When I first spoke with the CEO of Viewer Ready, JJ Castillo, he told me the easiest way to sum up the game is that “we’re a family friendly batting cage”, but I beg to differ. Here’s JJ: “I’m really happy with the realistic physics and the different themed levels. We wanted people to feel like they got a good amount of fun for their buck. What makes me most proud about PITCH-HIT, is that young kids and old folks can pick up the controller and figure it out quickly. There is something built into us that just knows how to throw a ball up in the air and smash it with a bat.” In my opinion it’s way, way much more than that.
Even though Pitch Hit was released on Steam’s Early Access in April of 2016, they didn’t officially launch the game until September 23, 2016 with the full game. I had the lucky opportunity to play test it while it was in beta and I can personally say they’ve come a very long way and should be extremely proud of themselves.
Pitch Hit is a level based game for the HTC Vive established on the batting cage principal. The only thing is, instead of walking in to a real world batting cage littered with loud noisy balls hitting the chain link fence and having to dodge the balls being hurled at you, you’re playing Pitch Hit in your home where you can customize so many things in each level. Let’s get to those.
The first thing you see when you launch Pitch Hit is the option to practice. Having played the game for several hours, I highly recommend this option. It will give you the familiarity you need to establish with the game in order to progress through all the levels. For instance, you can adjust the size of the t-ball stand (yes, the baseball sits on top of a t-ball stand). In this level you’ll notice you don’t need to swing the controller as hard as you would with a real bat which I have to say, is a very welcome idea. I don’t know about you, but sweating with the Vive headset on is not the most pleasant thing in the world.
Also in practice you have multiple other options. For instance, you can press the “catch” button so when you hit a ball in to the air the game will transport you to the area where the ball is coming down and you suddenly see a mitt in your left hand so you can catch the ball that you, literally, just hit in to the air. That is, unless you hit a home-run in which case you’ll see some small fireworks go off in the background. This is extremely fun since you don’t need to run anywhere in order to catch the ball. It’s coming right at you so the most you’ll have to move is within your play space boundary. Catching is a lot of fun and very rewarding since you feel a sense of accomplishment when you catch your own ball you fired out in to left field!
Don’t worry “lefties”, Pitch Hit has you covered since there’s an option to swap everything around. For instance, you’ll be standing on the other side of home plate when batting and the glove will be in your right hand when catching.
Also in practice mode you can select “pitcher” and every time you press on the track pad you’ll get another ball thrown perfectly at home plate. This is for those people that have progressed on beyond the t-ball (this wasn’t me). You can also self pitch if that catches your fancy as well. When I first played this game I was dumbfounded by all the options JJ’s team put in to the game, they really did a solid job on thinking of everything.
In Hoops you need to hit the ball through the huge circular rings that are suspended in mid-air with some of them spinning and some of the stationary. It may sound easy, but until you get the hang of the game you’ll need to practice this one a lot since you only have a certain amount of time to get enough balls through the hoops. The development team is adjusting the number of balls to hit through the hoops. When I was playing the beta it was 15 and now (thank you JJ!) it’s 5. If you don’t make it on time you can always replay the level. Once you make it through enough hoops you’ll find the next level is unlocked.
This is a really fun level because you need to hit these huge inflatable rubber duckies (yes, the same ones that are in your bath tub) and score points. I found it more enjoyable than hoops just because it’s so comical to see these gigantic rubber duckies hanging out in the middle of a river that arcs the outfield. Just like in hoops and in practice, you can choose to have either the t-ball, a pitcher, or even self pitch if you like (this entails you throwing the ball up with your left hand and then swinging the bat, just like it sounds).
Out of all the levels, this is the one I really didn’t care for too much. Maybe it’s because there were no instructions on what to do or just because I flat out stink at it. In Juggle you need to hold your bat out and hit the ball up in the air and keep it in the air by hitting it up with the tip of your bat. You need to hit the ball ten times in a row in order to unlock the next level. If JJ didn’t give me the cheat code to unlock all the levels, this is where my review would have stopped because I tried juggling that ball for over 20 minutes, after which I wanted to throw the controller at the wall. It was pretty frustrating.
This and the next level are my two favorites. You have a certain amount of time in order to hit the ball the furthest you possibly can. I have to say, by the time I got to this level I was practically a pro and had this been the baseball diamond most of my balls would have been home runs. Like the previous levels before it, you must reach a certain distance before the next level is unlocked. Also like the levels before it you can use a t-ball, a pitcher to pitch you the balls, self pitch, etc. I really had a lot of fun on this level as my balls kept going further and further the more I played. Another cool aspect of this level is that when you hit a ball you see the tail of the ball and the arch is makes until it hits the floor.
Rampage is my second favorite level because the baseball field is littered with items for you to smash through as you hit the ball. There’s a car, an enormously sized window hanging out in the air for you to smash, tons of plates, vases, a huge gong, etc. You get the picture. The more stuff you hit, the higher your score. Like the other levels, there’s also a certain amount of time you need to get to the score needed to unlock the next level. And again, lucky for this writer, JJ unlocked all the levels so I can actually try them all.
This has to be the wildest level out of all of them because the entire thing is based on fiction. You’re standing on what I presume to be the moon hitting balls at space objects as they float by. One by one flying saucers start coming in to your field of view (and sometimes behind you) that you need to hit with the ball. Once you hit a flying saucer it goes away and you get a little more time before the next one shows up. Unfortunately for you, however, the longer you play the faster the UFOs show up, and on top of that, they’re hurling space balls at you. Now it’s easy enough to deflect the space balls with your bat but when you’ve got 6 saucers in the air and you’re trying to hit the ball at the same time you’re trying to deflect the balls from the saucers it gets a little tricky!!
This game is much more than I initially though it was going to be. When JJ told me it’s a family friendly batting cage he really wasn’t doing himself enough justice. If you like baseball even just a little, you’re going to love Pitch Hit: Baseball. It’s got every option you could possible want plus the physics on the ball and objects are just about as perfect as they possibly can be. This is definitely a game you’re going to want to show your friends when they come over to try out VR for the first time.
The game’s Steam store page says the minimum OS version is Windows 8 but I am running Windows 7 and it works perfectly. Right now the game is only available for the HTC Vive on Steam for $10.99 but JJ told me they’re working on porting it over to Google’s mobile VR Daydream platform.
You can reach out to Viewer Ready via the company’s Twitter account: @ViewerReadyBiz or JJ’s Twitter: @jjcastilloVR If you want to see what else they’re up to you can head on over to the company’s website, or on check them out on Facebook.
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