Baseball season is upon us and with it brings the age-old tale of pitcher Ed McAllister. Ed gets injured, loses his pitching arm, has that pitching arm replaced with a bionic arm, and then uses that bionic arm to kill demonic mechanical mascots by hurling baseballs at them. Itís Americaís pastime as only developer Grasshopper Manufacture can capture it. I wonít lie, the concept sounds bizarrely awesome, but did this Kinect Arcade game wind up as something beyond an oddball pitch?
Diabolical Pitch is structured like a shooting gallery. Your character is stationary at the bottom of the screen and as the creepy carnival contraptions make their way on screen, youíre tasked with tossing baseballs at them until they explode into a shower of coins. Instead of pulling a trigger to shoot, you perform a throwing motion with your dominant arm. As you can imagine, this is far more tiring than just moving your index finger; by the time Iíd played through the entire game in a two-hour span, I was sweating a little and I think I was near my pitch count.
The throwing mechanic automatically locks onto enemies or items in the general direction that you throw. This works okay probably seventy-five percent of the time, but not a round went by when I was trying to throw at something on the left hand side of the screen and the ball would invariably lock onto something on the right instead. The imprecision is enough to take you out of the fun and make you realize you are playing a shooting gallery game where you arenít really aiming much. There is manual lock-on feature that is activated by aiming with your off hand, but this isnít meant to be functional for large groups of enemies. Rather, this form of aiming is geared towards knocking incoming missiles out of the air or for damaging silver varieties of enemies that can only be hurt with headshots. I found the lock-on to be infuriatingly imprecise to use too. If there are more than a couple things on screen, it seems to always snap to an object you arenít intending, which usually results in you getting hit by what you were trying to aim atÖ which leads to you yelling at the TV. Thatís a pretty common theme in Diabolical Pitch. Without fail I yelled when I took damage because every time I took damage was because the game reacted in a manner in which I didnít intend. It seems the game is less about your skill in killing baddies, and more about your skill in figuring out how to get the game to respond to your movements.
There is slightly more to the game than repeatedly swinging your arm. You can also kick mascots that get too close and certain enemies fire projectiles at you that can specifically be caught, ducked under, or jumped over. These are all quick-time events triggered by appropriate motions and they interrupt the monotony of ball tossing, but are still not too thrilling. I almost forgot to mention the mechanic that gives the game its name. By hitting a certain number of enemies, you build up a power meter, which allows you to throw a powerful Diabolical Pitch. There are several different super pitches to equip prior to each level, but I pretty much stuck with the Thunder Pitch the entire game because it was a lightning attack that damaged everything on screen. The other Diabolical Pitches just didnít seem as useful, and many required a lot more convoluted motions to perform.
The game also contains a two-player mode, but after my wife watched me play the single player campaign she was not keen on testing out the multiplayer. Honestly, one time through the game was enough for me as well. I have no interest in replaying levels to get higher scores or accumulating enough coins to buy more baseball cards that unlock better attributes for McAllister. Diabolical Pitch just isnít a deep enough game to stand up to repeated playthroughs. That primarily comes down to the fact that performing a throwing motion over and over again with questionable aiming precision offers very little in the way of satisfaction. Iíll give them credit for coming up with a wild premise full of creepy character designs, but delivering that into an entertaining game landed more than just a bit outside the strike zone.
Outstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | Awful
Recommended Buy Price: $6.00
Current MSRP: $10.00
Diabolical Pitch was provided for review by Grasshopper Manufacture. I completed the campaign in 2 hours accumulating 9 out of 20 Achievements for 115 GamerScore.