Anyone over the age of 25 should remember Pong: that monochrome game with the two paddles on either side of the screen with a ball bouncing around. Either you would grow bored of it and miss the ball or your wrist would give in forcing you to lose a point due to acute repetitive strain injury. Great times. Now, what happens when you take this flawless formula and add in realistic graphics, a complex physics engine and some motion-detecting controllers? Physiotherapists all over the world must be thanking Rockstar for its version of Table Tennis on the Wii.
Everyone was a little bit confused when Rockstar announced its Table Tennis title on the 360 over a year ago. A company that we associated with hookers and acts of random violence had suddenly gone soft on us. But after the game was released, everyone took notice of the impressive physics and detailed animations portrayed for a sport that rarely gets any coverage at all.
However, despite all this, the controls never hit the mark. So it’s no real surprise to see the game revived on the Nintendo Wii where the controllers seem perfectly suited. There are three different control schemes to explore. Your standard control setting uses just the Wii remote that you swing as if it were an actual table tennis paddle. The direction you swing affects where your shot goes and holding a direction on the D pad adds spin to the ball. Like the tennis mode in Wii Sports, this mode doesn’t give you control over the positioning of your player.
But the AI always puts your character in a good position allowing you to focus entirely on your swing. The other two control schemes are pretty similar but add in the Nunchuk controller. One called “Control Freak” allows you to move your player, and the other called “Sharp Shooter” allows for more detailed control over ball placement. All three offer something different but having to move your player as well as swing the ball can be slightly disadvantageous.
Unfortunately, all these controls don’t help the strange responsiveness of the game. Swinging your controller/paddle around during gameplay doesn’t correspond to the movement in real time. So you can swing your bat around wildly while the ball is served to you but your player won’t swing until the timing is right to hit the ball. In fact it actually helps the earlier you swing as you can add more spin by holding down the D-pad. It feels pretty stupid and really removes the potentially ideal realistic nature of the controllers. The game is still playable, but like many Wii games before it trying to get the motion detecting controllers accurate seems to be causing some problems for developers.
Thankfully, the game still looks good on the Wii despite being a definitely watered-down version of the 360’s eye candy. Most importantly they have kept the physics engine and character movements intact.
Rockstar games haven’t added anything to the content either, so like the 360 version it seems a bit downsized for a full game. There are 11 players to unlock and 19 different venues to use across several different tournament types. Multiplayer is definitely the drawcard of the game and could offer some fun knockout type sessions with a group of friends. It is a breath of fresh air to see a more realistic approach to a Wii game and might appeal to the serious Wii Sports tennis gamers.