Sunday, 31 July 2016

Pitcher's Duel (Vectrex review)

Developer: GCE
Publisher: N/A
Released: N/A

Pitcher's Duel is an unreleased baseball game that was likely due for release in 1983.

It supports 1-2 players and you can choose whether you want each game to last between 1-9 innings. On offense, you shift the batter around the box and then select either a Normal or Power Swing. At the same time you must move an on-screen cursor to the position of the incoming pitch in order to make contact. Doing so is difficult, mainly due to the lack of depth perception; too often it looks like the ball is nearing home plate but after swinging it can then take a wild break before finally reaching the catcher! As a result, scoring a single run is painfully tough. There's some great presentation though, and each player is introduced along with their current batting average! There's also some excellent animation during a swing and impressive scaling as the ball heads towards the camera after contact is made. On defense, there's a choice of three pitches (Changeup, Fastball or Knuckleball) and the ball's movement can be altered after the windup using the joystick. Each type features smooth, finely-tuned controls that make it enjoyable to pitch. However, hitters always fall for a fastball in the dirt which results in long, drawn-out games where your only challenge is to grind for a singular winning run. The behind-the-pitcher camera is very innovative for its time though and I like that the action shifts to an overhead view once the ball is put in play. Unfortunately, fielding is poor as you have no control over the players, forcing you to rely on the dumb A.I.; many times the CPU even chooses a teammate at First Base to field a ball that's heading past the Shortstop! The most annoying quirk is that fielders always initially throw to second base when gathering a ground ball; if the bases are empty it unfairly gives the runner extra time to run down the first base line for a hit. Lastly, the game doesn't always follow the strict rules of baseball. For example, in one inning the CPU had a runner at third base and I ended up walking the current hitter; while he correctly trotted off to first base the other player freely wandered into home plate for a run!

Pitcher's Duel is a great technical demonstration for the system but the gameplay is lousy and the fact that it doesn't even follow the sport's rules is unforgiveable. Both sides of the action are generally of poor quality but to be fair the developers potentially could have fixed many issues prior to its intended release.

Random trivia: In 2007, this prototype ROM was released in cartridge form at the Classic Gaming Expo.

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