In the past five days I have forgotten to make dinner twice, got left at a bar by my friends because they thought I’d gone home since they hadn’t seen me in an hour, and dealt with three days of silent treatment from my girlfriend. The common denominator? I’ve been playing MLB Manager 15, the mobile phone companion to Out of the Park Baseball 16, pretty much religiously. It’s a time sink par excellence.
I’m not a big mobile gamer, but this game is becoming a problem for my everyday life. But like The Wire’s Marlo Stanfield might say, it’s one of them good problems. Whether on a commute or just messing around at work and avoiding doing anything, Manager 15 is fantastic. It took me all of three days to somehow accidentally gut the Cleveland Indians and ruin the season, even if all I wanted to do was get Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins to replace Michael Bourn. I made the trade without losing Jose Ramirez, but somehow a team that some publications thought would end up as world champions finished the season 20 games under .500. I’m not sure what I did, but it was a blast doing it.
The user interface to the game is clean and easy with a low learning curve, and as someone who had no experience with either the desktop or mobile versions, I was up to speed within minutes. I was using the Android version so I don’t know what Apple gives you, but it’s a speedy game to mess around with. Every action is no more than three taps away with most just a click or two, whether you’re trying to make a trade, fuss with the lineup (and there will be much fussing) or check the whiny emails from David Murphy about how he should be playing more. Turns out Brandon Moss is better than you Dave. Big surprise, I know. And since nobody wants him he will languish on the bench, constantly bugging me. It’s a little jarring to jump from the mobile game back to its big brother after a few days just because of the sheer vastness of OOTP, but MLB Manager is more than sufficient for your “want to ruin a season” needs.
Not everything is excellent, unless I’m using it wrong. The computer-generated lineup didn’t populate correctly even when I fixed the depth chart countless times, and my batting orders got screwy from time to time, going out of order. That was due to guy returning from the DL though, and again it could have been my own inattention. If the computer would just adjust the lineup to have the next best hitter slot in there rather than reordering everything, that would be way better. And I don’t think you can move the pitcher’s spot in non-DH games, which is too bad. Joe Maddon would hate this. Rather, it just makes another player spot and whether this means the position player I slotted 9th pitches or not, that could explain my failings record-wise. But it does lend itself to the aforementioned fussing with the batting order.
The single-game manager portion of the game is a little tedious. A way to skip some of the dialogue would be helpful, since otherwise it takes two or three seconds before each line the announcer text appears. Over time, it’s a bit of a drag and makes that part of the game hard to play. Beyond that, my main problems stem from the ratings they give to players, Tribe pitchers in particular. Like Carlos Carrasco is just as good as Trevor Bauer? Or Shaun Marcum is better than Danny Salazar? It seems like a flaw in there, especially since these are the guys people thought would carry the Indians to the promised land. So it’s a little frustrating.
Also I’m not clear on how the star rating system works – Francisco Lindor went from one star with 4.5 potential to four actual stars in like a month and a half in the minors, but Carrasco doesn’t have the same potential as Bauer? Is it an age thing? I don’t know, but it bugs me. Maybe in part because again, my team is doing terribly. Also no matter what if you demote a guy to the minors he gets pissed, even if he was in the minors, hit the DL and went back to the minors with nothing in between. Who does Jesus Aguilar think he is? I don’t know how much their mood impacts performance, but it’s irritating on a personal level.
The trading system is pretty good though the trades happening instantly are a double-edged sword. It speeds the game up and lets you attempt to build the greatest collection of young talent and grizzled veterans, but I found myself brute forcing some trades, trying enough permutations that the computer eventually gave in. Whether this works in real life or Andrew Friedman is just a slickster, I don’t know, but it kind of ruins the immersion. As much immersion as a mobile game can have anyway.
Win streaks seem to be a thing that doesn’t happen, though losing streaks do. Long ones. Probably yet another knock against my ability.It’s a pretty good game though, a wonderful way to busy yourself while on a plane or train or just sitting around on your patio with a beer and a napping cat. It doesn’t have the breadth that OOTP 16 does with all the international leagues or the minors affiliates, just major league and minor league teams for each organization, but it’s a speedy game to give you a chance to see why GMs lives are kind of like hell. It gives you a lot to do for just being a mobile game. Compared to its competitors like Candy Crush and whatever else the kids are playing these days, there’s no comparison. For the full baseball simulation experience get OOTP, but if you just need a quick go round of some great baseball simulation, MLB Manager 15 a great choice.