GAME NAME: Diabolical Pitch
DEVELOPER(S): Grasshopper Manufacture
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360/Kinect
RELEASE DATE(S): 4 April 2012
Say what you like about Grasshopper Manufacture, they definitely know how to repurpose the ordinary into something unconventional. Diabolical Pitch is technically nothing more than a wave-based don’t-get-killed title but the twist on the story is that you are a baseball player who has injured his arm, possibly died in a subsequent car accident and wound up in one of the strangest carnivals imaginable. Some guy wearing a cow-headed mascot costume hands you a new artificial arm and sends you off to throw baseballs at waves of other dingy mascots.
Though the initial stages of this Kinect title will have you throwing imaginary curveballs Diabolical Pitch doesn’t stay a one-handed affair for long. As you progress you will use your non-dominant (submissive?) hand to aim and lock onto targets, the legs come into the equation when you must crouch under and leap over spinning saw blades and you will utilise both hands to catch incoming bombs. Special or ‘Diabolical’ pitches can be earned that have a range of effects and these are activated in some unorthodox ways.
The special pitches owe a fair amount to Dragon Ball Z. Launching the powerful Flame pitch requires extending both hand above your head and then bringing them both down when the onscreen pitch meter is in the center of its gauge (Spirit Bomb, anyone?). The quick-targeting Cannon pitch calls for a variation of the Fusion pose and the co-op Union pitch looks an awful lot like a dual Kamehameha. You also have a limited number of kicks available should enemies get too close.
Diabolical Pitch does the pacing of waves, progressively increasing difficulty, oddball arcade sound effects and crappy netherworld setting extremely well. Whether it is the introductory carnival or the ‘futuristic’ Space World, the idea that this is a themed Purgatory of a sort makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately gameplay can become repetitive since there is no variation on areas that you have already completed (though we’d hate to think how much playing would result in the ability to complete a level thanks to muscle-memory). Where the game really slips up is in the controls department.
Players are able to select their dominant arm prior to starting the game so lefties (southpaws in baseball-speak) are not forced to throw like a girl. However the Kinect body detection is inconsistent. Diabolical Pitch will pick up very minor variations in the angle of your throwing arm, arrowing balls to their targets and then… suddenly stops giving a crap about what you want. It will refuse to register that you have done anything at all and your character will just stand there while humanoid elephants with sledgehammers bop him on the head. This becomes more pronounced when playing in co-op mode, where it seems that signals from the two players get muddled on their way to the sensor.
Accurate controls are essential for any game and when that title pivots on picking up player movement erratic controls can turn the whole experience into a mess. The repetitive gameplay is slightly alleviated by the co-op options and players can also buy and collect baseball cards that function as upgrades to extend the life of the game further. But Diabolical Pitch is still a bit short, even with these aspects thrown in, and unless you’re a high-score junkie odds are you’ll complete it in short order and then never look at it again.