Diabolical Pitch

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Diabolical Pitch
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Diabolical Pitch
Action, Sports
Xbox Live Arcade/Kinect
Reviews based on the XBLA version
Publisher: Micrsoft Game Studios
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: April 4th, 2012
Achievement Guide Available
Diabolical Pitch is one of those titles with a very interesting concept behind it. Given this is a Suda 51 creation, it really should come as no shock. The foundation for it is simple: A virtual game of catch. However, it’s a game for your pathetic soul. Playing as a character named McAllister, you happen to be in the biggest game of your life, but suddenly your last pitch destroys your arm. You can longer throw. You’re worthless. You have to retire. That is, until a talking cow doll picks you up and brings you to a fun park, where your dreams can come true. Your one and only wish is to have your arm back to the way it was before the injury, so you can get back on the pitchers mound and keep playing until your wildest aspirations are finally realized. Sounds wild, doesn’t it? But does this end up being too far fetched to be an enjoyable experience, or is this cosmic craziness the perfect blend of past times and science fiction?

The comic book styled artwork, complete with text boxes, explain the story to you in brief cutscenes prior to each world you happen to play in, outlining that each ride in the park seems to represent another dream of McAllister’s. However, in order to get what you so desire, you have to come out alive and defeat the queen in the final part of this wild adventure, or you will be trapped there as one of the dolls forever. The story is played out nicely, detailing enough information about your character and his backstory through the few short scenes with each world. There’s a total of five different areas you have to play through, each with three seperate areas, and an extra area to rack up additional points at the end. As you progress towards the queen of the land, you earn coins from destroying the animatronic dolls that are out to take you down, which are used to unlock baseball cards that give you additional diabolical pitch types, additional points, strength multipliers, and so on. There’s a total of six different special pitch types including fire, thunder, line, and a seventh in co-op titled Union Ball. All of these are unique to execute, and offer up different manners of attack ranging from automatic homing fire, to throwing a wave of fire at your enemy. There’s also the extension of hands as if picking up your downed co-op partner from the group, but this always seemed to respond without a problem. For the most part, the Kinect picks up where you are throwing the regular baseballs pretty well, but this is where the title does get a bit buggy.

The Kinect is not really the most precise motion sensing system out there, and it can have its disadvantages with this title. While playing normally without worrying about headshots isn’t too bad, chaos and precision become an issue. The more enemies on the field, the more chances you’ll mess up your throw with the system reading you wrong, or sending the throw at a different angle. You also have to worry about additional balls being thrown that you didn’t do. Sometimes it can be a life saver, other times it can allow you precious time to kick away a new enemy, an important tool in the game that is very handy to have in later stages. You also need to aim for head shots on certain enemies such as incoming missiles, or dolls with silver bodies. If you’re not careful, the Kinect won’t register your dominant throwing hand, and you’ll be stuck pitching with nothing happening on the screen to show for it. You also have to hold out your hands to your left, right, or in front of you to catch pitches, and even jump or duck to avoid the saw blades being hurled in your direction. Again the sensors may misinterpret what you are doing in the game and cause you to get hit or blown up, or just not register the fact that you ducked or jumped in time to avoid being hit, having it react in the game a second after you’ve performed it most times. The latter could be a design glitch, but it’s not certain given the other faults.

Overall, Diabolical Pitch is pretty simple to play, making it rather easy to get into for a serious or casual experience, single player of dual. You won’t get too wrapped up in the story line, but it does a decent job at telling the character’s plight. There’s local only co-op, which means that playing multiplayer is impossible without a physical body next to you, or something that can be read as another human being. Sadly, this mode doesn’t seem to offer a dramatic a change to the game, as the levels just have the same repetitive attack patterns as the single player versions. The sensor does a good job at keeping track of where you and your partner are though, and the game prompts you when you’re too close, too far, or if you need to step in from the left or right a little more. However, all of this is usually right in your way. The top left shows your health and how many kicks you have left. Unfortunately, airborn enemies can go unnoticed up there, causing you to have too little time to react to their attacks. The top right is the same thanks to the slot machine approach it takes to item collecting and bonus point acquisition, which is a fun and nifty side element to the game to keep the player entertained as he or she waits for more enemies to wander in. However, the most annoying is the Diabolical Pitch alert, which comes up in big, bright yellow font dead center of the screen. If you try to hold onto it for the boss fight at the end of any area, you can easily be hit by enemies the text is blocking if they are attacking from a distance, or fron the air.

Diabolical Pitch does have its limitations due to the Kinect hardware, and the delays in response time, or just no response to your movements whatsoever, can really be a problem. But, in the end, it still remains an enjoyable experience. Most of the time you won’t need to do a lot of aiming, and if you just remain calm when things get a little too haywire, you’ll come out on top. The title also boasts roughly twenty achievements that all rack up through the natural course of playing, but will have you gaming past the completion of single player and co-op modes. There’s one achievement to not be hit in each world, but unless you learn the patterns and have great luck with the sensor, chances are good you won’t get that any time soon. Even when you’re done collecting those gamerscore points, this title does make for a fun way to casually kill time. It may not be the same as playing catch with dear ol’ dad, but surely lobbing baseballs at robotic animal dolls that want to kill you with similar baseballs, saw blades, axes, missiles, air strike attacks, and a giant marionette style queen who attempts to crush you into paste or swipe you off the roof of the castle, all in an effort to save yourself and career, does sound like a far more engaging way to spend a Saturday morning as a child, or an adult.

Overall Score: 8/10