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Diabolical Pitch Review (XBLA)

by GaryTun

Diabolical Pitch may be the worst game ever. Sure, there have technically been worse games, but there aren’t many that are not only bad, but cause the player horrible physical pain at the same time.

You are McAllister. You’re a baseball star who has screwed up his arm and retired. But that would be giving in! Someone out there doesn’t want you to be a quitter, and you find yourself in a strange amusement park full of even stranger mascots. With the aid of a bionic arm, you have to pitch for your life and your career.

Step one is to choose which arm to attach the bionic equivalent to. Tell the game whether your dominant hand is your left or your right – if you’re ambidextrous, stop showing off. That’s now your pitching hand, and it’s the arm that will want to drop off in about fifteen minutes.

McAllister stands towards the front of the screen and enemies appear all over. When you see one, you simply aim a throwing motion towards the screen and the game will target a ball towards the enemy. The game suggests that you can “aim” a shot by throwing in different directions but, Kinect being Kinect, no matter what you do the ball will go where the ball wants to go. If it goes anywhere. It’s just one of the games many failures caused by hardware which just can’t seem to cope with anything that doesn’t involve dancing.

Normal enemies take the form of dolls, but there are also enemies who throw balls at you (both arms forwards to catch), silver enemies (use your non-dominant hand to target their heads) and enemies who throw sawblades (jump and hope that the Kinect notices that you jumped). Various other enemies and bosses require various other strategies, but at no point will the player have confidence in Kinect correctly interpreting the commands given to it.

Indeed, much of the time the Kinect won’t recognise a command at all. The worst instances start to come in the fourth world. Some enemies approach a switch and must be killed before they reach it because otherwise they drop you into “Hell,” a place you can only exit by defeating ten or so enemies which approach too quickly. The switch-pressing enemy requires a number of hits to kill and you’ll throw wildly, with Kinect recognising about 40% as throwing motions. Then aiming them at the wrong targets even when it does. Welcome to Hell. Even if you escape Hell once, you’ll be right back there soon after and when you die, must restart the level from the very beginning.

It’s incredibly frustrating, and you’ll want to punch your Kinect in its stupid little face. The only problem is that, by then, you won’t be able to lift your arm to do it.

You see, Diabolical Pitch really hurts. The overarm throwing motion that it requires constantly just for the most basic gameplay will cause pain in the shoulder by the end of the first level, let alone the first world (each world comprising four levels). Amusingly, the game includes a “fatigue” meter which stops you pitching too quickly, but very soon you’ll be physically incapable of throwing quickly anyway, your 110mph pitches turning into pathetic throws that your four year old sister would be ashamed of. It’s as if your own fatigue meter has kicked in, only your fatigue meter comes in the form of crippling pain – ironic, really, considering the story revolves around the fact that a pitcher screws up his pitching arm by pitching.

The sad thing is that all of this was completely avoidable. The game comes from the people that brought us Killer7 and No More Heroes, and Diabolical Pitch had everything going for it. If the game could be played with a controller then it would be great. The story is wonderfully bizarre and the settings and enemies even more so. Even in its current form the basic gameplay would be fun if it worked, and the only reason it doesn’t is because the Kinect can’t make it so.

It’s probably the story of Kinect’s existence so far. Games shoehorned onto a platform that isn’t technically able to handle them, and then released anyway because there’s hardly anything else on it and Microsoft needs all the support it can get. Games that could have been great but are hampered by motion controls that simply were not necessary. Diabolical Pitch could have been something, then, but it struck out.