Monday, May 7, 2012

Pitcher's Duel (Vectrex Game)

Pitcher's Duel is an unreleased Vectrex game, and it's not hard to see why it never reached the public. On the plus side, the players are nicely animated, especially for a Vectrex game. The batters have a smooth swing, and everything looks fine on the surface. Once you get beyond the surface, you find flaws that make this game a total turd.

Let's be honest, there really weren't that many decent baseball video games in the pre-NES era. They all seemed to have problems with some aspect of the game or another, be it pitching, batting, or fielding (most games suffer from impossible fielding). Pitcher's duel suffers from poor pitching and batting. The fielding is done automatically, which is nice. Even so, sometimes your automatic fielders will fail to pick up a sure double play or fail to throw a guy out on an infield hit. I've seen worse fielding in baseball games of this era, so I'll let it slide.

The first big failure of Pitcher's Duel comes when you're pitching (you always pitch first). You'll find that you have two options: 1) Throw the ball right down the middle where you'll give up sure hits, or 2) Throw the ball ten feet off the plate. If you move the joystick ever so slightly in any direction as you pitch, the ball will fly wildly in the direction you pressed. Sometimes the batter will still swing, but mostly you'll throw a lot of balls. How can this be a Pitcher's Duel when the pitching is so impossible? I dunno.

While the computer has no problem hitting the ball, you'll more than likely find it to be a herculean task. You have to move the cross hairs to where you think the ball will be going. It's unclear how early or late you need to swing the bat, but I played through the game three times before I got a single hit. The field is clearly slanted toward the computer, and that takes a lot away from any potential fun you might want to have with this game.

Add to those problems the fact that players are very poorly animated in the overhead view where the fielding is done (they look like squares when standing still and butterflies when moving), the poor sound effects (the ball makes no sound when hit, and the crowd sounds like chirping birds and waves crashing on the beach), and the unclear rules of the game (the computer got a three run lead on me in the first inning once, and the game over screen came up?!) and you've got a real mess on your hands. I would give this game the dreaded steaming pile rating if it weren't an unreleased game. As it is, I'll give it...

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