When I saw this release for the 360, I was almost tempted to go out and buy the console for it. Admitedly, Table Tennis was never meant to be a sytem seller like Halo 3 etc, but I fell in love with this game from the moment I saw it. The developers â€“ Rockstar Games, are often shrouded in controversy for being the team behind the ultra violent GTA. Despite the drugs, prostitutes and killing, thereâ€™s a maticulous amount of work and attention to detail that made GTA great and I sensed that those same qualities were at work in Table Tennis. Despite its budget price tag, the 360 version of the game was critically acclaimed, with breath-taking player models, an intuitive but intricate control scheme, and top class presentation. So just over a year later and still without a 360 I decided to give the new Wii version a try, who knows, it could be a perfect match for the Wii-mote!.
I managed to pick up my copy of Table Tennis for 20 quid; I had heard some fairly negative reports from the likes of 1Up and Gamespot so I was pleased to pick it up for a reasonable price. Following the opening sequences, you are asked to create a profile and select from 3 different control schemes. My guess is that rather than trying to create a definitive control scheme the developers copped out and offered the range in the hope of making the game more accessible. I found the various choices a tad intimidating, it was difficult to make an informed choice without trying them out. In spite of this I opted for the â€˜control freakâ€™ setting which seemed to offer the most control â€“ requiring the Nunchuk for player positioning and the Wii Remote for swinging. It makes me wonder how nice it would be to see Wii games with the intelligence to learn and adapt to how the user wants to play the game. Anyway, I digress; the sharp shooter mode uses automatic player movement, allowing for precise ball positioning with the Nunchuk, whereas the standard mode uses the Wii Remote on its own.
Table Tennis is without doubt one of the better looking Wii titles, featuring beautifully detailed character models and venues held together by fluid animations. For me though, itâ€™s the graphic design that really stands out. The presentation throughout the game from the slick menuâ€™s and simplistic score counter, to the packaging, instruction booklet and even the website are exemplary. It really deserves a mention as itâ€™s often an overlooked and underappreciated element in game design. As someone who has yet to invest in an HD TV and truly next gen console the graphics are great and seem to have ported from the 360 very well â€“ I guess itâ€™s true that ignorance is bliss!
To compliment the impressively realistic looking visuals the sound is exemplary. Rockstar have captured all the obvious details of the sport beautifully from the sound of bat on ball to the oohs and ahâ€™s of the crowd. What takes it too the next level though is the special effects that are applied during key moments. The action slows down matrix style when your player is at full stretch, and as rallies progress the background around the table fades too black and a chorus of drum and bass kicks in to build the tension. This draws you in and really makes what would be a fairly average game of glorified pong into something much more.
Despite all this praise, Table Tennis is by no means perfect. The game is let down by the translation of Wii motion controls into the action on screen. It is beginning to become clear that true 1 to 1 motion with the wii-mote is difficult achieve. As a result there is an awkward lag between swinging the controller and the resulting player movement. You end up swinging as soon as the ball crosses the net and then waiting to see what your player does. At first it is really disconcerting and the game feels totally broken, but you get used to it and eventually you find yourself reading the game, building rallies and creating opportunities to slam the ball past your opponent.
In terms of gameplay there is plenty to unlock including new characters, venues and outfits. Unless youâ€™re a completist type, I imagine you will probably tire of beating the somewhat predictable AI before everything has been won. Two players are supported, but online play is a noticeable omission from the Wii verison, this would have certainly made it a must buy title. All in all given the budget price I am not unhappy with table tennis and given the lack of triple A Wii games itâ€™s well worth a try. But as the lacklustre controls add nothing, you canâ€™t help but feel like youâ€™re missing out on a truly next gen experience though.