Pitball is one of the best kept secrets of 1996. This future-sport game has been virtually ignored by enthusiast magazines and by its own distributor, Accolade (which instead frittered away most of its ad bucks on Bubsy 3D and its obnoxious exclamation-point-wearing mascot that hardcore gamers have come to hate). That's too bad, because Pitball is superb.
Pitball is a two-on-two game of goal-scoring. It takes place in concave arenas located on a dozen planets scattered throughout a fictional galaxy. Each team's freaky-looking competitors fight for control of the energized Pitball, employing attack moves both complex (Tekken-esque combinations of button pressing), and simple (a mere tap of the button). Once the Pitball is in hand, the player attempts to shoot it into the goal, a tiny hole at the top of the pit wall.
The slightly awkward controls make the speedy gameplay a challenge to master. But once the learning curve flattens out, Pitball is great fun. With fast and weak, or slow and strong, teams to match your style of play, the variety of athletic maneuvers and attacks ensures that every match is exciting. The season mode is fantastic. Using a combination of in-the-pit and behind-the-scenes maneuvering, it allows players to take a team of any of the 12 alien races and guide them from the bottom to the top. It's even possible to let the computer play the matches - great for those times when you'd prefer to rest your callused thumbs and focus on management.
On the downside, the graphics are slightly rough. Most of the arenas are pixelated, and the polygonal players don't look as good as the dudes and dudettes in Playstation fighting games. And although three views of the action are available, only the farthest is truly playable. The others are too close for anything but nice screenshots. The sound effects and music are outstanding, though the overdone Michael Buffer sound bites quickly become tiresome.
Pitball is an excellent game, containing more options and gameplay challenges than most "real" sports simulations. Any fan of sports games (or fighting games, for that matter) should definitely give this title a look.