Every once in a while, I read a product description that really makes me want to play the game, just to see if it’s as crazy as it sounds. Diabolical Pitch first caught my eye a few months ago, and I’ve been curious ever since to see what the game would actually be. After fighting through swarms of mascot dolls come to life, one thing I can say for certain is that it is a unique, if sometimes repetitive, experience.
In Diabolical Pitch you are McAllister, a baseball pitcher who finds himself in a sort of nightmare carnival. The carnival is divided into areas, each with multiple stages. You’ll fight your way to freedom using your greatest asset, your pitching arm. Your character doesn’t move, and is always stationary at the bottom of the screen, with enemies approaching from the front. You choose whether you are left or right handed, and then make a throwing motion with the appropriate hand to send baseballs flying at the advancing enemies. You’ll also throw balls to pick up special items, health packs and bonus items to increase your score. Throw too many pitches too fast and your arm will fatigue, forcing you to stop and recover before being able to throw again. If enemies manage to get in close, you can kick to send them flying. Kicks are good as a backup, but the supply is limited so you can’t use them constantly.
Attacking will charge up your Diabolical Pitch, a special move that does heavier damage. You can choose your Diabolical Pitch before each round, and each one has different characteristics. Killing dolls earns you coins, which you can use to buy baseball cards, giving you access to new Diabolical Pitches (there are six in all). You can also buy cards that grant you combo bonuses, reduce fatigue effects and increase health.
The game was accurate when it came to interpreting my arm motions, and I was able to pick individual enemies and throw in their direction with no difficulty. There is also a lock on system for headshots that becomes necessary as you face armored foes in later levels. The controls worked fine most of the time, but there were a few instances where I couldn’t get the Kinect to register anything other than a regular pitch for a few seconds, leaving me vulnerable to close enemies when I couldn’t kick or use a Diabolical Pitch on them. The game also requires you to catch some incoming projectiles as well as jump and duck others, and I had no problems doing either. The two-player mode uses all of the same movements as the single player and adds a few extras, like a cooperative attack.
The concept for Diabolical Pitch is strange, and the visuals match. The carnival has a dark atmosphere, and the enemies shamble along and look appropriately sinister. Visual touches like the glowing eyes on an armored elephant and the pink tiger trying to drop you into a pit are things you might see in a dream after getting heatstroke on a trip to the zoo. The small pieces of story that you get between areas are presented in a “paper cutouts meets graphic novel” sort of style that looks cool and fits the atmosphere. For as cool as the visual style is though, it doesn’t maintain the same impact throughout the game. Every stage in a given area is very similar (if not exactly the same), and even the bosses are just modifications of the regular enemies with more complex attacks. The sounds fit the atmosphere as well; with the slot machine sound that accompanies bonus items providing an extra strange twist.
Diabolical Pitch is a game that is best played over a few sessions. After playing for a while my arm started to get sore. The strategy of deciding what order to tackle enemies keeps things interesting, but not enough to completely overwhelm the “been there, done that” feeling I had at times. There are a lot of baseball cards to unlock, but only for someone who likes to challenge themselves to beat their best score, because it seems like multiple trips through each level is required to earn them all. Diabolical Pitch is a weird concept that you really have to play to appreciate the strangeness. It’s worth checking out if you’re interested in playing something that’s different from anything else, even if it’s a little too similar throughout.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.