Diabolical Pitch was first introduced at the Tokyo Game show back in 2010. By then it was known as the mysterious “Codename D” and that it would be a “core” game that would appeal to hardcore fans. Other than that they just showed a very short trailer involving a baseball pitcher and some huge explosion. Now, two years later, the game has a new name and has finally been released for Xbox Live Arcade. What I think of it? You’ll read that in this review!
Weirdness all around
Diabolical Pitch was created by Grasshopper Manufacture, a Japanese developer that is probably best known for No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned. The fact that this is made by a Japanese studio is immediately seen in the weird story of the game (which is illustrated in Max Payne comic + deep voice style). You play McAllister, a legendary baseball pitcher who suddenly lost all movement from his pitching arm. One day he randomly decides to go visit an amusement park called Queen Christine’s Dream Island but on his way there he is in a dreadful car accident. When he wakes up he is greeted by a creepy looking cow who offers him a bionic arm which magically give you your throwing ability back. The cow tells you to move up to the grim looking castle in the back and that’s where the game start. Weird? Definitely! But then again, Diabolical Pitch is not really about the story. It is about throwing balls, lots of balls!
In Diabolical Pitch you throw your way through five grim looking carnival themed levels. The graphics are alright (see screenshots) and the style of the game reminds me a bit of the Silent Hill games. In each level it’s your task to survive waves of monsters that for some reason all want to kill you. There are scary looking cats, bears, tigers, owls and other animals and all of them will either try to hurt you by getting near you to hit you, or by throwing something at you. The only way to defend yourself is to throw balls at them, running away is not an option as moving around in Diabolical Pitch is impossible.
Throwing balls is easy, make a throwing motion with your right hand (or left hand if you are left handed) in the general direction of an enemy and a ball will be thrown at it. The game works by auto aiming so if you want you can just frantically make throwing motions and everything on the screen will be automatically targeted. In order to make the game not too easy this is limited by stamina: After throwing too many balls in a short time frame you’ll be fatigued and won’t be able to throw anymore for a bit.
As you go through the levels enemies get stronger and just flinging balls at them at random won’t work for all of them anymore. That’s where you left hand comes in! Holding up your left hand will make a crosshair show up on screen and this will allow you to target enemies manually. Hitting a targeted enemy will cause a head shot and this is needed for some of the tougher monsters. You also have to ability to make a “diabolical pitch”, a special move that first has to charge up by hitting enemies the normal way and is afterwards unleashed with a special gesture, followed by a quick-time event that will determine its strength. A diabolical pitch will generally wipe out a big portion of the enemies on screen and gives quite a satisfying feeling when executed correctly.
In later levels this gameplay of just throwing balls is extended with more and more quick-time-events. Monsters will start throwing all kinds of objects at you and you’ll either have to catch them (stick out both hands in front of you or to the left or right) or you’ll have to duck or jump over them. Other than this there is not really any gameplay variation, it’s basically doing quick-time-events and throwing balls. At the end of each stage there is a boss that has to be killed in a unique way, but any real deviation from the standard gameplay cannot be found.
Collecting baseball cards
Even though the gameplay is extremely repetitive there is one element in the game that will probably keep you going till you finish it: Collecting baseball card! Every time you finish a level you’ll be awarded a sum of money based on the amount of kills you’ve made. This cash can then be used to buy baseball card, which are made available by completing stages. Each baseball card you buy will either give you a powerup or a score multiplier. Powerups are things like “increased stamina”, but you will also be able to unlock new Diabolical Pitch moves. Collecting these baseball cards was the main driver for me to finish the campaign mode, and even though it’s quite repetitive and short it was fun while it lasted. After finishing the campaign for the first time I didn’t really feel like going back for more, not even to increase my score to top the leaderboards of the game, the gameplay is just too repetitive.
You can also complete all the campaign levels in co-op. You and a friend will be able to go through the exact same levels together, just that there will be a lot more monster now. The gameplay stays almost the same here, just that you will have a few extra moves at your disposal. You’ll be able to revive each other when one player loses all his health (the downed player has to stick his arm up and the still standing player has to grab it), and you’ll also have some unique two-player throws at your disposal (some of these involve physical contact to execute so this might be a fun game to play with a hot friend :P).
While playing Diabolical Pitch together I experience the game turning into absolute mayhem, you’ll both want to get the highest score so you’ll just be frantically throwing balls at random. Because you are together the game gets a bit easier and not really aiming at anything is even less of a problem as in single player. Diabolical Pitch is definitely more fun in multiplayer, but the same sense of repetitiveness is sure to overcome both of you after playing for a few hours.
Now this might be my Kinect setup but I was experiencing a lot of inconsistency in the Kinect tracking. Sometimes my throws and quick-time-events would be recognized flawlessly for several minutes. At other moments my throws would just only work 3 out of 4 times and sometimes I wouldn’t be able to throw anything for a 3 to 5 throws. I did recalibrating and playing around with the light levels in my living room but I couldn’t solve this problem. A game like this should not suffer from these tracking inconsistency as missing throw motions usually means death, especially in singleplayer mode.
Diabolical Pitch is a game that could be categorized in the “fun, but only for short while” section. When you start out for the first time you’ll have a lot of fun in throwing down enemies, executing quick-time-events and using the earth-shaking diabolical pitches, but as you go through the levels and gameplay barely changes repetition and boredom will start to seep in. It does help that you’ll unlock powerups and bonuses along the way, but after finished the short campaign there is not really any reason to go back for more. Fortunately there is a multiplayer mode in which you can relive the experience with a friend, but as he or she will succumb to the repetition you’ll be quick to fire up another game. What makes this even worse is the inconsistent tracking, where sometimes your gestures are picked up and sometimes not. Still, this is an arcade game so it’s forgivable that it is a tad short, but after finished the campaign you’d wish they had done more with the game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Diabolical Pitch
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