== Nixon Computer ==

GAME CLEAR No. 119 -- Diabolical Pitch

video games game clear grasshopper manufacture xbox 360 kinect

Diabolical Pitch (2012, XBLA Kinect)

Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Clear Date: 2/10/23


Screwball fun

A few months ago, Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher Choji Murata passed away. Suda51 lamented his passing on Twitter and followed his tweet up with a bit of lore regarding the protagonist of his game Diabolical Pitch. This was how I first heard of this game.

I’m a bit surprised I missed even hearing about it at the time of its release, but fortunately the 360 store is still up and running, so I grabbed it pretty much immediately after reading that tweet. Building up the necessary “want to” to dig out the 360 and Kinect in order to play it was another hurdle. The abundance of backwards-compatible 360 games on Series X means I don’t really have to play my 360 much anymore! But the maligned Kinect was finally discontinued sometime during the Xbox One era, so none of it or the 360’s Kinect-based games are playable on the latest machine.

Finally the urge arose, and I hooked all the necessary shit up. I should mention that I’m a Kinect apologist. I think the tech is super cool, and some of what it’s capable of feels like VR-lite. I was excited to revisit the hardware, but my enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by the contemporary critical response.

Despite that, what I found was — for my money — a great little game for the underdog hardware. In Diabolical Pitch, you play as Nigel McCallister, a pitcher for the Santa Destroy Red Tigers who has just pitched his way to a league championship to earn a spot in the World Series. Unfortunately, on the very last, series-winning pitch, McCallister injured his arm, dashing his hopes of pitching for a world championship. When he sees an advertisement for an amusement park that can make any dream come true, the embittered protagonist scoffs at the notion of having dreams at all. Not long after, a depressed McCallister cruises the highway wondering what’s next when he suddenly finds himself barrelling into a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler.



McCallister awakens at Queen Christine’s Dreamland, the very amusement park he had recently dismissed as absurd. An anthropomorphic cow offers him a bionic gauntlet that makes his arm feel as good as new. There’s a price to pay, though, he explains. McCallister must face the Dreamland’s hordes of enemies and its Queen to truly have his dreams come true.

And so you, dear player, take over. The game’s carnival setting perfectly fits the gameplay, which is essentially a shooting gallery. A veritable legion of animatronic animals must be dispatched in each stage in order to move on to the next. This starts out simply enough; you’ll only need to perform an overhand throwing motion to throw balls at and dispatch enemies. But throughout the game, additional offensive and defensive mechanics are peppered in. Enemies begin to throw things back at McCallister, which he must dodge, jump over, or duck under. Others are only vulnerable to headshots, which can only be performed with a lock-on mechanic. McCallister’s most deadly move, though, is his eponymous Diabolical Pitch. You charge this move by killing enemies and unleash it by performing its specific activation gesture. One turns McCallister’s arm into a literal cannon, one allows him to summon an enormous meteor ball to do AOE damage. You get the idea. All are amusing, and they do a great job of clearing the screen in those high stress moments.

To add a little progression to the game, enemies drop coins, which you can use to buy abilities in the form of baseball cards. These grant new Diabolical Pitches, ability buffs, and scoring multipliers.

As you earn these upgrades and reach the later stages, the final combination of McCallister’s toolkit and enemy variety brings the perfect amount of challenge. Fortunately, the motion controls are surprisingly responsive. I’m not gonna say the Kinect never missed an input, but I certainly did not have consistent issues with it. It generally feels great, and it reminds me of the kind of thing you would usually only be able to experience at an arcade. In a certain sense, bringing that kind of experience home was part of the promise of Kinect. If nothing else, playing this has probably pushed me one step closer to buying into VR.


Extra Innings

Given the inclusion of a “Download Content” button on the game’s main menu but a lack thereof on the store, I assume that additional levels were planned but cancelled. That’s a shame because my only other real criticism of the game is that it’s quite short. It can be finished in about two hours, which I suppose you can double if you play through it in the co-op mode (which I hope to eventually). What’s more, there’s only one true boss in the game (the others are just buffed mooks), which is unfortunate given the possibilities there.

It is an arcadey experience that can be enjoyed multiple times through, but it still would’ve been fun to see how the team might’ve expanded on the game’s concepts. Besides, brevity can truly be a virtue in an industry that is so keen these days to produce massive open-world games for the single-player market and battle pass-fueled addiction engines on the multi-player and GaaS side.

All told, I can think of worse ways to spend $10. When you’ve spent your whole life playing games, sometimes novelty is what you’re after. In that regard, Diabolical Pitch serves up a meatball.