What do you get when you mix demonic elephants, a former major league baseball star, and a creepy carnival? One of the weirdest, flawed, and most enjoyable games on the Xbox Live Arcade.
The absolute first thing you have to get through your head is the fact that Diabolical Pitch is indeed a Suda game. By that, I mean the story is pretty much nonsensical, and is just a delivery system for weirdness, creepiness, and dark comedy. If you can’t stomach strange/foreign games, right off the bat I can tell you this Kinect romp isn’t for you.
Diabolic Pitch is fairly abrupt in it’s presentation, as it opens up with a less-than-a-minute intro that features a former professional pitcher who ends up in a dark demonic carnival after a career ending arm injury. Due to the mysterious demonic powers that be, our hero is granted a prosthetic arm capable of demonic pitching power, but there’s a big caveat — he has to fight his way past the demonic hordes to regain his former life.
Mechanics wise, the game is incredibly simple — all you have to do is stand in front of the Kinect, then pitch, catch, and kick. You can pitch pretty much as quickly as you want, but there is a fatigue gauge to keep you from potentially gaming the system somehow, or just wildly throwing without strategy.
Your pitches automatically lock onto the general area where you release your follow-through, which works well so long as the Kinect is perfectly calibrated and in the right place (which I’ll get to later). You use your dominant hand to throw (which you can set up before the game starts), but your other hand can be used to lock onto enemies for a more precise throwing option. Of course, in true Suda fashion, there are special “Diabolical Pitch” special moves that draw from the darkest depths of Dragon Ball Z, and each of them have their own specific hand maneuvers.
You can catch an enemy’s projectile by doing an actual catching motion, and kick an enemy by doing an actual kick — that’s really it. Throughout all of the game’s levels, you’re going to be fighting of droves of demonic enemies, meeting new derivatives and types every few levels or so. Thankfully, Diabolical Pitch is a blast to play. Your arm will literally tire as you make your way through demon after demon, and the special diabolical pitches themselves (while monotonous after a while) make you feel pretty powerful. While it’s basically a carnival game at it’s core, it’s exciting enough to keep you wanting for “one more game”.
So does all this motion control magic actually work? Well, most of the time. If your Kinect is perfectly aligned, you have enough room, you pick simple diabolical pitches, and you’re playing by yourself, it works well enough. The issues start when you put another player in the mix for the game’s coop mode (which sadly features the same levels from the single player campaign), or any of those other factors aren’t met. For instance, even in my fairly large basement, I had space issues with another player.
Often times we’d smack each other with pitches, or find it nearly impossible to pull off the “Dual Union Pitch” special moves. If the Kinect sensor is even just barely off, everyone goes downhill — even if you move slightly, the game constantly will drop into a menu state, giving you very little leeway to reposition (protip: put all of your remotes and controllers behind you, in case you need to reach them without interruption). From time to time if my sensor was moved, I’d even have issues with solo power pitches.
In terms of replay value, the game will probably last you a few hours (maybe a few more if you beat the game both SP and MP), and you’ll have the ability to unlock new moves, abilities, and powers with the game’s collectible card system. While there’s a decent amount of cards to collect, not everyone is going to want to grind the game over and over to earn enough coins to purchase them.
There really isn’t a whole lot to Diabolical Pitch — it’s over in a few hours, and every level functionally feels the same. Your mileage may vary, but personally, I had a ton of fun with it. While it doesn’t have nearly as much charm as the typical Grasshopper game, it is still enough to scratch that Kinect itch that’s been raw since Gunstringer.