Diabolical Pitch review (XBLA)
Diabolical Pitch was developed by Grasshopper Manufacture and published by Microsoft. It was released on April 4, 2012 for 800 MSP. A copy was provided for review purposes.
When the gaming world learned that Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture were developing a game that would utilize Kinect, taste buds quickly started to tingle. Grasshopper is known as one of the most creative and stylish developers out there, so the prospect of their minds working with the new technology had many buzzing with anticipation. The final product, Diabolical Pitch, is as wild and fantastic as everyone had hoped. In Diabolical Pitch, you take on the role of a professional baseball pitcher who is struck down with injury at the peak of his career. Shortly after this tragic turn of events, our protagonist decides to visit a theme park. It is here that our hero is greeted by a cow in a shirt and tie who enables our hero to throw again. This gift however, comes with a price. McMillan must make his way through this dark and twisted carnival, which is filled with horrors. Mostly just life sized dolls that resemble strange animal-human hybrids. Armed only with his pitching arm, McMillan must take it to this marionette army of zoo animals if he ever wants to return to Hall of Fame form. This is where our strange adventure begins.
Here’s what we liked:
Style points – Right from the moment you boot up Diabolical Pitch, you can tell this is a Grasshopper game. The game is absolutely full of flavor, living up to the carnival setting, long with dashes of classic baseball influence. Everything from the menu system’s slick presentation, to the sound effects help immerse the player in the game’s crazy world. Even if you’re not a carnival lover, you can’t help but be charmed by the game’s presentation. While we’re on the topic of style, Grasshopper also wins style points for the game’s visuals. It’s not that Diabolical Pitch‘s graphical prowess will blow you out of the water; It’s that the developers really created some great playgrounds for us that get our minds inside the theme park atmosphere. Everything from the bright lights, to merry go rounds and ferris wheels are here. Along with those weird mask wearing dolls waiting to murder you around every corner.
Music – Diabolical Pitch was scored by legendary composer Akira Yamaoka, known prominently for his work on the Silent Hill series, and more recently, Shadows of the Damned. When you’re not hearing a medley reminiscent of something you’d hear at a theme park or at a baseball game, you’ll hear Yamaoka’s signature heavy metal inspired riffs. Every time you hear one of Yamaoka’s C-tuned guitar strings get plucked, you know that Diabolical Pitch is a Yamaoka game. While the game’s music is certainly well done, the one down side is that there isn’t a whole lot of it. It certainly would have been nice to hear more of Yamaoka’s legendary rock and roll coursing through Diabolical Pitch‘s veins.
Multiplayer madness – Diabolical Pitch plays similar to a light gun game. Just swap light guns with Kinect, and replace the concept of firing weapons with throwing baseballs. It’s no surprise then that playing the game with a friend exponentially adds to the amount of fun to be had. Whipping baseballs at doll’s heads is just more fun with a friend standing by your side. You’ll laugh as you both frantically try to hit oncoming enemies and throw your shoulders out attempting to do so. While Diabolical Pitch‘s multiplayer is simply a retreading of single player content, that’s all you really need to have a blast. If you have friends who would be interested in playing the game, there’s no reason not to let them join in on the action.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Difficulty balance – One thing that Diabolical Pitch does very well, is mix enemy tactics. The game constantly introduces new types of enemies, each bringing something new to the table to keep you on your toes, further evolving the gameplay. What it does not do well however, is balance the amount of things being thrown at you. Past a certain point in the game, the game’s levels start to get extremely overwhelming. Later levels are chock full of situations and scenarios that are extremely hard to deal with causing repeated failure and frustration. It’s one thing to design end-game content to be a challenge; It’s another to make it headache inducing and fail to grant the player the ability to deal with what the game is throwing at you. At one point in the game, we were flat out stuck on a level. Every single time, one of the same issues would pop up and cause us to fail to finish the level. That was until we pulled that level up in multiplayer and did it first try. Simply put, this particular level wasn’t designed to be completed by one person, but was easily vanquished with a partner. It is this kind of game design and lack of balance that drives our blood pressure up. There were many times when we were about five seconds from whipping baseballs at our real life neighbors out of game related frustration. Diabolical Pitch really can be that frustrating and it certainly does threaten to destroy any and all enjoyment that can be had with the game.
Poor detection – The difficulty problems that we ran into probably wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if Kinect could properly detect all the motions we were making. We lost count of how many times we threw a pitch or tried to kick close up enemies away without the game picking up on it. This, as you can imagine is essentially rage inducing. The game doesn’t give you a whole lot of health to begin with, with some enemies killing you in just two hits. So when you are throwing your arm out of socket, repeatedly trying to cast away an enemy, only to see your character standing completely motionless on screen…Let’s just say we may have screamed in anger more than once. We’re not really sure whether to blame the limitations of Kinect’s camera system or game design oversight for the problem but in the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s an extremely frustrating and glaring flaw that can quickly make you forget about all the enjoyment you’ve got from the game.
Diabolical Pitch has a lot going for it. It has the classic Grasshopper punk style, intriguing concept, good music and fun multiplayer. Unfortunately however, its difficulty, and frustrating shoulder separating motion control shortcomings are enough to hold the game back from reaching must own status. If you’re looking for a hardcore arcade style game, Diabolical Pitch is for you. If you’ve got a pal to play it with, all the more reason to give Suda 51’s latest a try. For 800 MSP, you get a decent amount of content, and what is there is certainly high in quality, as we’ve come to expect from the good folks at Grasshopper. If you’re short of patience, enrolled in anger management classes, or still looking for Kinect’s killer app, Diabolical Pitch may not be something everything you’re looking for. The best way to find out which camp you fall in is to simply give the game a try and judge for yourself.
Score: Try It