rules. Add in an attractively cartoony baseball setting, however, and it becomes both relatable and approachable even to those who don’t care for the sport.

An almost nailed-on strike

It’s the final innings of a tight game, and the batting team needs a single run to win. The pitching team, meanwhile, simply needs to get three batters out.

Each phase of play begins with the pitcher choosing one of four areas of placement. The batter must try and guess where that pitch is going to end up. Depending on the outcome of this sizing-up phase, either side could have an advantage going into the throw.

The sizing-up phase

For the pitcher, the throwing phase involves rolling two dice – one that will determine the type of pitch from three possible options, and a standard numerical control die. The batter just has a single numerical die, the roll of which needs to be pitted against the value of the latter. Depending on the outcome of the sizing-up phase, either side may be able to modify their dice roll.

At one level, then, this is a simple case of comparing random numbers. But Bottom of the 9th uses this system to work in satisfying home run attempts (with the potential for the fielding team to make a last-gasp catch) and attritional first base dashes.

Running involves frantic dice-rolling by both sides

Extra strategy and personality is injected through special abilities that each individual player can employ if the dice align appropriately, while a fatigue gauge limits the pitcher’s ability to employ his or her best throw.

Success comes down to a lot more than a roll of the dice, though luck still plays an important part. This balance is what makes Bottom of the 9th a compelling multiplayer experience – potentially, at least. In our experience, it seemed difficult to find an online opponent in the first place, though we’d expect this to improve with time.

A home run is an instant win

Fortunately, there are local and direct invitational multiplayer options, and you can always go up against an AI opponent. It’s a shame that there’s no single-player campaign or season mode here though. There’s real scope for trading and acquiring new players and building a well-balanced team.

It’s also true that while you don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate Bottom of the 9th, you do need to have a certain affinity for board games. Traditional sports-action game fans may well be left cold by Bottom of the 9th’s relatively arcane dice-rolling underpinnings.

But if you’re happy to commit to the game’s dice-driven mechanics, what awaits is a finely honed – if somewhat sparse – game of luck and strategy.