Some time ago, during the Xbox Live Ultimate Game Sale Review Extravaganza (official name), I was intrigued by Rockstar Table Tennis, so much so that I decided to give it space on my hard drive. This isn't my typical fare, especially for a sports genre, but it had a few factors going for it: 1) it was $3, 2) it's by Rockstar, and 3) I love playing table tennis. Thus, I caved and bought it before the July 3rd short sale was over. Now, this game is no longer on uber sale, but it's still worth a review in my mind, so consider it a bonus level or something.
Now to be honest right up front, this game is nothing special. It won't wow you with graphics or story, and it doesn't even have a campaign mode, a mainstay for almost any sports game today. However, what R* Table Tennis lacks in depth, it makes up for in pure entertainment value. R* did a fantastic job crafting a game that is easy to pick up and play, yet requires practice and patience to master. By the end of my 5+ hours of playing both offline and online, this huge NHL and NCAA fan found himself addicted to a game about ping pong.
The biggest draw of this game is the gameplay itself. You can certainly jump right in and start mashing buttons to figure out how to land a sweet smash shot, but with the amazing tutorial the Rockstar created for the game I recommend you start there. It took me no more than 10 minutes to run through the entire tutorial and feel extremely comfortable with the controls. I knew precisely how to land a drop shot with the flick of a thumb stick, but also how to deftly return a smash shot, and it didn't feel tedious at all. This is exactly the sort of thing that can be the difference between a quickly thrown together game for profit and a game that wants you to take it seriously, even if it is a barely noticeable Olympic sport (est. 1988 - that's trivia for your brain).
|Make it in that blue space and you just might get an achievement!|
Granted, even after the tutorial you'll find yourself hitting the wrong shot once in a while. This has less to do with confusing controls (which are very straightforward), and more to do with the fast pace of the game (Remember that scene from Forrest Gump? Dial that back a bit and you've got it). You’ll eventually get the hang of your shot selection, but what I couldn't get the proper feel for was the player movement. You have a very finite space within which to move (i.e. – just more than the width of a ping pong table) but the motion of your player feels clunky, like his joints are locked in place. This leads to some missed returns when your player seems to refuse to move left fast enough. On the flip side, sometimes my player ranged too far in one direction even after I released the thumb stick, leading to me being extremely out of position.
|There can be only one!|
|More trivia: in table tennis, China has more gold medals (24) |
than the next best country has total (N. Korea - 18).
If you’re looking for a fun game to play with your friends or a nice way to kill some time online, Rockstar Table Tennis will fill that need well enough. The lack of a campaign mode won’t lead to any long-winded playing sessions, but the competitive nature of the game will suck you in and bring you back for more. There are plenty of unlockables in the game, from new arenas to shirts to players, but nothing really worthwhile in my opinions outside of trying to get a player that has better stats. I think it would have been a good idea if certain unlockables could improve your stats, like new paddles for better accuracy or goggles for slow time, to make you more likely to try to unlock everything. This may have made the game more arcade-y, but I think it would add a nice element to a game that otherwise doesn't give you more to do that play exhibitions and tournaments. Still, for $3 I think I found myself a great game to pick up from time to time, if for nothing than to watch my character fist pump after landing a nice smash shot in someone’s face.